Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Horse Play in the Snow

After playtime is nap-time - in a thick bed of hay.

It is snowing, thick feathery flakes, like duck down. When I opened the barn this morning the mares went out reluctantly, but Ned went out at a canter. He's been leading the girls in play all morning. The sky is so gray that it's hard to see the horizon. The snow isn't sticking to the ground.

The mares are leaping around, noses tucked, legs flying in extension. Ned lumbers after them, he's collected himself, a black behemoth in the dim light. They buck and twist about, swapping ends in mid-air, or dancing about on their hind-legs. They've whipped the dogs into a barking frenzy.

Tana, the youngest, nips Ned, squealing and kicking. Oppie, her mother has more dignity, she's racing around with her tail flagged, running circles around them. They cross from side to side, keeping to the hill where the footing is best. Then stopping to graze.

I'll bring them in early tonight, but for now, I'll let them play.

I recall, many years ago, when the old mare was a filly; her first real snowfall, in Ohio where a foot of snow was fairly normal.

Born in Florida, kept for years in a barn, Oppie spent her first day at our place running from stall to pen, in and out, over and over. I'd left her the night before standing in the stall with her head outside watching it snow.

When I arrived to feed the next morning she was stock still in the middle of the pen. There was a perfect blanket of snow on her back at least four inches thick, from her ears to her tail. I don't think she'd twitched an ear all night.

I got out of my car, greeted her, then as if she'd waited all night for this moment, she squealed and exploded. Up on her hind legs, then leaping high and lashing out. The blanket of snow became her own private blizzard. She bucked around the little pen, gleefully scattering any fragments that may have stuck to her coat. I got covered with it, of course.

She wasn't even damp. Her coat must have captured and held every degree of body heat. We had a good laugh, she and I, then I threw a couple of snowballs at her. She came back to get her breakfast proud of her joke.

Silly old mare, she's still full of tricks.

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