And get a whuppin'.
Twice in a week someone has run through our gate, and the second time they made a loop back to run through another section of fence.
Cows out, horses out, and me out there in the dark, the cold, and the wet mist fixing the gate.
It's enough to make me contemplate the best tool for beating some sense and courtesy into their thick skulls, if I could just find 'em.
This last time, the cattle had been out, but we got the call about the horses. The three horses that aren't halter broke, are fairly distrustful of strangers who aren't with their people, and hate pickup trucks trying to herd them.
By the time I knew anything about it and got out there, I could see that the cattle had been out, and I assumed that the neighbor had eased them back home. They know where they're supposed to be.
It was also getting dark and the cattle were eyeballing the hole where the gate used to be like they might just wander back out, and I couldn't spot the horses in the dim light. So I fixed the gate by the headlights of mom's truck, hoped that the mares would have enough sense to keep the half-blind stud horse away from the roads, and went back in the morning.
Found 'em across the road and behind our pasture on one of the neighbor's farm fields, luckily fallow for the winter.
I took the grain bucket and talked sweet to the ponies while Farmmom went to open the gate and fix things right, since I'd had to make do the night before. A little sweet talk and rattling of the bucket and they came right along, and we hiked our way around the fence and back to where they were supposed to be.
I could have saved myself about a hundred yards on the walk by leaving them in the pasture across the road, as that gate was closer, but with Dusty as blind as he is, I prefer to keep them on the territory they're intimately familiar with. He's good about sticking with the girls and he's more likely to spook towards one of them if something startles him, but I'd rather he know where the gullies and drops are himself.
It was surprising to me yesterday that my buckskin mare was the first to come a-runnin when she figured out I had grain. Usually she sticks with the others, keeping one of them between people and her at all times. She's so shy, I've only touched her once or twice.
She's taking over the lead position from the older mare, though. Poor Roanie is getting so old that she's just breaking down. I'm not sure she'll make the winter, but she's still got a spring in her step and she'll kick up her heels yet. I don't want to put her down while she's still enjoying life, just because she's not holding weight like I'd like. If I ever find her down and unable to get up, then that's it, but she's still loving life right now.
Especially since the weather started to turn cold and we started bringing her and the other two a measure of grain every time we're out there.
She is letting the buckskin mare make more of the decisions, though. Yesterday morning Muffin came loping up to a beautiful stop about ten feet from where I was kneeling down on the ground waiting for the other two. She stuck out her neck and sniffed towards the bucket and then stood there shifting her weight back and forth. She knows if she comes up to me and follows me, she gets grain. She's seen Roanie walk right up to me and get a bite from my hand before we started walking, so she knows that could happen, but she's so shy of people she can't bring herself to eat from my hand.
Maybe taking over the lead mare position will make her more bold. Roanie always treated the attention and scratches like they were her due as head honcho, so perhaps Muffin will let us get a pet in now and then. I'm not going to push her on it, but if she asks, I'm not going to disappoint.