Plagues and Curses Upon the House of Hudson

The Forces of Evil Begin Smiting 

My text chimes. My email chimes. My cell phone rings. As I read the text on the way to answering the cell, our land line begins to ring.  I know.  It’s The Barn Emergency Alert System.

Bella texted:  Jim says Leo says Hudson is colicking. 

Jim says in my ear: Leo says Hudson is colicking.

Jim’s expertise is in How to Fix Things Horses Continuously Break. Which is why he’s reporting what Leo said, and calls Bella first.  He’s not sure whose horse Leo is worried about.

God bless ALL these people.

I’m 15 minutes out if I pull sweats over my pj’s, and break the speed limit.

For those not familiar with horse digestive systems: these big strong animals have the  digestive sensitivity of a cranky octogenarian. Change the pudding flavor, and cranky Octo could be bedridden for days, hammering her cane on the railing. Change her Jeopardy channel, and she could go into shock, burst a gut, and die.

Horses are that terrifyingly fragile.

While I try to focus on stopping at stop signs. Siri reads Bella’s email to me: H colicking. Can use Mo.

Mo is Hudson’s roommate, and Bella’s back up rope horse. You would LOVE him. He’s a Humvee-slash-Monster Truck in a world of sports cars. He’s so wide and bulked up, he looks like he’s been abusing steroids for years. (He hasn’t.) Despite his massive width and body-builder muscling, he has the heart of Ferdinand the Bull. Mo would very much like to find a tree to sit beneath, and smell a flower.

I tack up Mo, pry a bright and non-colicky looking Hudson away from banging on his feeder (Hellooooo…hungry…), and we pony. If I hadn’t listened to his gut sounds, I’d think he was fine: freight train moving through his bowels on his right side. Acute  and terrifying silence on the left.

we walk
Mo worries.  Hudson calculates if he can get grass out of this.

Hudson is nonchalantly relaxed while walking. A mild gas colic? No sign of pain. Twenty minutes in, he stops, lifts his tail, and produces one phenomenally long and sonically impressive Super Fart.  He poops regally, a gloriously giant deposit.

Hudson is cured! Ha. Take THAT, Forces of Evil.

I do the normal thing and take a poop photo, and text it to Bella: THANK YOUUUUUUU.

Better than flowers.

It’s gratifying to know Forces of Evil can be thwarted by farting.

Gravity Stealth Attacks 

On Hudson’s 26th birthday.  I make sure he’s thoroughly warmed up before I turn him out for play time in the arena with The Monster Truck.

I’m ridiculously proud of how good he looks and how young he acts. Ridiculous, because I have nothing to do with how good he looks. Good genetics, a sense of entitlement, and a stubborn attitude apparently help one age well.

A lot can change in 7 seconds.

Immediately after the video above, Hudson rocks back on his haunches, drops low, and rips flat-out into a dead gallop. He’s doing a speed drill. This is all wrong. My heart is pounding in my throat.  There are claws in my stomach.  He hasn’t done a speed drill in a loooong time.

Gravity hurls itself across the arena at the last second, and Hudson trips.

It devolves into the kind of crash about which horse people have nightmares. Hudson falls hard on both bad knees, his neck twists and whumps, the pipe fence is ringing bell-like from (I’m guessing) the impact of his skull. He’s all the way down, and against the fence. This is bad.  Horses need room to get up.  I’m terrified he might have broken a leg.

I ran to him as if I could scoop up 1200 lbs and carry it gently to a stall.  (Actually, it might have been possible in that moment.)  With great effort, he manages to untangle his front legs and get up. He looks bewildered and is trembling slightly. I can see this thought in his brain, though it means something different to him: this is all wrong.

I have so much compassion for believing you are still a Superhero.

I do a complete body scan, check his pupils, poll, and knees. He takes a couple of tentative, careful steps. Not lame. Fully weight-bearing on all four.  It takes awhile for his adrenaline to recede. I ask him to walk it out, so the acid doesn’t settle in his muscle.  Bute and Ice are our friends.

I work on his sore neck over the next week.  Better? But not okay. bizarrely, he is not lame. Sore as heck, but not limping. He needs the chiropractor. I set up an appointment for the next week. I want the acute phase over before he gets any body manipulation.

