High winds, high as kite horses, high anxiety

I did something stupid and dangerous last night and lived to tell the tale. Herewith the tale, first as related by me to my e-circle of friends right afterwards:

The adrenaline rush has worn off; the shakes are about gone; the heart rate is back to near-normal, here at home, safe, unharmed.  But I've just gone through the scariest time in my horsekeeping life.

I'm back now from the barn, from bringing [four horses](http://inlinethumb50.webshots.com/46065/2434079810000735275S600x600Q85.jpg) in out of the paddock run-in, into their stalls for the night.  The wind's blowing well over 20 mph, with gusts up to 40.  All four geldings - my two; the farm owners' two - were freaking out from the roar and rush and banging when I got there, even before I started leading them in one by one.  At least the ground was bare, the ice all melted, or there'd have been a wreck for sure; at least floodlights illuminated the path we'd have to take; the distance from turnout to shelter was only a couple of dozen yards; but oh! what a vast and daunting distance it was, and worse with each traverse.

The first one out was Counterpoint, the Lipizzaner, herd king, likely to have a meltdown if others came in before him.  He dithered at the gate but let me buckle his halter on, slithered through an opening brief enough to get him out without his companion Cholla jamming through on his heels, and snorted his way in, body bunched, head tossing, swinging sideways several times but yielding to my making him circle.  Released in his stall, he rushed to the window to see what was happening with his herd.

That was the easy one.

Second:  Ben, my normally quiet, laidback, biddable Thoroughbred, now strung out, wild-eyed, nostrils flared to fit a fist in, swinging between head-flinging bouncing whirls around me and brief bouts of frozen staring into the goblin-howling dark before his front feet left the ground again for another plunging eruption.  There's nothing like a half-ton of terrified Thoroughbred to focus the mind, eh?  I managed to keep my deathgrip on the lead rope, tight to his head (let him get any slack and he'd have broken free or gone skyward), as we crabwised and spun our way up the drive, around the snowbank at the top, and into the barn.  He stayed wired all the way down the aisle and into his stall.

Third:  Cholla, the Quarter Horse.  Usually in a four-horse take-in I'd leave him for last because he can handle it, but by now he was running and whinnying.  I had to bark at him to hold still to get his halter on; almost got body-slammed going through the gate; and could barely hold him back from bolting up the drive, never mind I was spinning him every few steps, my elbow jammed into his shoulder to keep him from trampling over me.  He dragged me down the aisle and was still quivering when I got his halter off and slid home the stall door.

Three down, three trips of barely contained terror, and only Commander left.  Commander, the smallest of the four, but a Morgan has power to spare and he wasn't sparing any.  By now he was yelling and running and agitated almost out of his skin.  When calm, he'll shove his nose into an outstretched halter and walk quietly on a loose rope.  Now?  Head-flinging, dithering around the gate, barely holding still long enough to be haltered; slamming past me out the gate; fighting me all the way up the drive as wildly as Ben and Cholla.  By the time I got him into his stall I was done for - arm and shoulder aching, hands shaking, legs weak.

I slid his door shut and went back out into the wind, to secure the gates from slamming and to set up breakfast hay in the run-in.  Returning to the barn, I found all four had calmed down enough to dive into their hay, and to accept as their due the horse cookies I offered.  I dragged the barn door shut, staggered against the gale to my car, and came home.

I should note here my undying gratitude to the persons who put basic ground manners on these horses.  True, they were horrible to handle tonight; were on the edge of losing control; but they never went over that edge, despite their freaked-out craziness they listened just enough for me to get us all safely through the ordeal.  Badly trained horses would have lost it completely and gotten us into a wreck.  Whoever halter-trained the boys deserves credit for that.

Yes, I did have a cellphone in my pocket, and there was a person in the house had I needed to scream for help (he knows bupkis about horse-handling, but I'm sure could cope with ambulance-calling if need be).  But it was something I never want to go through again.

Unless, of course, I have to.  You do what you have to do. 

And now, the reflections of the following day:

With time to digest the events of last night, to reflect on what happened and what could have happened, I've drawn some conclusions, learned some useful lessons, the most important of which is:

Don't ever do that again.  It was dangerous, foolhardy, and needn't have been done in the first place, had I exercised reasonable forethought.

