Thursday, December 16, 2010


The barn was quiet. The horses looked at me over their stall doors in total silence. They stood perfectly still, only their flicking ears told me they weren’t statues.

“What’s up boys and girls?” I called out and quickened my step. There were no happy snorts, no bobbing heads urging me to hurry with breakfast, no impatient thud of Madonna’s foot against the door.

I gave a quick head count and didn’t see Cupcake. I jogged over to his stall and leaned over the door. The horses heads turned to follow me in unison. He stood in the corner with his head hanging.

“Hey buddy, what’s the matter?” I crooned as I grabbed a halter and stepped in the stall.
Cupcake looked at his side and groaned.

“Ah geez,” I muttered.

We had a wicked little virus circulating through the place. It was presenting with sudden colic symptoms and little else. The horses would be colicky on and off for several days, keeping us up nights , worried and anxious.

It would finally end with a violent bout of diarrhea and the horse would be fine. I had been fighting it in the lower barns and had managed to keep it out of my upper one. Until today.

“Of course it would be you, Meathead,” I told the miserable little colt. “I’m never going to be able to send you home am I?”

My standard policy with clients and illness was to keep the horse with me, take care of him until he was recovered, and only charge board until I was back in the saddle.

This usually worked fine but I was ready to be done with this little horse. I didn’t have much use for his owner and knew she’d squawk about having to pay board.

I was tired of sick horses, tired of cleaning their stalls and tired of worrying how I was going to pay my bills with all of these horses suddenly out of training and on the econo boarding plan.

“Well, c’mon,” I told him, “let’s go walking.”

I walked him around the barn and down the road. The boss stepped out on her deck as we walked down the road.

“Another one down?” she asked.

“Of course,” I answered.

She tromped down the stairs and fell in beside Cupcake and me. We circled the house and headed back toward the barn. Cupcake walked a few feet behind me on a loose lead.

“Are you going to call the owner?”

“I’ll give him half an hour and then ring her up, you know she won’t let me call the vet," I kicked the gravel and sent a spray at the dogs. They scattered and sulked off insulted.

“I’ll go saddle what’s still standing upright,” she told me.

It turned out I was right, Cupcakes owner didn’t want the vet out and pitched a fuss about him being out of training.

“He wouldn’t be sick if he wasn’t at your barn,” she sputtered.

“That’s true,”I said, doing my best to keep my voice congenial.
"you can come pick him up if you want to.”
“I don’t want this virus at my place!” she snapped at me.

I hung on the phone and let the ensuing silence stretch out as long as she wanted.

“Fine, I’ll leave him there,” she finally said.

“I’ll call you if I need the vet,” I answered and hung up before she could snark at me again.

Cupcake had a tough time with the virus. He hadn’t been particularly healthy when he came in, his worm load had been pretty heavy and he still was a good 75 pounds shy of where he should have been.

So I spent a lot of time walking him, taking him out to graze a little, or just standing by his stall watching him. Within the week he had gotten over the worst of it and started picking at his feed again.

So when I came in to a barn full of happy hungry horses one morning I was relieved to see his pretty little face looking out at me.

“It’s about time you perked up, you little Gomer,” I told him as I filled his hay tub.”I guess I can safely scrape the worst of the yuck off your stall. Nothing like a stall bound horse with the runs to brighten up a day.

I went to work on his stall, scrubbing off the walls and hauling his water barrel out to scrub it clean.

I stood next to him in the stall, holding the hose as I refilled his water, humming a mindless tune. I felt Cupcake sniffing my elbow and stood relaxed. He nosed at my hand and I moved over to let him get to the clean water.

The little colt buried his nose and played, snorting and splashing water all over. He curled his front foot under him, I could tell he was dying to crawl right in the bucket.

I scratched his withers and hung my arm over his back. He bobbed his head faster in the water keeping time with my scratching fingers.

“Looks like you’ve made a friend this week,” the boss said as she leaned over the door.

“Yeah, he’s decided I’m OK,” I replied.

“Are you going to ride him today?” she asked me.

“No, I think he should just get some turn out. A day in the sun is probably just what the doctor ordered,” I said, “toss me a halter would ya?”

Cupcake turned to me and stuck his face in the halter. As I led him out into the upper arena he walked quietly by my shoulder. I untied the knot and hung the halter over my arm.

Cupcake stood still while I scratched his neck and around his ears. His eye was dark and sweet. I backed away and he wandered off for his first taste of freedom in 50 days. He laid down to roll and came up with a buck and a snort.

I watched him tear around the arena with his head high and his tail flagged and couldn’t help but smile.


lopinon4 said...

Absolutely lovely. Mugs, you are so gifted in your telling of your memories. Thank you!

Becky said...

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! My workday stalking paid off!

On the other hand, now I'm grumpy. Can I go back in time and retroactively kick his owner in the shins for you?

Because, oh yes... he was obviously just the picture of health when you picked him up - bright-eyed, busy-tailed, standing all fat and sassy in fetlock-deep clean shavings......

Honestly, even if I had the talent to be a trainer, I don't think I could do it.

Anonymous said...

I love a sweet story! Except for the lousy owner and you having to clean crap off the walls, of course. Thanks, Mugs, and you and Kidlett have a great holiday/New Year. (Maybe we'll get a Tally story for Christmas!) Just kidding.

manymisadventures said...

Aww. This made me smile. Love it when we get new chapters, mugs.

Wazzoo said...

yea, you wanted him gone back to his owner alright. Only because you were falling in love with him. Little bugger was pulling at your heart strings from the get go. You are an awesome writer.

Shanster said...

Nice! Thanks for a chapter!

badges blues N jazz said...

CANT WAIT for the next tally story too!

Jenn said...

Aw, man. From monster to pocket pony in 50 days.

I can sense that this goes south again as soon as he sets foot at the 'home' barn. (a misnomer if ever there was... home is supposed to be where they LOVE you...)

What a piece of work, his owner. Yeeouch!!!

Slbaldwin said...

Just brought a smile to my face :)

Don't mind the owner, unfortunately there are some people out there like that.

I'm not a horse expert by ANY means but it sounded like you did a great job :)

Chris said...

It's so not fun when they're crook! Glad the result was a positive one despite an unthankful owner :)

mommyrides said...

Great addition to the saga of Cupcake! Thanks again for sharing bits of your life with us.

Whatever the ending you made a difference to that little guy. And for a while brought sunshine into his world. That's an amazing thing to do, especially to a living creature that has known only darkness and pain.

HorseOfCourse said...

Aaah. I had this Walter Farley feeling when you started out, but had to keep myself in check because this was a real life story....
I am soo happy that the angry ugly duckling turned around.
Please don't stop here. What happened to him?

Accendora said...

I love the Cupcake saga. That poor little guy! .. I'm just terrified to know how it ends. I keep imagining him going back to that owner and solitary isolation. Ugh!

Heidi the Hick said...

Hate to say it but in my experience there's nothing like a bout of colic and some long slow walks to bond a horse and human. Not the preferred way. That's for sure.

You proved to him that he could trust you. That's so important to a little guy who had such a rough start.

Merry Christmas to you kidlette Madonna Loki Leland and the two little terriers and whoever else I've forgotten to list!

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