While we are waiting for the appointment day:

Locusts…? More Smiting…? WTH…?

Hives. Every. Where

One mild soap/glycerin bath later, he looks like he’s getting over the measles. The hives go down. Contact allergy? Can’t hurt to do the cowboy baking-soda purge to clean out toxins. Check. Pick up baking soda.

DETERMINED Forces of Evil.

The next day, he still has hives, but he’s better. I slather Caladryl on the big ones. Check between his front legs to see if I missed any.

I find loose, droopy, saggy skin on the inside of one leg. Mysterious lump near his breast.

Oh. No.

PIGEON FEVER? Are you kidding me?!?!?

I hit Nurse Jane mode like a stock car driver revving into a turn. No fever. No drainage. Check. He’s not contagious. Yet. I know this is too small for the vet to try to drain. I call Jamie anyway, and ask when I should call him, since calling him now is too soon.  (I’m sure he loves me for being so proactive.)

I scare the crap out of everyone at the barn.

I tell the barn manager we might have a case of Pigeon Fever.  We discuss protocol. She knows I’m onboard with strict measures.

Honestly, I’m completely panicked.  A 26-year-old mildly immunocompromised horse has a bad crash, develops weird mass hives, and then gets Pigeon Fever?  Is this the big IT? Are we there? Any one of these things alone would not rattle me (much) but all in a row, I’m beginning to wonder if something bigger is compromising his immune system.  Something more than an on-again, off-again low-grade sinus infection.

Yep. Right to: HE’S GOING TO DIE.

Carlos found me panicking. He very gently introduced me to this totally novel idea: deal with what is actually presenting: an unidentified lump, some edema.

Oh.  How…normal.

I stop being (mostly) an idiot.  We’ll stick to the default: all horses will be safe as long as we treat it as if it’s Pidgeon Fever.

Deep breath.

Day four: just a lump covered in ichthamal. Not bigger. Not softer. Not open. Not hot. No fever.

Bella remembers Hudson caught himself there once ten years ago, and developed a shoe boil. I’ve been around horses since I was twelve.  Maybe I saw a shoe boil 30 years ago.  Not on my radar.  I begin shoe boil protocol. Order a donut. Turns out, it IS a shoe boil. In a weird spot.

Forces of Evil Get to Giggle 

Hudson is convinced the donut is an ankle monitor, and he’s under house arrest. He looks surreptitiously for the orange jumpsuit. When holding the donut-encased ankle in the air doesn’t cause Jane to instantly repent and cut him free, he sighs. Walks off normally, and points his head into a far corner, his big rump angled accurately in my direction.

I guess donuts are the horse equivalent of The Cone of Shame for dogs.

Day Five:

The barn manager has a moment of panic: the old horse next to Hudson wakes up with a shoe boil AND a capped elbow, already getting infected. What are the chances…? She looks at me, then shakes her head. We both know shoe boils are not contagious.

Day six:

I’m filling in for Carlos, holding Clooney for the vet. His sheath is swollen on one side. After some examining: it’s a spider bite, on the inside of the sheath. Jamie says, “Not usual.  But it does happen.”  He looks down at Clooney’s front leg: “How long has he had this shoe boil?”

What shoe boil?

I don’t know…about an hour?

These three horses have paddocks all in a line. It has to be a coincidence, but how bizarre.

It’s a coincidence like this: I bang my elbow hard enough to leave a lump, and the next day, so does my neighbor, and the neighbor after that.

I searched the internet for ways to keep Hudson safe that didn’t involve sacrificing chickens or wearing funky clothing from the 1980’s. (Hey, shoulder pads and spandex are right up there with sacrificing a chicken.)

The internet giveth!

The following video has received Jane’s Good Horsekeeping Seal of Approval:

Hudson nixed this idea.  He’s  positive bubble wrap is a distant cousin of the shotgun.

His rump is still angled pointedly in my direction.

The Unusual Fruit Tree

This is no ordinary willow tree.

We’ve ridden past this tree every single day without incident.  But I know now that was because it’s fruit take a loooong time to ripen. A year maybe.

