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May 4, 2012: Earth to Raudi, Earth to Alys

Raudhetta is now nine, on her way to becoming a trustworthy mount, much like Tinni. A recent incident confirmed this, what for some time I’ve half-believed.

It had been snowing and raining all afternoon. Being the good horse owner that I am, I got all the horses out for exercise, walking Signy and Tinni in the morning, and riding Tinni and ponying Signy in the afternoon. I also took Siggi for a jaunt. Because of the weather, these rides were less than enjoyable. But, they were nevertheless rides.

I took Raudi out last, for no particular reason. At one time, she was the last to be ridden, the reason being she was green and I was lacking in confidence. We got over this last summer. I tacked her up, wiped the rain off the seat and headed down-road.

I was soon thinking hard about the final animal behavior exam that I was to give the next day. Was it too easy? Too hard? Were my questions reflective of what I stressed in lectures and discussions? I was pondering these and other questions for some time. We’d gone a half mile down our loop road, and had just turned the corner when the unforeseen happened. Raudi slammed on the brakes and came to an abrupt stop. It occurred to me that this was odd—she usually slows down slowly. I jiggled my legs and gave the come on come on command. This didn’t work, so I next stroked the reins.

Raudi ignored me, taking two quick steps forward, and a half-dozen quick steps backwards. I looked to the right, and observed that the creek water by the roadside was flowing faster than usual. Huh. This didn’t explain Raudi’s odd behavior. I then looked to the left and saw my neighbor Yvonne, standing on her deck. She had her camera in hand. She waved, and I waved back.

I straightened up, thinking that she was taking Raudi and my photo. And why not? These days Raudi (even when wet) is a head turner. Quite often, motorists will stop and ask where I got such a beautiful pony. Smirking, I say “from the pony fairy.”

“Look! Moose!” Yvonne yelled. I looked to where she was pointing, to the berm on the far side of the road. I then saw the source of Raudi’s consternation –a mother moose was chowing down on deadfall. A month-old calf was by her side. The pair saw Raudi and wiggled their ears. Raudi saw the pair and wiggled her ears. I gulped as the mother advanced in my direction. I did what I had to do. I sat deep in the seat, squeezed my legs, and looked straight ahead. Raudi, who I suspected also wanted to avoid Mom’s ire, moved forward, at a brisk trot.

Together, we went up around the corner. All the while, Yvonne was talking about how she never tires of seeing moose around, even though they’re a common sight in our neck of the woods. I went a few yards farther, and stopped and breathed a sigh of relief, for I presumed that the moose had resumed eating.

I gave Raudi a well-deserved treat before moving on. Nine years, I thought, and we now can easily pass moose. This wasn’t always the case. Used to be she’d throw her head up, chuff, and go ballistic. There was then no dealing with her. I, who was at her mercy, usually hopped off her back and then hoped for the best. Last summer must have made the difference. We interacted with bison, llamas, sheep, cows, snakes, and just about everything else. There were admittedly moments when my heart was in my throat, but it all seemed worth it. Raudi is now a steady eddy horse.

Yvonne’s shrill voice caused me to jump. “Look out! She’s charging you!” she yelled. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the mother had cut across the lawn and was coming at Raudi and I at a disjointed, but very fast gallop. Raudi heard the hoof beats, and for a brief instant stood still, waiting for her marching orders. I complied, by giving her the canter cue. Off we went. I could hear the moose drawing closer. I heard Yvonne, at the distance shout that she was gaining on us. I wacked Raudi once with the crop and she took off at a gallop.

Raudi and went at top speed for roughly a quarter of a mile, slowing when finally, the mother and calf dove off into the nearby woods. The rest of the way home, a very animated Raudi chuffed and repeatedly shied at familiar objects, a sailboat, burn barrel, and kids’ bicycle included. The moose being behind us, I laughed at her antics. Fifteen minutes later, I dismounted, and gave her another treat. I never give treats indiscriminately. But this time it seemed like the right thing to do. Had either one of us taken a misstep, we might now be dead. That moose meant business. It had a calf and this winter she had become habituated to people.

I later told a friend about the incident, and added that I was very proud of the way my horse behaved. It then occurred to me that I was equally proud of me. I’d stayed in the saddle and dealt with the situation in a very level-headed manner. It was for this reason that Raudi acted accordingly.

My concluding thought on this matter is that great horses aren’t born, they become. I don’t think that Raudi would cut it as a competition horse because she doesn’t have a high stepping tolt. And I don’t think that she’d wow the judges in a breeding evaluation because her croup is slightly higher than her withers. But she’s now great in the same way that Tinni, Signy, and Siggi are great. All are consummate trail horses who have an above-average level of common sense. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Next: 148. 05/5/12: School’s Out for Summer