I was handling the farm owners' two horses because they're away on vacation, and another boarder, Donna, is sharing the horse care.  She'd been there at 5:00 to do early supper and, had I thought to ask it of her, would happily have brought all four horses in then, in the light, when they were not as worked up as I found them.

But I didn't think to ask.  It wasn't my only failure to think, either.

I didn't think to double-check the forecast, to understand just how violent the winds had been and were then.  

I didn't think, when I headed to the barn, that the horses would be as frantic as they were; after all, I've brought them in before on windy nights and, while they'd bounced and snorted, they'd stayed sane.  But I'd never done so when the gusts were as brutal, the wind-roar, the thrashing in the bushes and trees were so intense.

I didn't think through just how hard and dangerous it would be trying to bring them in alone, with no horse-capable help at hand, in conditions where every step in the gale-battered semi-dark would spook them even more.

I didn't think to give up my plans entirely, stuff mass quantities of hay deep in their run-in stalls, and leave them out for the night.  It wouldn't be comfortable for them, true, but they'd lasted out a day of gusty cold and could have made it through the remaining hours of darkness without much difficulty.  No great harm would come to them, and we'd all have been a helluva lot safer.  Not only did I risk getting seriously hurt by them, but if they'd broken free and bolted, they could have run into the road just dozens of yards from the barn; a road lightly travelled on a Saturday night, true, but the traffic that does fly by flies by at 50 mph or more.

*I didn't think.*  And that lack of thought put all of us at risk.  It's a failure I won't repeat.


Glad you’re all okay, ETF!

I would tend to agree with you.


Nothing like a strong wind to get horses snorty, bug-eyed and mindless. Sometimes it’s hard enough to control your own, let alone someone else’s horse the horse. Ater 22 years of owning him, I can pretty much predict what will set off Bob the Wonder Pony (who is an Appendix but looks exactly like that grey in the foreground of the pic–I’m assuming he’s the Lipp) and even though I’m around the other horses at the barn on almost a daily basis, I don’t know their triggers.

Glad you are safe and that you were smart enough to learn from your scary experience. What it is about the wind that sets animals and humans off?

I suspect the wind drives them bughouse because (a) it masks the sound of predators creeping up on them, while (b) sounding like a predator rushing at them.

Horses are about as smart and mentally stable as housecats but it doesn’t play out nearly as well on animals that are so big and strong. I rode casually all my life until my SIL’s Morgan decided he wanted to turn into a runaway straight across a field and into the woods. I held on as long as I could but the saddle flipped with my foot caught in the stirrup. Thankfully, I was just wearing sneakers so I got cut lose after 20 feet of dragging and a couple of bounces. I just laid there dazed and confused for 20 minutes of so until I was convinced I could walk again. It could have ended up much worse.

Never trust horses completely. You can and will get hurt if you place faith in them long enough and don’t watch yourself. They can kill you with a stray hoof kick to the forehead and go back to munching grass 10 seconds later.

Wow, I’m glad you are okay ETF. And here I was thinking I dodged a bullet when it dawned on me last night that since I needed to light in case the wind knocked the power out while I was in the shower, I needed to evict the cat from the bathroom too so he couldn’t get into trouble with it.

I am really glad you made it thru the ordeal safe and sound… you AND the boys!

Oh, and welcome back! You have been missed!

I’m glad it all turned out ok and that you’ve thought out a better plan for next time! I had to do something similar once when a sudden summer thunderstorm came through. I was 15 and with my 13 year old sister and cousin, horsesitting for a weekend. We had horse experience but 7 horses including a skittish thoroughbred, a young quarter horse and two 16+ hand hanoverians was a little much for us. We got creative though- we opened all the stall doors and the barn door and roped off the gap between the barn and the field. Then we opened the gate. All 7 horses bolted into the barn in a panic… but all but one went right into their own stall. The Hanoverian mare went to hang out with her gelded king-of-the-herd brother. A few minutes to close all the stalls and move the mare, a few treats, and all was good. But man, that was one scary situation and I’m glad no one got hurt!

Why would you ever bring a Quarter horse in before a Morgan?

Horses are beautiful animals, I like to look at them … from a distance.

Thanks! I’ve been busy with various things, including photography, but wanted to share this bit of excitement in my life.

