As December 3, 1992, dawned, I heard the patter of water dripping
from our roof. I looked out the bedroom window. For the first
time in two weeks, patches of brown gramma grass turf showed
though the snow. Back then, I didn't know that a December snowmelt
isn't always good news.
I dressed in a light coat and began the morning chores. While
my teen daughters, Valerie and Virginia, milked the goats, I
tossed a bale and a half of hay into the horse feeder in the
I hung around to see how well Marcie Dark's Dudley was fitting
into the herd. Besides him, three others shared this feeder:
Coquetta; her adopted filly, Vashti; and hers yearling half brother,
Lightfoot. There was room enough for everyone. Despite this,
Dudley immediately chased Vashti away.
As he lowered his head to chow down, Coquetta backed into position,
making a T with her rear end pointed at his middle. Dudley began
to munch. He didn't seem to notice her flattening her ears and
jerking her head at him. Maybe he did but was playing it cool,
trying to be subtle about questioning her authority. Until this
morning, he had automatically accepted that she was the lead
mare. Now it seemed as if he were thinging to himself that, heck,
she was over thirty, just a mustang pony.Was the sudden thaw
giving him delusions of superiority?
Nubian dairy goats and a Quail Antwerp bantam rooster bask
in the warm winter morning sun next to one of our windbreak fences.
After about two seconds, Coquetta decided that Dudley wasn't
going to take her hints. She snorted and whomped him in the side
with both hind hooves. All fourteen hundred pounds of him went
off balance and he splatted onto his side in the muck. As he
struggled upright, Coquetta lunged at him, teeth bared. He fled.
Vashti returned to the feeder, hugging Coquetta's side. Dudley
tried to join them, but Coquetta flattened her ears. He backed
off and stood at a distance until Vashti and Coquetta finished
I left them to slog through the turf to the west end of our
land to the hospital barn area. Lady Gold and her colt, Xerxes,
waited at the gate, eager for their daily exercise. It was four
weeks since I bought them. She was now fast muscling up. I estimated
that her hooves, which a month ago had been worn to the quick,
were now half an inch longer. I opened the gate. Xerxes frolicked
off. Lady Gold plodded after him. He bounded back to his dam,
crashed into her side, caromed off, then raced away to play with
Lightfoot. Must be the thaw, I thought.
In mid-morning, Philip Johnson pulled up in his half-ton camper.
His cow dog leaned out the right hand window, grinning as only
a cow dog can grin. The border Collies, Jo Kid and Chiplicker,
and the Great Pyrenees, Starjumper, raced out off the goat barn
barking. They sniffed and decided it was just the farrier's cow
dog and went back to business. I haltered Lady Gold, led her
out of the pasture and into the driveway, Xerxes fooling around
by her side.
Philip circled her, rubbing his chin. "Her pasterns are
weak. Her heels are run down. She'll need eggbar shoes."
He trimmed her feet, leaving the heels almost untouched. He
set the propane-fed forge on the back of his camper to roaring.
He heated a shoe until it glowed orange. He welded an arc on
the open end to turn it into an egg-shaped oval. With tongs he
lifted it out of the forge and pressed it against the sole of
Lady Gold's hoof. Acrid smoke hissed. Xerxes skittered away.
The mare remained serene.
Johnson nailed eggbars on to all her hooves. Now Lady Gold
stood an inch higher, almost 16 hands. Honest, I measured her
with a height ahd weight tape. That's big, even for a Quarter
Horse, especially a bulldog type like her. Her pasterns now made
perfect angles with her legs, 30 degrees in front, 45 degrees
in the rear.
Johnson had me lead her around as he watched her movement.
"Looks good," he said.
Just then, I heard ta car bouncing down County Road 11. It
was Dorothy's Ford Escort, dirty bl;ack where it wasn't completely
coated with sorrel clay. She parked near Philip's truck. I was
delighted to see Marcie was with her.
Dorothy said she was ready to make her first try at riding
a horse since that rental horse gave her a concussion. Marcie
wanted to try out Lady Gold. it would be her first ride since
she got fed up with Dudley bucking her off all the time.
We tacked up Lady Gold and Dudley Western style, and Coquetta
with a close contact saddle. Marcie mounted Lady Gold. Dorothy
got on Coquetta. I took Dudley. We rode in the south pasture.
Thanks to Lady Gold's kind heart, we could see Marcie's self-confidence