We keep Roxy and Maria as companions for our old horse George. He likes the company. If we pasture him away from his donkeys, he charges around and has a fit.
We can’t keep them together though, George is too much of a bully for that. It’s one of those ‘can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em situations’ for old George. He has always been the dominant horse in the herd, compelled to assert himself, and the donkeys are just no match for him, they’re too little! But he loves them. ❤️
When we put George out to graze, we always put the donkeys in the next field to his. The donks, being much smarter than a horse and fully able to get through most of our summer fencing, wisely stay wherever they are put. They embrace their role. Even though they have each other, and so don’t need George, they seem to know that the old grouch needs them.
When the fields are too soft in our muddy valley, the three equines share a large paddock with drainage, split down the middle with electric fencing, a big walkout stall on each side. The stalls, deep and open to the east, are both winter morning sun traps and shadowy summer retreats. Whoever designed our barn knew what they were doing.
Its a good set up, but once in a while, as per normal when one keeps animals, something goes wrong. And something did, last week, as I discovered when I went out one morning to feed.
I barely glanced at George as I walked by him on my way to heave the barn door open. I registered that he was grouchy, but put it down to the sopping wet weather we’d had all week. I paid more attention when he charged into his stall and pivoted to toss his head at me, ears pricked well forward, plainly trying to get my attention.
That’s when I saw the snarl of electric fence wire spread across the stall mat, and somehow attached to George’s behind! He stood there facing me, one hind leg convulsively hovering in mid air, giving me a desperate look.
I quickly turned and pulled the plug, cutting power to the fence, then grabbed the hay bale scissors, turned back and flipped the gate latch open, stepping into the stall. I couldn’t see yet exactly how the wire was joined to the horse, but I could see one main string, so I snipped it as close as I could safely get to George’s hindquarters. He was still just standing there, lifting and lowering that one leg and gazing at me earnestly. Asking urgently for help to get this monster snake thing off his back legs. Did I mention that George is terrified of snakes?
Now, I wasn’t going to just head for his tail and rummage around back there, not with him so antsy. I have in the past occasionally forgotten that George is a thousand pound prey animal with a relatively small brain, and paid the price in bruises. So I haltered him and ‘tied’ him (quick release), then having established that modicum of control, moved around back to investigate.
The wire was twisted in his tail, and threaded THROUGH the winter blanket straps that cross between his legs and up towards his belly, clipping the back half of his blanket on. How the hell did he do that? It seems an impossibility, but somehow he had. And he’d been running around, for who knows how long, all over the paddock, with an electric fence chasing him. Poor George.
With my scissors I had him freed in a jiffy, slipped his halter off and then realized! The donkeys! In all the kerfuffle, I had completely forgotten about the donkeys. I looked over their way, to see two sad little donks huddled in the corner of their paddock, looking quite shaken. Poor things. How long had they been trapped in the same enclosure as their upset next door neighbour, and he threatening them with that fence that bites?
I got the electric fence restrung as quick as I could, to give the donkeys respite, and then was finally able to feed the three equines and get on with the rest of my chores. George settled down immediately, munching away contentedly in his stall, but not the poor traumatized donkeys. They would not go near that stall, that horse or their hay!
He must have cornered them in there at some point. I did the best I could to reassure them, talking to them encouragingly as I filled waterers and feeders and let out birds. Eventually brave Roxy tiptoed into the stall and snatched a mouthful, retreating outside to chew. And then another. Soon she was spending more time inside than out, settling down to eat breakfast. It took Maria longer, but as I finished up and headed back towards the house, I saw she had dared to grab her first couple mouthfuls. I knew her fear would fade from there.
What a nightmare it all must have been for the poor donkeys. Clumsy George had not only done it to himself, he’d made them collateral damage. Oh George, you are such an oaf sometimes.