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August 19, 2014: Putting the Cart Before the Horse

I am writing this dispatch well after the fact. This is because the subject, human error, is difficult to write about. But this is something that I must do because this will better enable me to put Monday night’s events into a perspective that I’ll hopefully be able to live with. And if it keeps others from making similar mistakes, so much the better.

My story goes like this: Yesterday, after our carriage ride, Ruth and I decided to put my harness and easy entry cart on Tinni. It was by now 8 p.m. and getting late. I thought, why not? I had all the gear and the cart out, so we could do this in short order. Ruth also seemed up for this, especially after I assured her that old steady eddy Tinni would do just

Trillium riding Tinni

fine – after all, he’d previously pulled our other cart.

I got Tinni out of the pen, tied him to the hitching post, and gave him some hay. And he paid Ruth and I little mind as she attempted to fit the harness to him. It took some time to do this right. I didn’t mind at all, it was just good to finally have someone who knew what they were doing figure out how to do things right.

We had the harness fitted and the cart hooked up at 9 p.m. Ruth ground drove Tinni and I stood by his head. He startled when the Slow Moving Vehicles sign fell off the rear of the cart, surprising both Ruth and I. As I told her, Pete might have been right (all along) in saying that Tinni is sometimes a skittish horse, to which I’ve often disagreed.

As we tacked up Tinni, we repeatedly remarked that the music we’d been hearing was pretty obnoxious. I can’t speak for Ruth, but it was definitely putting me on edge. It was heavy metal/rock music, and it was extremely loud. I speculated that the sound was emanating from Rafter T place, which is a short ways down the road, on the right. It definitely made it difficult to concentrate. I was also hungry, and because I hadn’t slept well the night before, tired.

We walked Tinni down the driveway. I opened the gate, we turned left onto Oceanview. After a bit, Ruth got in the cart and drove Tinni. I remained at his head and continued to talk to him.

We planned to walk a short ways, maybe circle around at Judy Donegan’s place, and then return home. But I, who then thought that perhaps the sound was coming from the next place down the road, suggested we keep going, because by now, I really wanted to find out where the noise was coming from, and perhaps do something about this. And so, keep going we did, up Samovar, then around onto Sybarite. As I’d begun to suspect, the sound source was outside speakers. I saw our neighbor Gary, who was standing right next to them. I left Ruth and Tinni for a moment, went over to him, and told him that I could hear what he was playing all the way over at my place. “Oh,” he said “I usually turn it off at 10 p.m. Is it after 10?” I assured him that it was, and he promptly turned his stereo off.

I rejoined Ruth, and hopped in the cart. Tinni moved briskly, at a very fast walk. In minutes, we were back at our starting point at the base of our driveway. We stopped next to Ruth’s carriage and horses, which were on the right, well off the roadside. Tinni was a bit bothered by the cart – I lead him over to it. He seemed okay about the fact that Diablo and Curly Sue were tied to Ruth’s trailer.

I released the reins, I think to take a closer look at Ruth’s horses. And Ruth hopped out of the cart. It was then that it happened. Tinni startled. I reached for the reins but was knocked backwards by the cart shaft. Tinni then bolted up the driveway at a gallop. I wasn’t immediately worried – I presumed that he’d stop by the hitching post, where his hay was. I did worry, when he kept going. He passed Raudi and Hrimmi, and ran around the far side of the tack room/garbage shed. Ruth and I both ran up the driveway, using the clattering sound as a guide as to where the runaway might be.

The clattering noise stopped as we reached my writing cabin. I of course feared the worse, began picturing my poor horse tanged in lines and cart, injured. I thought, “I can’t deal.” We came to Tinni, who was standing next to my cabin. His reins were around his neck. He still had his bridle and blinders on. However, he was not wearing his harness. It was in pieces, all around the yard. As for the cart – it was on its side, one shaft was caught under the edge of the porch railing.

Ruth grabbed Tinni, who was blowing, but quite calm. I ran my hands over his body and legs. He did not have a single scratch on him. Not a one. I didn’t used to believe in miracles, but forever after, I will. And with miracles goes the hand-in-hand thought that yes, there must be a God.

Ruth and I walked Tinni back to the hitching post, and after removing the blinders, I again examined him. He immediately resumed eating his hay. We then retrieved the wreckage. The cart shafts were bent nearly over one another. And the harness – it was in pieces. Ruth repeatedly apologized, saying what had happened was her fault, and that she ought not have gotten out of the cart. I repeatedly told her (and I meant it) that I was just glad that Tinni was all right.

After, we walked around the yard. Both of us were additionally blown away by the fact that Tinni didn’t get hung up in a variety of other places. He (for example) could have become tangled in the dog line, to which Maya, Ruth’s Rotweiler was attached. Or he could have become jammed between the barbecue grill and the spool. As it was, he sent a lawn chair flying to the far side of the yard.

Of course, what happened brought to mind what happened to Siggi. That story had a very sad ending. However, this story has a happy ending. I repeatedly got up last night and went down to the pen and checked on Tinni, who was just fine. As for the harness and cart – I put them away. Their condition is immaterial to me. What most matters is that my beloved horse is okay.

Although there was a happy ending, this accident still has a bad dream feeling about it. I am attempting to dispel this feeling by thinking about what I might have done differently, this as opposed to the accident particulars. First of all, I should have said enough was enough after we’d harnessed Tinni. My judgment may have been affected by the fact that I was tired and hungry. But I knew better than to continue with this project. The loud noise was a contributing factor to my lapse in judgment. I’m not able to screen out noise. This alone would have been reason to leave well enough alone.

Given that we did continue, I should have shut the gate behind us once we were out on the road. On occasion, both Raudi and Tinni have bolted up the driveway, back to the barn. In fact, Tinni did this the first time that I rode him. I came off his back and cracked my helmeted head on the hard driveway surface.

There’s also the matter of the blinders. These decreased Tinni’s visibility, which had already been affected by the darkening sky. Had he not had them on, he might have seen Raudi and Hrimmi, and come to a more immediate stop.

I also did a piss poor job of reading my horse. Tinni is a very stoic fellow. He will remain calm when dealing with adversity, but when push comes to shove, he will explode. This has not happened in many, many years because generally, I’m watchful. Plus both Pete and I have been careful to not put him in such positions. This was not so in this instance.

Ruth said after the fact that she ought not have gotten out of the cart. I am not familiar with the particulars related to driving, but I think that it was good she did get out because Tinni would have bolted anyways.

So yeah, I feel terrible about what happened. In fact, I feel so bad that I am wondering if I should part company with the horses. Right now I’m fearing that I’ll have further lapses in judgment. I just don’t want to be responsible for an animals’ death. Pete says at times that he feels responsible for Siggi’s death. Now I know what he’s talking about.

If I do resume cart training with Tinni (and this is unlikely) I will go back to the beginning and start with line driving. And of course, I’ll do this in daylight. I don’t (right now) foresee this happening because I don’t have the expertise to do this. So for now, I’m just going to keep riding him and using him as Hrimmi’s pony horse.

Next: 225. 8/20/14: Lessons Learned: Our Horses, Our Teachers