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U3A Writing: Horse Sense

Astra Warren tells a splendid tale about the day she matched her wits with the Wild One, a rebellious horse with a mind of its own.

The first day on my new station, the boss had said to me rather
mournfully, "You have to understand the order of priorities here. First come horses, then children, then me."

An exaggeration, but wife, Jo, certainly had a way with horses. I spent hours leaning on the yard rails in admiration, as with
infinite patience she schooled and gentled some recalcitrant horse into willing submission. So, all kinds of equine problems were brought to her.

One particular episode involved a handsome bay gelding from a nearby station. Bought for riding, he was so unmanageable
that the owners were thinking of selling him on and brought him to Jo as a last resort.

Came the weekend of the local gymkhana; family and horses prepared to leave, but Wild One had to be left at home. Confined in the yard, he was crashing around, bellowing and snorting his protest.

"Give it about an hour before you let him out," I was told, "or
he'll try to follow us." I nodded my understanding. This horse was capable of anything.

The horse float moved off with excited children and whinnying
horses. Looking forward to a peaceful evening, I started the evening chores. The noise from the yard hardly diminished, if
anything became more frenzied.

When the hour was up, and shadows lengthening across the red earth, I went across to the yard with the two dogs. Wild One stopped rampaging and gave us a baleful look, then resumed plunging and kicking. I went to the gate and put my
hand through the bars to slip the catch.

Quick as lightning, the horse struck; his strong yellow teeth that looked as big as tombstones, snapped just a whisker above my hand. He tossed his heavy head; his wild and rolling eye dared me to put my hand through the bars again.

I tried every distraction I could think of, even hanging a sack over the gate and trying to smuggle my hand underneath, to no
avail.

I retired intimidated. Surely, after 30 years matching wits with
children, was I going to be outsmarted by a horse?

Night was coming on; if left in the yard, he would eventually kick a hole in the fence or even damage himself. Besides, who could sleep with that racket going on?

The dogs, barking furiously, were doing laps round the fence,
provoking the circling horse to further mayhem. Then I had an idea worth a try. Tying the excited dogs to the far rails where the momentarily distracted horse stopped to kick and snap
over them, I raced round, slipped the catch, pulled the gate open and flattened myself cowering between gate and fence.

The horse looked round, scented freedom, threw up his head and was gone, half a tonne of maddened horseflesh soon a disappearing dot out in the bush.

I calmed my shaking legs, loosed the dogs and went in to pour myself a reviving drink.

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