The Pig Story

by Karl Maerz

I've had a couple requests from my previous posting to expand on the Pig Encounter. My wife doesn't have net access to say "Don't encourage him!" I guess there's no stopping me now. ;)

I'll have to tell you a little about Primrose, my leggy QH mare, who, at the time (last year), had just turned four years old. One could easily class her in the "spirited horse" category. She's pretty fair sized, 16hh and about 1200 lbs., and when she's ready to go you can sort of feel this vibrating energy aura about her. More than a few people have been intimidated by her, but I think she's mostly misunderstood. That business of charging the gate full-speed, sliding to a debris showering stop, and then rearing up and spinning around and stuff... well, that's just her way of having some fun and trying to impress anybody new I bring out to meet her. Under saddle she is light and responsive, extremely sensitive, and, even though she's a bundle of energy, very sensible out on the trail. A lot of our riding has been just her and I out in the woods dealing with water, startled critters, dogs, close-in overgrown trails, rocks, logs, and so on.

So there's a little background on Primrose, a.k.a. Miss Awesome. You may have inferred, correctly, that I'm sort of partial to this mare. Anyway, one day we were riding and I was feeling pretty cocky and patting myself on the back for my impressive mastery of this fine beast, or so I thought at the time. I decided to explore some new territory and ended up going down a dirt road that I found on the other side of the woods, maybe a mile or so from the barn. We were just walking along minding our own business, taking in the sights and generally enjoying life. I was thinking how nice it was that Primrose was moving along at an easy, flat-footed walk instead of being up on her toes and all jittery. It took 20 or 30 long rides out in the woods over a few weeks to settle her down, but now she was moving quietly and calmly.

I was pretty busy stroking my ego over that one when all of a sudden every muscle in her body bunched up rock hard and she slammed to a stop with her feet all spread out. Every information-gathering fiber in her core was trained on something off to our left and a bit ahead of us. Her nostrils were all flared out and she was executing The SNORT with every breath. Her head was bobbing slightly as she tried to get the range of this yet unidentified fear object. She started to tremble.

Being the reasonably intelligent guy I am, it occurred to me that this was no ordinary spook in progress. This, in fact, was a full, eminent horse-death alert, repeat, death pending, this is not a drill. We stood that way for what seemed a *long* time, but couldn't have been more than 5-10 seconds. As each second went by I could feel the situation deteriorate further and my self proclaimed thoughts of riding mastery vaporized in a cloud of brain lock.

I couldn't see a thing where she was looking. Off to the left was a two or three acre wooded enclosure, full of brush and fenced off with rotted posts and rusty barbed wire. I looked and looked but, for the life of me, couldn't find anything in there that would cause Primrose to seize up. This was all happening pretty fast and I could feel her going from bad to worse under me and knew we were moments away from an Event. I finally said, in the calmest and most casual voice I could summon, "What in the hell is the matter with you, Primrose?"

Even as I spoke, the brush to our left literally *erupted* with pigs! There must have been at least twenty pigs in that enclosure and they all exploded out of the brush and scrambled in all directions, apparently in fear of us, squealing and snorting and generally making a commotion like I'd never seen. Of course, I really didn't see it too clearly since I was rather preoccupied with a horse gone berserk! Within the first tenth of a second of the pig fracas, Primrose shot straight into the air so high I'm sure we showed as a temporary blip on a puzzled air traffic controller's radar screen. When we hit the ground again we were pointed 180 degrees from our original heading and I could feel several hundred pounds of muscles preparing to deliver maximum thrust (with afterburner) toward the objective of leaving this place. Fast.

Not wanting to experience the thrill of a horse in full flight, I drew in hard with the right rein to get her head around and kicked her on through with the opposite leg. [One reason I love this mare so much. She was still listening and responding through blind panic, even if only just barely. I was using the same bridle I currently use, by the way, with a fat egg-butt snaffle bit.] So, around and around we went. She was determined to flee toward the barn and I was determined she would not.

Her thoughts must have been:

YAAAAAAAAH!!!!! SCARED!!!! TERROR!!!! DEATH!!!!

My thoughts were:

YAAAAAAAAH!!!!! SCARED!!!! TERROR!!!! DEATH!!!!

We darn near dug a crater in that road from spinning in place so many times. Primrose, realizing she wasn't getting anywhere, started throwing some intense lateral motion into the turns. We went over a ditch, through a blackberry bramble and finally, about 30 turns later, we ended up somewhere close to 100 feet out into a hay field to the right of our original position. I'd blown both stirrups, lost my hat, tore up one arm on the blackberries, and split my lip open somehow. Primrose didn't seem too much worse for the wear physically, though she was a little on the foamy side and scratched here and there from the berry vines. Her mental disposition, however, was a basket case. After several false starts and a few more spins, we finally left that field at a walk -- a jittery walk way up there on the tippiest tips of her tip toes. She would not go back to the road so we had to go way around and join up with it toward the woods. I finally let her trot it out for awhile and had to walk for *miles* to cool her out enough to put her away.

It took about two weeks before I got her to do a flat-footed walk out on the trail again. I don't know what happened to the pigs. When feeling extremely adventurous, I took her by there a couple times. There weren't any pigs but she would darn near came unglued anyway and then be a little spastic for a day or two. As for the farmer, I felt pretty bad about tearing up his alfalfa so bad. I went back and fixed it as best I could -- it was real bad only where we'd spun circles.

I've always heard that horses don't like pigs. I reckon that's true.