The Goat Tree
The horrific sound of ripe fruit falling to the ground is enough to scare the boldest horse into an early grave.

The reason we have the tilty, blurry photo of the sinister tree: I was taking the picture while Hudson was in the first phase of a cow horse one-foot spin and bolt. Or, if we prefer in dressage lingo, a pirouette at the hand-gallop.

Hudson warns of tree danger
Jane. Something is Wrong with that tree. I’m SO outta here. You are taking a PICTURE?!? HANG ON.

Something WAS wrong. The tree looked like one half was attacking the other half.  There were a lot of branches bending, bobbing, whipping up, wildly thrashing…this was one heck of a freaked out tree.

I got off Hudson and we walked cautiously back. The tree stopped moving.

Uh, trees do not stop thrashing around when they hear hooves. I suddenly realized no breeze had made it thrash around in the first place. The air was utterly still.  

Cue spooky music. Forget Hudson. I was ready to jump out of my skin.

I get back on, we tiptoe past the tree, which remains perfectly still. Hudson’s ears swivel back questioningly: What the heck was that all about? 

I pat him on the shoulder: Don’t know.  You sure were good though, thanks.

I can feel his mental shrug, and we go to work in the arena.  Once he’s done for the day, and settled back into his paddock with The Worlds Largest Happy Meal, I walk back to the access road. I want to see if I was part of a mass hallucination, or the tree is perfectly ordinary.

It’s not. The willow is wildly attacking itself.  Is there a gap in the time/space continuum here? Did we fall through a worm hole?  Other than tree noises, there are no sounds.  No children are playing in the greenery.

Suddenly, a large roundish white thing falls out of the tree with a loud thud. Bizarre fruit? Branches tremble above where it landed. The tall grass rustles and I hear the unmistakable sound of tiny hooves scrambling as a small white goat launches itself back into the branches.  A second later, a gray round thing falls out, scrambles, and leaps back into the tree to continue play fighting.

An hour later, I see a herd of little goats quietly grazing in the tall grass near the tree. The willow was able to completely camouflage 15  tumbling, rambunctious goats.

A Goat Tree. I love my life.

I told Hudson goats grow on trees.  And that our Goat Tree had fruit just about ripe enough to start falling to the ground, and goats being goats, they thrash.

He gave me a dubious look.

“Could be worse?”, I say. “They could have planted llamas.”

Carrot Cake For Everyone!

Happy Birthday, Hudson!

Best. Carrot. Cake. EVer.
I want to grow frosting carrots. My kind of vegetable. You can make this carrot cake! Instructions and drool-worthy blog, here.

Hudson got a cell phone for his birthday.  After our Colic Camping episode, I wanted him to be able to get ahold of me immediately.  This is how parents end up giving iPhones to a kindergartener, isn’t it?

He hasn’t come to terms with the fact he already HAS his present.

STAFF?!?

spirit killer

 

Hudson on the road
Happy 25th birthday, Hudson.

love,

Jane

Scratches: The Musical

Enter Hudson’s Scratches, portrayed by Robert Goulet, center stage:

Scratches can be irritatingly devoted.  To the point of needing a restraining order.

In November, the areas beneath Hudson’s rear pasterns were so bad I didn’t recognize scratches. I thought he’d been in a weird rubber mat burn, getting-up accident. One that happened to get infected and scabby. Overnight.

In November, I’d never owned a horse with scratches. In fact, I’d never seen a horse with scratches that had not been within 100 miles of mud. Dry scratches.

What horse gets scratches in the middle of a drought?

*Warning to the medically queasy or non-horse people, this post includes graphic photos.

I didn’t think to take photos when the scr*tches were at their worst.  I was alternately Googling, panicking, COTHing, hyperventilating, and pelting  {Bella, Daisy, Alice, Carlos, Shaun, God, Laurie, The Vet…you get the idea} with questions.

How do you treat Scr*tches?? Why is nothing working?

Enter Hudson’s vet stage left, singing:

Dr. James Kerr doesn’t wear this hat. Which is sad.
Right here in River City!
Right here in River City!

Below: Scr*tches shot a month after a course of oral antibiotics and two changes of topical cream.

After a month of treatment, swelling is waaaaay down.
Trouble.  OW.

