Snow Storm Part 2: Horse Rules

Horse Rules and Equine Etiquette:

Rule #1: A horses will not leave his shelter — no matter how pitiful said shelter — if it means facing the wind and the blowing snow.

Rule #2: Every herd has a pecking order and no animal shall deviate from this hierarchy.

With only the best intentions — in the midst of our mini snowstorm — I attempted to violate rule #2 and override rule #1. To relocate the horses from their shabby outdoor shed to the cozy barn, I trudged out in the dark, across the back field. The snow stung my cheeks and I moved crablike, shielding myself from the weather, until I converged on the herd huddled in the shed. I swung a rope around the closest beast: Mingo, who ranks third out of four. Who cares which one I grab? I thought. Lure one and the rest will follow.

But Mingo was reluctant to violate rule #1. I tugged at the rope around his neck and he plodded through the falling, drifted snow. Higher ranking horses trotted past us. No matter, I thought, 30 more steps to the barn. Now 20.

At the last minute Beacon, herd VP, passed us and forged up the barn walkway. But then he stopped short of the doors. And Mingo, deferring to a superior, refused to pass. We were stuck, road blocked by Mingo’s snorting, spooking brethren. I clucked and gently prodded Beacon’s broad hindquarters, but he refused to move. Finally, feeling my digits surrender to the cold, I gave up on Mingo. I set him free and reached for Beacon. But both horses whirled and fled, disappearing in the darkness and kicking up a cloud of swirling snow. A moment before they stood poised by the barn. Now they were a field away, shivering in their sad shed.

So I set out again — cursing the horses, the wind and the snow — for round two at cracking rule #1. This time I snagged Chance, herd boss, and dragged him against his will, up-wind. The rest followed and dutifully stepped into their stalls. I kicked the snow drifts free of the barn entrance and rolled the heavy doors shut. It wasn’t warm inside, but it was bright and quiet and windless.

The horses forgave me. They shivered off the snow settled on their backs and dug into their feed tubs. They blew out their noses in sharp snorts and dipped their heads into their hay.

That was thanks enough.