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January 2020
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Shy Girl’s Lucky Day

Shy Girl’s Lucky Day, originally uploaded by elefanterosado.

Whenever I travel away from home, I miss my horses. I miss their early morning breakfast whinnies, their soft muzzles peering over the stall doors as they beg for treats, and the smooth movement of their unique, yet equally fleet-footed, ground-covering trots. My astrological sign is Sagittarius, the centaur. So, at the very core of my nature, I’m half horse. And when that half is missing, I feel somehow bereft. For this reason I look for horses wherever I go, always trusting and believing that if I don’t find them, they will somehow find me.

The last place I expect any horse to look for me, however, is smack-dab in the middle of a busy intersection on Route 9 in Kennebunk, Maine. Scaring the living daylights out of hapless motorists. But that is exactly where I found Shy Girl this past Wednesday afternoon when my mother, son and I set out for a dollhouse exhibit at The Brickstore Museum in Kennebunk, Maine. We were driving down the beach road and about to cross the intersection when I saw her: A gorgeous palomino, well over 16 hands, and busting some serious dance moves in the street. She had broken out of her paddock and was stirring up a potentially fatal brand of mischief. I knew that she (and possibly a few humans) were in very real danger if somebody didn’t act quickly. I told my mother: “Look, I’m sorry. We’re going to be late for the exhibit, but I’ve got to go catch that horse.”

I reversed quickly and pulled into the barnyard. I knew the place well. After all, my godparents own it, but are only in residence during the summer. The barn is actually a boarding stable, with an on-site manager residing on the property. Unfortunately, at this particular time of day, the manager was quite definitely off-site. So were all the boarding horse owners. Only an old truck sat parked off to the side. So it was just me, dressed in street clothes armed without halter or lead rope, off on what could well be a fool’s errand. A cold chill blew through me and the branches of wind-whipped trees snapped menacingly as I strode toward the paddocks running parallel with Route 9. The horses were good and worked up, owing to their herd nature and the recent escape of one of their inmate brethren. Shy Girl was at first nowhere to be seen, and I feared she had met her peril out on the lost highway. But then a high, shrill whinny of a girl-horse-in-trouble pierced the air and she appeared as if an apparition; beyond the paddocks and the narrow confines of a blown-down wooden fence. In that moment of recognition she ran full bore towards me, determined, it appeared, to knock me down.

“Listen, you little stinker,” I yelled, “I’m on to your tricks! Whoa, mare. WHOA!”

Without pausing to think I made myself BIG, holding out my arms as though walking a tight rope. I stopped dead in my tracks and firmly held my ground, as I was once taught to do as a young girl in a pasture full of naughty ponies who had developed hazing rituals for humans straight out of The Lord of The Flies.

She beat a hasty retreat before galloping past me and toward the barn, then circling back to the paddocks. Whereupon she commenced to tramp down the blown-down wooden fence with all of the force of her 1,200 (plus) pound weight and shod hooves. And I knew then that she had some Quarter Horse blood (the neat little hooves were the other indication) because only a Quarter Horse can turn on a dime that fast and kick you back nine cents change. But mercifully, the burst of speed is short.

Worn out by her exertions and only half-heartedly trying to give me the slip now, she allowed me to advance on her slowly. I picked up the only restraint I could find—two pieces of baling twine, which I knotted into a crude, makeshift, lead rope. I threw it over her powerful neck and held her fast for a minute, before she rallied like quick silver and was off again, barreling off toward the road. I ran after her, panting and seriously fearful of her intentions. It was then that I finally spied (suspended from a tree) a lead rope and halter. I snatched it and prayed it would fit over her head. She was watching me from a few yards off, shoring up her energy for another game of cat and mouse.

“Look mare, it’s either my way or the highway. Literally,” I said as sternly as possible. “I mean it. This halter is going on and you’re coming with me.”

She paused, swishing her flaxen tail. And cocked a hind leg, a sure sign that she was ready to talk. I threw the rope and pulled the halter up over her ears.

The next dilemma was determining which paddock to turn her out in. Conventional horse owner wisdom holds that mares should always be turned out with mares, and geldings with geldings. I’ve flouted this rule myself with great success before, but I wasn’t about to flout it at an unknown barn with unknown horses. Shy Girl had already been in a highly dangerous situation, and I didn’t wish to endanger her life (or that of the other horses) further. The barn seemed the safest option. I had no idea which home was hers, but I chose a spacious box stall, hacked into a new bale of hay with my pocketknife, lead her inside, and threw her a generous flake. She was less than grateful. She flared her nostrils and began stamping an angry rumba on the floor mats.

“It’s no good getting mad at me. I’m not the one who was out playing bumper cars in the street.”

I returned to my car, exhausted and worried. My mother and son had been sitting inside as it idled for at least half an hour. I grabbed an old envelope, scrawled a note to the barn manager in a very cold and cramped hand, and headed back to the barn to tack it up.

I returned to the car and briefly told my mother what had transpired. She patted my leg and said, “You’ve done your good deed for the day. It’s a good thing you know so much about horses.”

The next day as my son and I drove down the beach road to wend our way back to Vermont, I inched along at 5 m/p/h, looking for her. And there she was, fenced into a small paddock well away from the highway. She was waiting for me. I pulled over and jumped out, glad to see her. She tossed her head with a snort and stamped the ground.

“Well, that’s no way to treat an old friend,” I gently admonished her. “And when you think about it, I’m the one who should be annoyed with you.”

She studied me, considering. And raised her head so I could stroke her delicate muzzle. And stood still as I reluctantly returned to my car, started the engine and drove slowly away. Stock still. Until I could no longer see her but knew she was still there, a silent witness to my safe passage home.

Uploaded by elefanterosado on 1 Nov 08, 10.06PM EDT.