Another course of oral antibiotics and a sixth medicated cream change later, we got it down to this:

photo
Blech.  And still OW.

I leave my barn, and arrive at the training barn early to work. When trainer arrives, and I keep my professional demenor intact by hurling myself on her, sobbing, and incoherently anguishing all over her new jacket.

“What?”, she says, “Jane?!?”

Note to self: anguish sooner next time. Trainer knows stuff.

photo-1
She said, “try wrapping after topical”.  We discovered the magic of bandage socks.
photo-3
I also liberally applied my Christmas present from Bella: Flower and Rainbow Unicorn grooming tools. That should fix it!

 Luckily, I can now bandage faster than Hudson can think:

Cole Porter had no idea how much he knew about horses...
I didn’t know Cole Porter was so horse savvy…

You have to fight Musical numbers on their own terms.

How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away:

I’ve turned to my favorite coping mechanism (when denial is not an option) and I am outgrowing my riding pants…again. Looking for cheer in all the wrong places.

My kind of work place.
My kind of work place.

Honestly. I had no idea that song was about the weather:

Jane, as Barbara, singing: “On Eclair Day, You Can See Forever”.

I can’t tell you how popular this musical makes me. The drama! The wailing and grief. The sheer joy of near recovery. The disaster of relapse. Very Shakespearian.

I’m certain there is a secret Phone-Tree Alert in place. Jane just pulled in, RUN.

Hudson is recovering.  Still.

I was standing next to Jamie. We both had our arms crossed, staring at the scr*tches. heads cocked. We have gone through his copious arsenal of treatments. If the latest cream doesn’t work, we will have exhausted every recipe except one.

Axel grease.

We look at each other.

“Theoretically, it could work”,  Jamie says.

Hudson Explains His Very Good Reason (which sounds very Winnie-the-Pooh-ish)

Dear Smart People Who Are Not Jane,

There’s a reason I mess with Jane. Via messing with Phil, who, face it, is über FUN to mess with. I mean, c’mon.  If you were stuck hanging out with a Phil, could you resist turning your head casually, and saying a bored: “Booga booga”?

Or “I think there’s a skunk in the bottom of your hay…”?

Of course I’m scaring him when Jane isn’t around.  Frankly, setting him off over nothing is just too much fun to resist.

My latest episode of admittedly over-the-top phreaking out of Phil was precipitated by little pointy party hats.  Complete with chin elastic.

I had a birthday.

Oh.
Yay.

The one day of the year I get to look completely stupid. I’m the handsome horse on the left. The messy human staring into the sun (she’s not very bright) is Jane.  The gorgeous babe rocking the stupid pointy hat (Chicks can do this.  I don’t get it either.) is Ginger, with her tidy and photogenic human, Laurie.

Please take notes, Jane. A little make-up goes a long way.  Tidy up, please.

Goody. I've always wanted a paper cone on my head. Party. Hearty.
Goody. I’ve always wanted a paper cone on my head.

Thank you for listening.  Can any of you help Jane develop some horse savvy?  For instance: We Do Not Put Party Hats On Horses Who Are Not Phil.

nudge,

Hudson

p.s. There’s one more letter, for Jane.

Dear Jane,

Ginger and I have proven to be excellent sports. Please destroy the Winnie-the-Pooh hats.

Now.

Disney's adaptation of Stephen Slesinger, Inc....
Seriously? You thought I’d tolerate an infantile, spelling-impaired, honey-obsessed, bear on my head?(Photo credit: Wikipedia, Copyright:Disney)

I’m enjoying the daily warming massage therapy on my knee, which frankly, I don’t think looks all that bad? Why all the fuss? It doesn’t hurt. At all. If it did, I would have torn you to shreds already. And the Not-Galloping is making me grumpy, FYI.  This is not good for your future.

The ice water massage boot is interesting. For about three seconds. You thought I was yawning for 20 minutes because it felt good?  I was bored OUT OF MY MIND. (But please, no singing.) You could fill those 20 minutes by peeling me some baby carrots, emperor style.

I need to know.  Does ultra-sound treatment on that knee involve more Jane-Singing?  I guarantee you that knee, should you sing, will explode. But not before I take a chunk out of your shoulder.