Normally I wouldn’t; I’d’ve left Cholla till last. But he was way more agitated than I’d ever seen him before, and by the time I had the two must-go-firsts in – Counterpoint and Ben – Cholla was so frantic I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him for last. Moreover, Commander wasn’t as out of his gourd as Cholla at that point. There’s also the fact that Cholla has the crappiest ground manners of the four. Even when he’s not ginned up, he tends to try to bull over you. I can handle that without too much trouble in normal circumstances, and he’s had it made plain to him that He. Will. Listen. To. Me. Given how much effort it took to get the first two in, and how much that had drained of my strength, I figured it was smarter to deal with his bullying while I still had enough energy left to cope.

It was taking a chance, true; but Commander isn’t one of those hotblooded Saddlebred-type Morgans; he’s the old-fashioned kind, with tons of calm good sense to go with his smarts and bold spirit. He’s never reared or bucked when a human is messing with him, for example. He did have some mildly bad ground manners when I got him, a year and a half ago, thanks to his previous owner letting him get away with stuff, but he learned fast that I wasn’t having any of that, and his manners improved dramatically, so much and so quickly that I think he had an excellent base put on him in his younger years (he’s 21) and simply needed a refresher – and a reminder that his current human was on to him and his tricks.

Horses and wind are a bad combination! I’m glad you weren’t hurt.

Glad things wound up OK. What do you mean by ‘a wreck’ in your story? Like, just a flat-out shitty situation with horses running everywhere or is there are more specific meaning?

I’m thinking about taking up riding, and now I’m a bit spooked too!

A wreck is when things go very bad, people and/or horses get hurt. Think car wreck.

Don’t be afraid to try riding, it’s wonderful! But do check out prospective lesson programs carefully before starting with one. If you know any horsepeople inquire of them for references. Visit the places, both with an appointment and unannounced (but during normal business hours, of course) and observe: do the horses look healthy, well-fed, clean? Are they calm, or nervous? Are children properly supervised? Is the place clean and neat, or cluttered and dirty? Watch some beginner lessons and look for: does the instructor pay attention at all times to the students? Is there frequent instruction offered, and is it done supportively or abusively, or are the students left for long stretches to their own devices? Are the students wearing proper attire: hard shoes/boots with heels, not sneakers; helmets? Those are some of the important things to check out before signing up for lessons.

Thanks for all the tips! Will keep all that in mind.

Listen to Eddy, she speaks wisely. It’s nice if you can find a school that already has a class or two of adult beginners you can join. It was my practice to start beginners with 3-4 short (1/2 hr) private lessons to get the basics of starting, stopping, and steering, and then have them join a small group of other adult students at a similar level, as most enjoyed the camaraderie.

Also, don’t worry about stories like Shagnasty’s - someone always has to hop in, spout some litany of errors that could be avoided with one hour’s competent instruction and declare that “horses are crazy and stupid.” :rolleyes:

Glad you made it through with no more harm than an unscheduled safety training session. Why don’t you go brew yourself a hot cuppa and see if there’s any pie left in the pantry? I understand you like pie. :slight_smile:

That wasn’t my point. I have owned and ridden horses all my life although not as enthusiastically as some. That was the one and only time I have been thrown but it only takes one time. Friends and family that are way more into horses more than I ever will be have all been hurt at some point by being thrown or kicked. A well-trained horse is just smart and controllable enough to make you think you are in charge until it has a bad day and thunder strikes at the wrong time or something with you on the back of it. Always have a healthy respect for horses and ever fully trust one, especially one that you don’t know perfectly. They are too powerful and can hurt you without even meaning to.

It’s true that some people have seen the Black Stallion one too many times and attribute to horses a sort of loving benevolence that they don’t possess. You should always respect that horses are dangerous animals that do not do anything for luuuuuuv. However, a healthy respect for horses includes, for example, wearing proper footwear, checking your own girth, and not riding beyond your ability in an open field. All simple things, that, had you attended to them, would have prevented accident you describe.

I have never “been thrown” – that suggests the horse did something to me, that I didn’t do to myself. I have fallen off many times, through various combinations of inability and stupidity. It’s a learning experience, and the lesson isn’t *OMG Horses are soooo crazeeeee. * It’s “what should I have done differently” as perfectly illustrated in the OP.