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December 26, 2016: Eating Crow

What an awful phrase – it brings to mind an individual, a male, with fork and spoon in hand, fists down, white napkin tucked under chin, before him, on a plate, a cooked, upended crow, feet facing upwards.

The phrase does seem apt. It means to acknowledge a major self-blunder. I’ve always believed that in the act of writing that I get at certain truths. Yesterday, I wrote that while on a walk, I’d let the ponies both run free, against Pete’s best wishes, well knowing that they might run off. They ran a short ways, but did return. I did the same thing again today. However, this time they did not come back to me.

Horses on lead lines: Eating Crow

Yesterday, Pete was cooking a portion of the holiday meal, so I opted to take Tyra and Hrimmi out by myself. I walked them the quarter-mile to the trailhead and first released Tyra. Hrimmi did not pitch a fit. That’s what is different about these two. They never, ever pitch fits. Rather, the one on-lead acts in a more calculated and cunning fashion, mainly by stopping and refusing to budge. She also mugs me, in hope that I will pull a treat out of pocket. (I never reward this kind of behavior, so why it persists is beyond me.) And once going, she barges past me. Neither Hrimmi nor Tyra engage in this behavior all the time – just when they want something really badly – in this case, Hrimmi wanted to be let off lead.

I dealt with the situation by walking a short ways, calling Tyra back to me, then releasing Hrimmi and hooking up Tyra. Both are trained to come to a target, in this case a hand signal. They both know they are to stand parallel to me, and wait while I unhook and then hook the other up. Good behavior is rewarded with a click and a treat.

I continued trail walking, continuing to walk one, and then the other. When finally, we arrived at Peaches Loop (a trail we put in and named after a much-loved, deceased goat), I called Tyra to me. She stood on one side, and Hrimmi on the other. I unhooked Hrimmi and hands still in gloves, went to hook up Tyra. Right then, there was a loud gunshot. Tyra leapt sideways, took off and Hrimmi followed. Hindsight is always useful, but after the fact. I should have just followed the two, after all the snow was only about an inch deep. Instead, I headed for home, following Peaches’ Loop to Raudi’s Racetrack. (I named this trail such because Raudi and I usually do it at a canter).

I went home, and opened the door and took in the smells of Holiday dinner, pumpkin pie, borscht, and muffins. I, in a burst of words told Pete that the ponies were running loose in the woods. To his credit, Pete did not chide me. Rather, he removed the pie and muffins from the oven, and put on his winter gear. His questions just dealt with the pertinent details – the where, when, and how of the situation.

We grabbed two lead lines, got in the truck, and drove down road. My hope was that the pair would have come to the road and would be headed home. Icelandics have very good homing instinct – always, when I’ve come off Raudi or Tinni, they’ve raced back to home and the hitching post, their thought being that they might grab a few wisps of hay before I got there.

Pete pulled onto a side road. The plan was for me to cut through a clearing and head in the direction of where the horses going. Once I came to our trails, I would follow them in a homeward direction. Pete would go home, saddle up Tinni, and head via Raudi’s Racetrack, in my direction. I grabbed a lead rope and headed out. The reasoning that I only needed one rope was because the loose horse would follow.

I started walking. The question that should now cross your mind is, what does one think about in such instances? The first, and most immediate thought, was that it was 3 p.m. This being southcentral Alaska in late December was that it would be dark soon. We had to find the pair, and soon. If not, they’d be out at night – it would then be near impossible to find them. And in a space of 14 hours’ time, they could cover considerable ground, which was a distinct possibility, given that we live adjacent to the Matanuska Moose Range, a vast area of acreage. An image of what I came across a few years ago came to mind, it was of the skeleton of a horse that did wander off. It was wearing a torn red halter. Both our horses were wearing their regular halters; one or the other could snag on a branch and get caught. Trappers might already have set winter traps—I pictured a leg caught in the claws of a bear trap. (Bear hunting is legal in Alaska year around.)

There was also a very practical matter to consider. We had evening plans. We were to get together with friends for dinner. We were the only guests. We’d either have to call them and cancel our get together, and resume the search in the morning.

I continued to tromp across creeks, through downed birch stands, around standing spruce, all the while scanning the area, hoping to see Hrimmi, a large, slow moving red and white pinto, or Tyra, a fast moving fire engine red chestnut. A moving shape caught my eye and I focused on a grove of alders. It was not the angular form of a moose, but rather the smaller, rounder shape of a smaller large pony. I yelled Tyra’s name. Pete, who I did not immediately see, yelled the most welcome words of all: “I found them!”

I veered right and half walked-half ran the 100 yards to where three ponies stood. Pete was riding Tinni and beside him, online, stood Tyra. Hrimmi was directly behind the pair. I trotted over to her and clipped my line to her halter. Pete found the pair on the road – they were homeward bound.

Hindsight is only good after the fact. This time, I learned my lesson. I won’t ever again allow the two horses to run free at the same time. And if I must unhook one and hook up the other, I’ll tie the one that’s on lead to a tree before hooking up the other. I’m also going to put breakaway halters on the pair –this way, if one does get snagged on a tree limb, it will be able to free itself. I’ll also stick to the trail of the errant horses rather than heading for home. And though reception in our area is poor, I’ll carry a cellphone. All this, because the prospect of eating crow does not appeal to me.

Next: 114. 12/27/16: In Ponies we Trust

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