Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Horse that Slept with Goats

Heidi had been without a horse for about one year after giving Glory, her horse of 6 years, away to a good home. Then one day she realized being horseless was not for her, decided it time to get another and immediately began looking through the paper, on the internet, anywhere horses were for sale, for a new equine pal.

A short time after Heidi started her search, a friend of mine called to let me know an appaloosa horse was for sale in Eden NY. Though Heidi was certain she did not want an appaloosa, with excitement of the prospect of a new horse, we made a trip to Eden, thinking, hey one never knows.

We found the house number we were looking for, and pulled in the driveway. We were disheartened with what we saw. Things were, well let’s say, not so neat, with the pasture and barn in disarray. I told Heidi, “it might be ok, my barn is no palace.”
“Maybe not… but your place does not look like this.”

The grasses were long and wild around the barn and all kinds of—stuff— haphazardly speckled the yard, in and out of the pasture. In the middle of the pasture was a large mound of manure or possibly dirt. Atop that mound, a brown and white goat lay curled up sleeping.

Doubts and thoughts of we should leave follow us up the sidewalk. Then at the halfway point between the house and leaving, a woman comes out side. Our first impression in a matter of seconds, though she seemed nice enough, her girth was not as tight as it should be. She asks us if we are there to look at the horse. We tell her yes.

Heidi and I follow her, while carefully walking around, over and through stuff, and enter the barn. Once inside we see one big stall and hay thrown everywhere. Goats are everywhere too, climbing all around us. If my memory serves me correct, four more goats were inside the one big stall. There standing out side the barn, at the stall door looking in… the not so pretty appaloosa.

A man joins us. I can’t recall if it was the woman’s son or husband now, but she instructs him to go get the horse and bring it in the stall. He tries. But the not so pretty appaloosa, unruly, rude and obnoxious drags him in the stall, swings him around, pushes him up against the stall, and then steps on his feet and stays there for a while, oblivious to his pushes to get her off him.

The woman says, I don’t know what’s gotten into her, she’s usually not like this. Heidi and I give each other that, yeah-right look. Heidi nicely tells the woman, “Sorry, I don’t think this horse is for me.”

With an animated voice, the woman says, “We have another horse for sale if you’d like to see him” and points out in the pasture.
Heidi and I let our eyes follow her pointing gesture. We don’t see anything and look at each other with a questioning look. We read each other’s thoughts, shrug our shoulders, and conclude what the heck we are here. So with skepticism, we crawl under a board, walk through the goat stall and in to the pasture with the woman, wondering if the Appaloosa from hell will push herself upon us, step on our feet and hold us against our will, or will we be run over by goats.

Its then the woman starts chanting, “Baaaaaaaaby…Baaaaaaaaaaby, cluck, cluck, come on Baaaaaaaaaaby, cluck, cluck, cluck, some one is here to see you.
Heidi and I look at each other….Baby?

“Baaaaaaaby,” more clucking, “come on Baby…come on boy, cluck, cluck, cluck, CLUCK.”

Heidi’s eyes glaze with a dazed wild look and I wonder— is this woman calling a dog?
“Baaaaaaby come here you have some visitors.”

That’s when it happens. A phoenix of sorts rises out of the dust, from the middle of that dirt or manure pile, in the form of a small dark brown horse. He shakes himself off and meanders down the pile of dirt as agile as a mountain goat. The brown and white goat follows him.

“That’s Baby” the woman says, “he’s an eight-year-old, ¼-horse mix, that my son showed 4-H before he went to college.”
“What in the goat show” Heidi whispers.
It took everything I had not to laugh aloud, though I’m not sure if the woman would have noticed anyhow or understand the brunt of Heidi’s joke.

Baby, nonchalantly walks towards us then heads straight to Heidi. As if checking her out, he nuzzles her clothes, her hair and her pant leg. Heidi backs up a step. He follows her. She grimaces, “What the heck, is this a dog or a horse? God he smells like a goat Kellie.”

They show us, everything Baby ‘can’t ’ do. We watch in horror as he bounces around the pasture with his head and nose in the air. Whoa, means he can stop on his own time. They explain how proud they are at how road safe Baby is, because as Mrs. ‘Baby chanter’ tells us, “if they ride him down the road a certain distance and he turns around and comes back—that’s his way of telling them the road isn’t safe today” hence road safe.


Yes their definition of road safe, great barrel racer, stops good, can turn on a dime, and can clean his feet (that were clamped to the ground) easy, were very much different from our definitions of the above.

We asked the woman, when’s the last time he was wormed? Has he had his inoculations this year, were his teeth ever floated, when’s the last time his feet were done.
The woman response…“What?”

Why, and with out good reasoning, a few days later, ‘Baby’ is in the barn, first order of business, name change. It took a few days. Thoughts of Ziggy, Shorty, Hey You, Goat Horse, and a few other choice names came to mind, but Billy (no pun intended) seemed to fit.

Not long after he was here, Heidi and I on warm day thought it time Billy had a bath, because the barn had taken on a noticeable goatish odor.
Billy gets an—oh god, what is it with these girls—look on his long brown face, as we giggle, tell him to stand still, wet him down, suds him up and scrub away. We find something we never expect and with great excitement, we chime giddily, “He’s brown, no he’s black, no wait he’s seal brown.” We also find as we scrub more, a white spot on his forehead—and—white hind socks. Billy looks like a very different horse then the Baby horse we looked at. He’s washed into a beautiful dapple bay, with a small star, and two white socks. No wonders he smelled like a goat and blended in the pile of dirt.

Billy, of course did not know what all the fuss was about…He didn’t care— he was a horse, or maybe a goat in disguise. Although, I can’t really say with certainty he didn’t know what the fuss was about, because occasionally he’d pick up the plastic curry or brush and almost show us where to scrub.

There were trials and tribulations in the first year of Billy and Heidi’s relationship. There was a time when Heidi wasn’t sure she wanted to keep him. Then the growth of a friendship with many fun hours and loving memories formed.
Billy taught Heidi how to have fun with your horse and about unconditional love. Heidi taught Billy that a human could love and care for him and be his friend, a friendship that brought the best out of both of them.

God makes all animals special but sometimes for reasons we don’t understand some are more special than others. Billy— the horse that slept with goats—was one of Gods specialties. What a great little horses you were. We love you and we will miss you.

With one last thought, about the horse that slept with goats. I find it extraordinary that Heidi found one of Gods specialties— her equine friend that loved her unconditionally, in Eden?

4 AM...Thoughts from Heidi about her Equine friend...Billy

Gone are the days of hearing your gentle nicker to greet me as I entered the barn

Gone are the days of seeing you enjoying the pastures on a lazy summer day

Gone are the days of our care free rides and your nonstop curiosity with all in the world around you

Gone are the days of wondering why you just aren't the same and why you're not feeling well

Gained is my thankfulness for the gentle, caring hands of the veterinarians in their attempt to heal you but eventually helping you to be put to your ultimate rest

Gained is my reminder of just how remarkable friends and family can be during our seemingly darkest days

Gained is my understanding that some day down the road my thoughts of you which are painful right now will turn to laughter and joy recalling all the years we spent together

Gained is my absolute gratitude to God for the 'gift' he gave me of being your owner

RIP Billy...Jan 14th 2010...We will miss your cute horse life loving muzzle...