The real reason for my letter: I don’t understand this birthday obsession you humans have. I was pleasantly surprised that you considered what I, not you, would like for my birthday.

  1. I do not want to be clean.  Clean is bad.  Thank you for letting me roll and roll and roll.
  2. I do love a clean water trough.  Nice of you to scrub it out.
  3. Of course I love carrots.  And food. Thank you for happily providing both.

You are not off the hook for the party hat photo.  Please consider my recent flare-up of Phil Phreaking Out a warning shot across your bow. If you do not cease, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.

(I can make him afraid of cookies.  Do not tempt me.)

Nudge,

Hudson

Phixing Phil

I’m sure “Hudson-Caused PTSD” is a valid diagnosis that can be found in the DSM-5 , the go-to book for all psychiatrists. Hey. I wonder if the DSM-5 comes in a “For Dummies” version? For the psychiatrist who can’t understand Shrink-Speak either?

The wacky guy on all the “Dummies” covers is kind of the perfect promotional tool for making  psychiatry accessible.

Please hold while I Google irrelevant but now imperative question. And…no DSM-5 For Dummies.

But I did find this:

Do we laugh? Or are we very very afraid?

Well. That’s settled.

Back to Hudson-Caused PTSD. Being a good friend, I texted Bella to let her know I accidentally broke Phil. And I had every intention of superglue-ing him back together again:

Thanks for letting me ride Phil. He was great. FYI: He’s  afraid of hay now. Sorry! There’s 10 lbs of carrots in your garage if he gets hungry?  Will fix. Promise.

That night I lay awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling, trying to think through some sort of Phix Phil Plan. There was one imperative, non-negotiable variable that revolved around Hudson: He can’t know anything about whatever phix I phigure out.

Plan A is an exercise in Magical Thinking.  Still, it was fun to visualize before I crossed it off:

Plan A: Yell at Hudson. Make him apologize to Phil and take it back.

Nope. Don’t see this happening.

Plan B: Outsmart Hudson into taking it back

I’m kind of into Plan B. I like to imagine I am at least as intelligent as my horse.

Tricky. Hudson obviously outsmarted me on the “Let’s Make Phil Deathly Afraid of Hay” thing.

How can I make Hudson show Phil  the hay barn is horse manna? I plot. I pretend I’m Hudson. Ah-ha. Got it.  Though I see a potential problem. However, it’s a problem that Hudson has brought upon himself… It wouldn’t affect Phil… This could work.

Just before the dinner cart makes its rounds, I tack up a hungry Hudson…and active the Phix Phil Plan.  (Code-named, because all tricky plans need code names): Gotcha. There are three phases.

Phase One: flattery. I tack Hudson up first, spending lots of time getting ready. When he feels good and important, I ask him if he’d rather walk alone, or pony Phil.

Hudson: I believe I’d like to boss pony Phil around today.

Jane: Whatever. I’ll get him.

Phase Two: temptation: Before getting Hudson, I opened the hay barn doors and angled an open bale of alfalfa so it was barely sticking out into the road. I also did a scariness check: nothing spooky.  Bonus: there’s a trash can full of baling twine, that Hudson will believe might contain grain.

Phase Three: deceit. (You were already with me at hay-happens-to-be-in-the-road, huh?

I mount up, pick up Phil from the tie-post. We make one round of the access road, including passing the hay barn. Hudson ignores it nearly completely. His nostrils widen at the scent of alfalfa. I pointedly angle my body toward the road, away from the barn.  His ears signal minor disappointment. Phil snuck past the hay barn, and is flooded with relief when it didn’t jump him. Hudson has better things to think about than Phil.  Food.

On to round two.

We pass closer to the hay. I abruptly angle away, as if I’ve made a grievous riding error.

Hudson buys this.  Completely. Well, geeze. He could at least FAKE astonishment at my terrible riding.

Round three. Hudson wanders through his shoulder toward the hay barn. I sigh as though giving up. He gleefully buries his head in the alfalfa.

IMG_3556
Seriously? She’s that out of it? LUCKY DAY!!!

Phil jumps out of his skin, and has to be coaxed to stay with us.

