It isn’t yet time to turn the Haflingers out on pasture. The fields are still trying to recover from the ravages of winter freezes, even as recently as a week ago, so there is little convincing grass growth yet.
But spring is in the air, with pollens flying from the trees and the faint scent of plum blossoms wafting across the barn yard. The Haflingers know there are green blades rising out there.
Even so, they are led daily from the barn to their winter paddocks for their usual portion of last summer’s hay, the waning pile of bales in the barn being carefully measured against the calendar. We need to make it last until the fields are sufficiently recovered, dried out and growing well before the horses can be set free back on the green.
Haflingers don’t care much about the calendar. They know what they smell and they know what they see and they know what they want. As I’m walking them to their paddocks and back to the barn, they try to sneak grass bites as we cross the lawn. They stretch their necks under the fencing to nibble what tender shoots they can reach beyond the dirt. They stand with heads over the fence, gazing wistfully at the neighbor’s fields across the road where dairy heifers will soon be released.
As I opened the gate to a paddock of Haflinger mares yesterday to take them one by one back to the barn, their usual good manners abandoned them. Two escaped before I could shut the gate, the siren call of the green carrying them away like the wind, their tails high and their manes flying. There is nothing quite as helpless as watching escaped horses running away as fast as their legs can carry them.
They found the nearest patch of green and stopped abruptly, trying to eat whatever the meager ground would offer up. I approached, quietly talking to them, trying to reassure them that spring is at hand and soon they will be able to eat their fill of grass. Understandably suspicious of my motives, they leaped back into escape mode, running this time for the pasture across the road.
We live on a road that is traveled by too many fast moving cars and trucks and our farm on a hill is hampered by visibility issues –my greatest fear is one of our horses on the road would cause an accident simply because there would be no time for a driver to react after cresting a hill at 50 mph and finding a horse a mere twenty yards away.
I yelled and magically the mares turned, veering back from the road. As I marveled at my ability to verbally redirect them from dashing into potential disaster, they were heading back to the barn on their own, where their second most attractive feature on the farm dwells: our stallion. He was calling them, knowing things were amiss, and they responded, ignoring the pastures temporarily in their desire of his studly approval.
So that is where I was able to nab them in their distracted posing for the guy in their lives. Guys can do that to a gal. You end up completely abandoning thoughts of running away with the wind when the right guy calls your name.
Tomorrow I know the green will summon them once again. I’m just hoping our stallion will always call louder.