I took a trip to the barn today, having not seen my pony, Hopi in quite sometime. I grabbed a ride from a friend and quickly shuffled up the driveway to the barn, very much eager from some alone time.
When I got to the farm I was the only one there. The barn is pretty old and dark, with all the creepy noises anyone could ever ask for, which suits me just fine. It’s also unheated and it just happened to be about 18 degrees without the windchill. I dug my feet in and struggled slightly while pushing the massive, solid old door back into place.
Hopi’s a short little fella. He’s shaped very similar to the wild mustangs you can still see
in western Oregon and Nevada. He’s short, but muscled pretty well. He stuck his head over the door of his stall and whinnied at me as I pulled out an apple to share.
Turns out just before I’d arrived he’d beaten up another horse from the herd, a much larger male named Spanky. Spanky’s leg was messed up (again) from a well aimed kick and half a fence post was gone from another.
Hopi had a small wound on his chest, but was relatively unharmed.
I didn’t have the time to ride, but I pulled him out of his stall and brushed him out pretty well. He’s colored like a calico cat, mostly white but with some blotches of black or brown. His winter coat grew in a couple months ago, and to my surprise it’s slowly going blond.
It was nice being there, alone in the silence. I live a pretty hectic life, and finding alone time usually gets pushed onto the back burner. I smashed through a couple of frozen water buckets and refilled them, then grabbed a lunge whip and Hopi followed me out of the barn like a puppy.
I still find it funny that Hopi, being stubborn, strong and very much an Alpha Male has no problem following me around as if I was his mother.
Spanky was screaming angrily as we left the barn, angry whenever any member of the herd was out of his site, even if he’s terrified of said member.
Sydney, a small red chow like dog plotted slowly behind us. She lives in the heated tack room of the barn, living off kibble, stolen grain and whatever left overs people bring for her to snack on. She’s starting to get up in years, and limps slightly from arthritis in the winter.
Only a few patches of ice were left from our last snow fall a last week, so playing a game of chase with Hopi was easy. Sydney waited by the gate over seeing all the goings on, a stray chicken pecked at the frozen dirt, the property across the street were using their frozen pond as an opportunity to throw a party, thankfully the pond was pretty far back from the road, and you couldn’t really hear any of the goings on.
Hopi plotted dutifully after me as I went to close a gate at the far end of the field I was planning on using, knowing I had several carrots stuffed into my pockets.
Again, the farm is pretty old and if you want to open or close a gate you have to jerry-rig it. After some time I got the gate closed, found the fence post Hopi had destroyed and led him to the middle of the field.
I took off at a run, and Hopi took a minute before trotting happily after me as I circled the pen. He knew before I turned and was already right beside me when I finished. I came to a stop and he nudged my shoulder.
One thing I was taught early on when learning about horses was that you always have to be thinking a step ahead of your horse. Horses will do almost anything to avoid working, even fake an injury.
So when I decided to lunge Hopi in a circle, I have to constantly be thinking about what Hopi will do to avoid running.
I spent a good half hour working him, surprising myself in how well I knew him, and how well he knew me. We spent the rest of our time together exploring the fields of the farm, Hopi making me walk over what looked like treacherous ice first, to make sure it was safe.
Theres a stream that runs one side of the place that I never knew existed, there’s one board on a fence in the back that, when the wind hits it makes it sound strangely like a fox cub.
I enjoyed our time together, despite the bitter cold.
Back at the barn I left Hopi in the aisle while I filled my pockets with Horse treats from the tack room, (Mine, which had to be removed from my Tack box once Hopi figured out he could undo the latch). I gave Sydney two, plus part of a carrot, which she took happily and left to gnaw on. Hopi got two, as well as the rest of the horses in the barn.
Peter, the caretaker and should-be owner of the farm showed up from his small apartment in the loft, bundled up and looking a little like a homeless man. We talked about the changes he was in the process of making, fresh paint, insulation, adorable little air fresheners scented with Cinnamon that also killed bugs. Peter lives alone, with a cat and the horses, it’s rare when he receives human company.
He stuffed his hands in his pockets as he told me about the injured Rooster he had separated into an empty stall. An older bird that had been brutally mauled by his brethren, leaving him with a messed up leg and without most of his feathers.
“I told the owner,” Peter said while leaning against a stall, his voice trailing off with a slight southern drawl “He told me to break it’s neck, but I can’t do it,”
I nod and sneak into Hopi’s stall, stealing a bit of hay and an extra apple. I stuff the hay into the Roosters stall, and he quickly makes as much of a nest as he can with it. I lean against the stall, Hopi right beside me as I bite of pieces of the apple and divide them between the rooster and my horse.
“I’m thinking about going down south,” Peter tells me “Down to Texas maybe, where they have real farms,”
I shrug “If you go work where there are real farms, they’ll probably make you shoot something,”
He shrugs back and his tone drops to an almost childlike tone “Just show me how!”
I laugh at him, “You can’t even kill a chicken,”
His face falls before he shrugs again, murmuring an agreement.
“But they need lots of farm hands down there, free rent,” he tells me “Not like here,”
I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to head down South myself sometime, work a little here and there.
“It’s fucking freezing,” I tell him, hugging Hopi for warmth.
“Yeah,” he drawls, looking up at the insulation his managed to get to stay up above one of the stalls. “I’m cutting a hole right here though,” he smacks the wall above his head “Running the heating line right though here, once I get all the holes patched up,”
“You’re doing a great job,” I reassure, leading Hopi to his stall.
“It’s so dark here,” he says, “Like a prison,”
“I like the paint,” I tell him, “After you put the new lights in it’ll be fine,”
“We’ve got another month of winter, at least,” he grumbles as my ride beeps from outside, Sydney rushes out the door to alert the car of her presence.
I kiss Hopi on the nose and give the last piece of carrot to the rooster, who’s settled in the hay I’ve given it.
“I’ll see you next Wednesday Pete,” I tell him as I leave, he nods.
“Sydney get over here you dumb dog,” he calls as the dog circles the car several times before going to him.
I wave as I settled into the heated car, not realizing how cold I’d been until that moment.
I look back at Peter, who’s waiting until we’re out of sight to close the door, I watch the farm get smaller and smaller until we’re out of site, thinking maybe, just maybe, being alone isn’t as glamourous as I thought it could be.