IMG_3562
Hudson said this was BAD. Very very Bad. I do not understand why he’s happy.

We do this several hundred more times, with Hudson drooling in anticipation, and Phil trying to find a way out of the crisis:

IMG_3566
Can I just wait over there…?.

FINALLY, Phil takes a bite. I have an excellent grip on the reins, to keep Hudson from warning him off.

Oh. This is FOOD? CRAP! Did you hear the noise it made when I tore a bite off?  It was like a rifle shot!  Can food shoot?  (chew chew chew) Hudson seems fineI’m brave.  I think I can handle this…

IMG_3565
Mmmmm…this serial killer tastes goooood…

Ha. I tricked Hudson into giving the message: “Hay Barn Good. Nom nom nom.” Message received.  I rode Phil  – alone – past the hay barn. He wouldn’t go up to eat, but he didn’t shrink away from it either. Phew.

I text Bella: We’re good. Phil is fixed. You can ride him past the hay barn again.  

Can you guess what problem I created in this trade-off of trickery?

Hudson now believes it’s perfectly acceptable to attempt to trot to the hay barn for food, with every rotation of the access road.  Because I subtly encouraged his glee and ‘misbehavior’.

The next day I was able to call “one-time freebie!” to Hudson, and he accepted that answer.

I sure hope he doesn’t spend time thinking over the “free hay day”. If he figures out I tricked him, it’s cement horse shoes for me…

in Which We Meet Phil and Think About Killing Hudson

I risked my life for this photo.

Meet Phil, Bella’s new trial roping prospect:

IMG_3553
His right ear: “Are we okay? What are you DOING? You lifted your hand! We’re going to die!!”
His left ear: “I should cut and run.”

He’s a teensy bit anxious. Mix in quick, athletic, slightly phobic, and feels safest with other horses, and you can see some of what needs to be addressed. He’s also cute, sweet, and has a killer cowhorse stop. Asking him to stop from the canter is akin to those car commercials where the car suddenly stops dead at a wall or sheer cliff. Unbelievable.  Exhilarating.  Death defying.

FUN.

I like Phil.

Hudson likes Phil too. Hudson likes being a God.  Phil believes Hudson Knows All. He encourages Hudson to pontificate.

The first time I ponied Phil, the conversation went like this:

Phil: GAH. What is that? Are we afraid of that?

Hudson: No. Hay cart. Shut up.

Phil: Okay.

pause

Phil: Are we afraid of THAT?

Hudson: NO. Cat. Shut. Up.

Phil: Okay.

pause

Phil: What about that?

Hudson: Dude. It’s grass. We eat it. Chill.

Phil: Okay.

pause

Phil: (trembling) What about that?!?

Hudson: (long pause, then some concession) Sometimes.  Trainer.  Avoid.

Phil: Okay.

Recently, I was ponying Phil off Hudson. Phil had mostly settled down after a few ponies. The hay barn had been cleaned out for a new shipment, and there was a long narrow piece of black plastic blowing back and forth on the ground, making scary serial killer/chainsaw noises. It whispered: “come closer, I have a cookie.  Then I’m going to dismember you alive….whoohahahaha.”

Hudson planted.  Snorted. Grew another 20 feet tall. Scared the crap out of Phil who hadn’t seen the plastic, causing him to do three Looney Tunes style double-takes.

Looney-Tunes-cn18
Copyright: Warner Bros.
(Marvin the Martian in the role of “Hay Barn”

When Hudson is spooked, I let him look at whatever, process it, and figure out what the thing may be. Then he’s good.  After a few minutes of staring at softly swooshing black plastic, from twenty feet in the air, with a hysterical Phil bouncing on the line, Hudson was ready to walk up to it and investigate.  He wasn’t afraid.

Phil: We’re NOT afraid of this?!?

Hudson: I don’t think so…

Phil: Okay. Wait. You don’t think so???

We investigate. Hudson decides it’s NBD. He reverts from Hulk-sized to horse-size, relaxes, his eyes stray to the hay, and the plastic is not on his radar. Two seconds later, I realize his brain has marinated about Phil and his anxieties.

Hudson fake snorts.  Prances. Calculates if he can snatch a mouthful of hay out of causing a distraction.

