If you have ever observed a herd of horses, you’d know that eventually some rogue youngsters will burst forth and engage in a rousing round of the Face Bite Game. Young horses do it to establish oneupmanship. Older horses do it to establish their rank.
My horses do it to piss me off.
Well, probably not, but they don’t stop when I ask them to stop.
Case in point… today.
I put Bodhi and Wrigley in the haunted pastures across the fence from each other. A perfect venue for the Face Bite Game.
THE HAUNTED PASTURES
I have two beautiful pastures at the top of the property that go unused. No one, NO ONE will go up there and be happy under the lovely shade trees. No one will eat the plentiful grass.
You see, for a reason unknown to me, all of the horses have decided that the upper pastures are haunted. I swear, if I lead a horse towards the area, he will start back-pedaling as soon as he figures out our course. Or, if I do manage to wrangle a horse behind the haunted gates, about 2 mouthfuls later, he’s screaming and running the fenceline.
It doesn’t matter if I put two horses together or if I bring the whole herd within view.
Those upper pastures have been deemed unsuitable by my herd.
That is, except for Wrigley…
Wrigley is the youngest here. He is also the most irritating.
The worst part is that he tries to be irritating. His life’s work is to bug the other horses. He’s like the Chinese Water Torture of horses. Pick. Pick. Pick. Pick. He just doesn’t stop.
For some reason, Wrigley doesn’t mind being in the Haunted Pastures. “More for Me!”, I can almost hear him say as he enters the beautiful paddocks.
As a sidebar, I created the Wrigley Monster… I thought it would be fun to let him grow up with his mother. Since all of her babies were weaned and then moved onto show careers (except for Gwen who is the 2nd most irritating horse here…); I thought it would be nice for her to be able to raise one up to adulthood.
Tess is the lead mare. She didn’t let anyone touch her precious baby boy. And, she also spoiled him. As long as he didn’t eat her food, he could do no wrong. She’d reprimand anyone if they even flicked an ear at him.
So, Wrigley is a spoiled brat that I now have to fix because I was too busy to train him myself when I should have been training him in the first place.
ENTER SPARRING PARTNER – BODHI
Bodhi, our draft cross, recently came back from his sojourn to Southern California where he was leased to family friends.
Before Bodhi left, we never had him near Wrigley because at that time, Bodhi would have most certainly gotten fed up with irritating Wrigley and probably would have kicked him into the next county. Consequently, I never put them near each other.
But now Wrigley is as tall as Bodhi only 300 lbs skinnier.
They kinda remind me of Gumby and The Hulk.
MY BRIGHT IDEA
So my bright idea was to put Gumby and The Hulk in adjoining pastures up in the Haunted area. Both of them eat a lot. They are both close in age and they both like to fight. Perfect.
It could go either way.
But, luckily, there were good fences so hopefully they’d bond over being stuck up there together away from the rest of the herd.
Or so I thought…
BUOYED BY MY RECENT SUCCESS
I had the courage to put the rockem sockems together because I had recently successfully integrated Rojo (my fresh from the wild mustang) in with my very dominant mares.
But, what I failed to realize during that particular integration was that I was putting him in with two other mustang mares. Three mustangs together make pretty good decisions on average.
I think it went something like this:
(After a bit of squealing and fake kicking, they all settled down into a conversation)
ROJO: I wish to govern you ladies.
Remi: Why? We govern ourselves just fine.
ROJO: Well, I am the man and I was just recently gelded so I feel like I am the herd leader here.
Sam: Huh? That makes no sense. You are small, younger than us and a silly boy. We protect the herd.
ROJO: OK, well, you ladies are forcing me into it. A gelding’s gotta do what a gelding’s gotta do…
(fake kick fight ensues)
Sam: Um, no one here really wants to get hurt so if you are so dumb to hurt yourself, go ahead but I abstain.
Remi: I abstain as well.
Gwen: I don’t get involved unless I know I can win.
Remi: So… what? Are you abstaining or are you going to kick his stalliony self?
Gwen: I abstain.
And that was that.
My judgment error here was thinking that Wrigley and Bodhi were anything like the wild mustangs. They aren’t. They are domestic and ‘self preservation’ hasn’t occurred to them in the same fresh way it does for the newly captured mustangs.
So for me to think that I could put young, cocky, chest-thumping homeboy geldings across the fence from each other without a fight was – crazy.
But that is exactly what I did.
THEY BELONG TOGETHER.
I figured that they just needed to bond and then they would have a blissful friendship. After all, they belonged together… They both liked to eat. They both liked to play. They were total ying and yang from each other (Bodhi calm, Wrigley… not) and therefore a good balance.
They both had no one else.
THE BATTLE ROUNDS BEGIN!
Today was the day that I decided to put them next to each other in the Haunted Pastures.
I walked Bodhi up there and he nosed around and started eating right away. Ah. A good start.
I then pranced my Macy’s Day Parade Float of a horse (Wrigley) up into the adjoining pasture.
Wrigley put up his periscope and looked around. Then he started eating.
Fine. Another peaceful start.
I watched for a few minutes and then I went inside.
And that’s when I felt the first rumble…
(Click here to see a short video of the schnannygans.)
