Sunday, November 25, 2007

Horse play

So, every morning we are issued with a work list by the staff at the DPI office.The theory is that we do a run in a specific area, but with large patches of no mobile phone reception ( sometimes remedied by standing on a gatepost on one leg at the top of a hill, sometimes not ), poor maps, limited information re location of horses, remote properties, and poor compliance from owners regarding being present with horses confined, the practice is challenging.

Footnotes provided on work list not always overly helpful, such as:
'7 year old Clydesdale stallion, unbroken, never been handled, loose in paddock.Owner will not be present, OK for vet to vaccinate'.

So, we trundle across the field towards the beast, trying to look friendly, waving carrots and the bit of old string that the helpful owner has left us to capture it with. This technique to date, has resulted in a high failure rate.

We are further hindered by being unable to take any rope or head collars onto the property, for fear of cross contamination, so unless the horses are wearing a head collar, or one has been provided, we have nothing with which to attempt a capture. James got an owner to show us how to make a head collar out of old string, and became very adept at knitting them on demand. I think that his macrame skills are a true talent, and he should consider making those weird plant pot holders with integral beadwork to sell at craft fairs.

The serious implications of an owner not being present while we manhandle their horse became all too apparent on one visit- the horse was supposed to be confined in a yard, but had obviously escaped and was loose in a field and very badly injured, lame on one foreleg and gashed all over the other one. Contact was finally made with the owner, and we learned a few days later that her vet had to shoot it as the leg was broken. Had that happened, after we had blood tested, swabbed, microchipped and vaccinated, I suspect the owner would have had a very strong case against us for causing the incident. We became even more wary of risking our own or the horse's well-being after that call.

A memorable vist in the brutal heat of the day was to a far flung outpost owned by an elderly lady who was somewhat intoxicated. She owned a herd of unbroken 'miniature horses' , a stallion and 7 mares, all in a smallish yard with corrugated iron shed/lean-to. A stampede ensued, and although the creatures were not huge, they made up for it by sheer numbers in an enclosed space, and utter bloody-mindedness. None had head collars, so armed with our trusty bit of old string we ventured into the fray. To be helpful the old lady tottered over and shut us both in the metal shed with the herd and locked the door.

I have never been locked in an oven with a herd of wild horses before, and would not reccommend it, even as an extreme sport. James wrestled, I jabbed, old lady yelled encouragement from other side of the door, horses bled, we all sweated enough to resolve the local drought conditions, and I think James was lucky to get out alive. Pity the poor sod who has to go back and give them their second vaccines.

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