Phil is bouncing up and down and weaving back and forth, trying hard not to lose it completely.  I smack Hudson on the neck.  He flicks his ears.  FINE. I just wanted a bite. But his brain keeps processing.  We pass the plastic 400 more times with Hudson on the buckle, yawning, and Phil having successively lessening panic attacks.

Horses. Never go to the barn with a plan that includes an ending time.

Yesterday, I progressed to riding Phil and ponying Hudson.

IMG_3551
This is stupid. Please note I AM NOT HAPPY. Stop talking to him. You’re MINE.

Now we had a three-way conversation going:

Phil: I don’t WANT to be in front.

Hudson: I can handle it.  Move over.

Jane: Hudson, knock it off.  Phil, you’re first.

Hudson: Killjoy.

Phil: But he wants to…and I don’t?

Jane: Phil. Go.

Phil: Going…this okay?

Hudson: No.

Jane: Perfect.

We come up to the hay barn. Phil tries to appear as if he’s walking forward while walking backward. Hudson is smirking. The black plastic is long gone.

I let Phil look at the hay barn. He settles down.  I ask him to walk forward. He cautiously tip toes forward. I ask to stop. We stop so fast that I have to fight the reverse button.  I sneak a glance at Hudson. He’s not yawning.  We stand for a few minutes.

Just as I am about to ask Phil to take another few steps toward the hay (which I would let both of them taste), Hudson’s ears swivel forward dramatically and he leaps in place, one eye on Phil, the other on the grass to his right.

 I. Am. Gonna. Kill. Hudson. Days worth of work, and he knows Phil is going to go with him, not me, or even himself.

I get Phil under control and yank Hudson before he can get his head all the way down to the grass.

Hudson: Geeze…it was just a joke. You don’t have to be so rough.

Phil:  AH AH AH AH AH AH AH

Jane: Phil, he’s having you on, forget forward, just pass the dang barn, okay?

Phil: ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK

Hudson: Heh heh heh heh heh

Jane: One more “heh” and I am going to “forget” your happy meal.  Knock it off.

Hudson: Killjoy.

Phil: Are we going to live? Are we alive? Is it gone yet? I still see it.  I think I still see it?

Jane: We’re alive.  Keep walking.

I see another 400 rounds past the hay barn in our future.  After round 200, Phil’s settled down. I decide to switch directions: may as well get over the hay barn in both directions.

We make a couple of passes.  All goes well.  I’m thinking of quitting for the day. Just as we hit the mid-point of the hay barn on what I’ve decided is our last pass, Hudson takes advantage of my focus on getting Phil calmly through the worst part.  He yanks the lead suddenly, something he’s never done, and manages to get about 3 feet of play. He darts behind Phil’s butt, mouth open, ready to chomp grass.  He tosses in a little panicked leap. Phil now has a serial killing hay barn on his right, a rope around his butt, an apparently terrified Hudson charging away from the monster, and me, who says: “Dude. It’s fine”.

He’s so overloaded all he can do is panic without moving. He can’t go right: Monster.  He can’t go left: Hudson.  He can’t back up: still Monster.  He can’t go forward: listening to Jane, who has clearly lied through her teeth about monsters.

Hudson: heh heh heh. GRASS! Score.

Phil: WHAT DO I DO?????

Jane: (reluctantly dropping Hudson’s lead, for safety) Go forward.

Phil: Okay okay okay okay okay.  Going forward. WAIT.  Where’s Hudson?  I can’t go without HUDSON.

Hudson: (muffled by mouthfuls of grass) heh heh heh. You go.  I’ll be here.

Jane: Can I just hit my head quietly on a wall somewhere?

What is the one thing you do not want to do with a smart horse planning a coup?  Reward him.  By turning him loose on grass.  I take one of Phil’s looooong split reins and wallop Hudson.  He flinches in surprise, but not enough to raise his head.  He knows I can grab the lead rope if he lifts his head.

Great.  All I’ve done is terrify Phil. Not only do I lie to him about monsters, I whack the guy he trusts with his own rein.

If it wouldn’t scare Phil, I’d start banging my head on his neck.

Hudson: Bang your head. He won’t mind.  I swear. (heh heh heh)