Home > Trip > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2013 > Daily Dispatch #183

September 24, 2013: Grande Prairie – Lewis Hawkes Pavilion, Alberta, Canada

Grande Prairie. Population 550, 062. We have, over time, figured out that midsized towns have the best horse facilities. Too large, and the rodeo grounds usually require a fee. Too small, and there is often nothing at all available. This was why Grande Prairie looked like a good option.

Alberta has something called activity centres, places in which area residents go to recreate. These facilities often include horse stables and arenas. This was true of Grande Prairie. Here, you can also, if you wish, spend time in the casino. And if you time it right, you can go the racetrack and gamble away your hard earned money.

We pulled in at about 5 p.m. Women were then milling about, feeding, cleaning up after, and leading horses around. We went inside and inquired about accommodations. A woman pushing a manure cart told us that we’d need to talk to Monique, who we presumed was the stable manager. We continued on, and asked the same question of two women who were sitting in plastic lawn chairs. They stopped talking, and again told us that we’d need to speak to Monique. One called her on her cell phone, and the older one of the two began telling us her life story. I shifted my weight from one leg to the other, as she chattered away about nothing in particular. What I wanted to say was that I was tired, the horses were tired, and more than anything in the world, I wanted to get them situated before dark.

The break came when the phone user said that Monique would be by shortly. In the meantime, I said, I’d put the horses in the pen outside the stable/arena. Pete and I then wasted no time in putting Raudi and Signy in the cleanest panel pen of the four. We then tied up their water buckets and gave them hay.

Alas, Monique appeared and told Pete (who was inside the facility) that we could not keep the horses in the outside area. Rather, we had to keep them inside, in stalls. Her reasoning was that grizzly bears had been seen in the area. Pete didn’t argue with her. Had I been there, I would have said that the odds of even sighting a grizzly bear in the area were right up there with seeing Bigfoot. Thus, it was just as well that I was not then in Monique’s vicinity.

We complied, and moved the horses into the building, into separate stalls, for which we ended up having to pay a hefty fee. As best I can, I act in the horses’ interest. This was clearly a case in which the situated horses were quite content. Their needs had been met, and they were with one another. Circumstances didn’t allow this, which was why Raudi, in particular, became discontent. She had access to food and water. However, a wall divided her and Signy, and there were no horses in the adjacent pen. She let her feelings be known about this by repeatedly neighing loudly and moving in circles around her cell.

There wasn’t anything I could do for her. I could tell by the look in her eyes that even if I tried, that I would not be able to reason with her. So I decided to keep an eye on her for a bit. And in the meantime, I gravitated to the adjacent stalls and cleaned them. After a bit, Raudi lowered her head and began eating. I then ventured outside and ate the dinner that Pete had cooked in the rear of the trailer.

I didn’t sleep very well. In fact, I laid awake thinking about two things. The first was that what we as humans perceive to be in our horses’ best interest is not what they always perceive to be in their best interest. And the second was that horse trekking, combined with trailering from place to place, is an inherently risky venture. Furthermore, it becomes more risky when you have your horses in the vicinity of others. On this trip, as opposed to the last, our horses were exposed to a shitload of pathogens. The downside is that they still might develop ailments. The upside is that if they don’t, they’ll have stronger immune systems. There is also this business of parasites. They’ve been sequestered in many, many places this summer, so undoubtedly their load is now higher than usual.

We now have a week or so of travel time left. I suspect that we’ll stay at two or three more rodeo grounds. High-lining has a drawback in that the horses can’t move freely. However, direct and indirect exposure to other horses is minimized. I will of course breathe a sigh of relief when we arrive home and release the horses into their own pen.

Next: 184: 9/25/13: Sikanni River Lodge Campground, BC