Horsing Around with Angels

The coyotes didn't stand a chance.

Posted in , Dec 28, 2010

Horses, or angels?

Eleanore had warned me about going out alone to grain the horses.

My wife knew I wasn’t as steady on my feet as I used to be. But I had a lot of errands to run that day. Best to take care of the horses early. The stables were on the farm my sister-in-law managed, several miles away.

I parked by the barn and grabbed my cane. I could see the horses scattered about, some near the tack shed, the rest down by the tree line at the end of the property. I scanned the pasture for my own horse.

Well, really my wife’s horse. It was her idea to get Scottee. “A horse would give us something to do together,” she’d nudged when I said a horse was too much work. “We could go out to the farm and help. I could go on trail rides with my sister.”

Before I knew it, we were the proud owners of Scottee, a gentle horse we’d seen for the first time at a children’s riding camp north of town. What I hadn’t counted on was how quickly I fell in love with him. He seemed to love me too. When I called for him at the pasture he’d come running like a dog happy to see its owner. He’d nuzzle me with his soft nose and I’d reach into my pocket and slip him a cookie or two.

I was early for my visit this morning. None of the horses noticed me yet. I opened the gate and started across the pasture, leaning on my cane. The mud was soft and sticky under my feet. Way down by the tree line, before the property sloped downhill toward the creek, I spotted Levi, Danny Boy and Cody.

“Scottee!” I called. “Scottee!”

I heard galloping behind me. Blue, one of the oldest horses in the group, thundered past me. “Where’s the fire?” I called after her as she reached the barn and trotted in. I walked closer to the edge of the hill. “Scottee?” I called out.

I saw him at last, at the bottom of the hill by the creek. “What’re you doing down there, boy?” I asked. “Don’t you want your cookie?”

Something moved to my left. I froze. Coyotes. Four. No, five of them. And I was all alone.

Coyotes are timid animals. Unless it’s mating season or they’re hungry. These animals were definitely not timid today. One slowly came toward me, closing the distance. He was black, white and gray. Clearly the one in charge. I gripped my cane. My legs shook. Oh, God, help me please. And what about Scottee?

“Scottee!” I yelled in a panic. “Get up here. Quick!”

Scottee galloped up the hill and passed me, then turned around, whinnying and nudging me with his big shoulder. He reared up on his hind legs and came down hard, pawing the ground and snorting. Levi, Danny Boy and Cody circled around too. “Easy boys…” I said. I was worried I’d be crushed. Then I realized what was happening. They’re protecting me, I thought.

The coyotes got so close I could see their yellow eyes and the sharp teeth protruding through their angry mouths. With a snarl, the leader jumped at Danny Boy. I could barely maintain my balance pressed between all the horses. Danny reared back and kicked the coyote right in the torso, sending him sprawling to the ground.

A smaller gray coyote skulked up to Scottee, baring his canines. Scottee wheeled around and caught him right in his behind. The alpha coyote wasn’t done yet. He leapt at Levi. Levi kicked him in mid-flight, hitting him in the throat. The coyote landed in the dirt with a painful sounding thud. Whining and yipping, the rest backed away.

The horses stood still as statues, their breath creating fog in the early dawn air. I stood with them, my legs like rubber. I buried my face in Scottee’s shoulder, crying tears of fear, relief and gratitude all at the same time. We made our way as a group back to the fence at the end of the pasture.

When we were safe, I reached into my pocket and found a handful of horse cookies. With shaking hands, I offered them to my protectors. Eleanore had warned me about going out to the pasture alone. Thank goodness that morning I had angels with me.

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