ROCKEM’ SOCKEM’ GELDINGS GO 40 ROUNDS!
The Haunted Pasture is right behind the house. I can see it from my bathroom. If the window is opened, I can call the play-by-play.
I was sitting at my desk, as I am now, when I heard the first thundering clap of hoof against fence board.
I yelled out the bathroom window (that really confused them), ran downstairs and flew out the laundry room doors to stumble up the back hill – to them – to check out the damage.
Both of them, wringing wet, looked at me:
BODHI: Wasn’t me.
Wrig: Wasn’t me.
Me: Well it sure as heck wasn’t me!
Luckily, the board wasn’t broken. I checked both of their sweaty selves over and they were fine.
Me: I’m going back inside.
Them: Suit yourself. We’re fine. Nothing to see here.
I trotted off, back to my office…
THE LONGEST BATTLE IN THE HISTORY OF SPARRING GELDINGS
Oy. This went on all afternoon. They’d run the fenceline, peck at each other, Face Bite, fake rear and then run the other way. Back and forth and back and forth… Face Bite, bitey bite, rear, Face Bite, run!
I went out again after about 2 hours and Bodhi greeted me at the fence. He was breathing like a dragon and sopping wet with sweat. He was agitated and rushed to me for assistance.
I felt like I was Mick in the corner…
“Cut me Mick, Cut me!”
Me: Bodhi, what’s wrong? Hey, give it up. This is stoopid. Look at you. You’re a wreck! This puzzle cannot be solved. You are on one side, he is on the other.
Bodhi (panting): But he is sooooooo irritating!
Me (shaking my head slowly in acknowledgment): I know.
Somewhere we both heard the bell ring and with a head toss, he was back at it.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Hmmmmm. At one point, I realized that it had become too quiet out there. Something was wrong.
So I pulled on my nasty barn shoes and poison oak pants (it has taken me years to remember about the poison oak) for my hike out to see how the two Princes were doing.
I couldn’t find Bodhi.
Wrigley was far away, grazing. But where was Bodhi?
I looked all around and saw the broken board first. Dammit! Wrigley, I’m tired of fixing these boards. YOU DO IT.
Me: Nevermind. Where’s Bodhi?
Wrig (prancing up to me with a grin): You mean, Bab-i
Me (feeling alarmed): What did you do with him?!
Wrig: He’s fine. He’s licking his bab-i wounds over there (he flicks his head).
It was then that I saw him.
Bodhi was under a tree in the far corner of the pasture. I raced to him. OMG!
Me: ARE YOU OK??!!
Bodhi (sobbing softly): He’s mean.
Me: He’s irritating and he got your goat. You should really just ignore him. He is a twirp. You are twice his size.
Bodhi: Yeah, well he has pointy teeth and really good aim.
Me: Yes. (sigh) He is very wiry and wily, for sure.
Then I noticed his neck scrape and bite mark.
Bodhi must have reared and come down on the edge of the rough fence board because his neck was scraped of hide. It looked like jerky. Upon further inspection, I found a nasty bite right by his ear.
…Grumbling to myself and looking at Wrigley…
Wrig (running the fence still): Bab-i, Bab-i, BAB-I!
Me: Wrigley, STOP IT RIGHT NOW OR I’M GONNA COME OVER THERE.
Wrig: Sorr-ree. sheesh. Why is everyone always mad at me?
Me: You don’t know when to quit!
Wrig: He started it.
Me: I’m very upset with you.
Wrig (staring silently as I comfort Bodhi): I’m so misunderstood.
I raced inside for my BooBoo kit and reappeared with warm water in tow. Lovingly, I slathered Bodhi’s neck with anti-everything foam and then applied my favorite healing gel (THE BALM – Equispa).
Bodhi kept his soft, hurt eyes looking down the whole time. He was humiliated.
He literally took his halter off of the fencepost and dropped it in front of me…
Bodhi (trying to stick his nose in the halter as I picked it up): Put me back in my pasture, puleeze and spare me this humiliation.
Me: What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
Bodhi: Huh? That makes no sense. I’m injured. Injured is not stronger.
Me: Humans say that to each other to make us feel better after we’ve been beaten down.
Me: Because we love each other and try to show compassion and understanding when we say that…
Bodhi: You’re kinda using big words on me.
Me: OK, well, buck-up big boy. You’ll be fine. Just ignore him and eat the nice grass up here.
Bodhi: Sniff…. but I wanna go back to my room and pout.
Me: Stick it out.
So, I went about the busy-ness of repairing the fence board (dang it!). Wrigley continued to tell me that Bodhi started it. I’m guessing he was probably right…
Me (to Wrigley): I really need to train you very soon.
Wrig: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…
AN HOUR LATER
An hour later, I took a break and went outside to check on Bodhi.
Well, that’s not true. First, I stuck my head out my bathroom window (I had to stand in the tub to do this) so I could locate them in the back pastures.
Much to my surprise, all I saw were swishing tails behind a clump of trees.
Wha? Lordy Lordy! Are they getting along?!
To my amazement, they were swatting flies off of each other through the fence.
Well, wonders never cease!
40 Rounds of the the Face Bite Game, a minor injury, a broken fence and a crushed ego was all it took…
We’ll see how they are tomorrow…
I’m taking bets.
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