Sunday, January 23, 2011

That sinking feeling

Sometimes I think my life would make a great Hollywood movie, not because I think I'm that special or interesting or anything like that. But because my day to day life seems to be filled with all the drama, suspense, and epic events that Hollywood movies seek to thrive on. Maybe a western or a Disney, natural disaster movie or something along those lines? Something where theirs drama and strife and then the actor just makes it through unscathed, after a few life or death suspense filled moments.

Its 7.30 in the morning, and I'm typing away on my computer, I have only just got inside after being out in rising flood waters since daybreak, moving horses. I had one of those moments where all my worst fears flashed before my eyes, as my newest and most stunning foal, almost got swept away too his death, in the whirling, brown, rising water . Anyone ever watch Black Beauty? I remember a good flood scene in that, where black beauty and his master were almost washed away.

I was out until dark last night getting horses onto high ground, but turns out, the weatherman didn't quite predict just how much rain we were going to get. Anyway the horses are as safe as I can make them for now. I've made it back inside, before the water rose over to the bridge to the house, it's still pouring, but now all I can do is sit and wait it out, and hope we don't get too much more rain. As the disaster of the recent Queensland floods in Australia and the stories of those affected are still ongoing and fresh in my mind.

The drama this morning also has given me something to think about. I have rambled on about nature vs. nurture before. But today gave me a good chance to see it in action, in regards to how the wild horses handle a bad situation vs. my (numb skull) ex racehorses. What I really noticed was the behavior the 3 different mothers taught there foals, about how to handle an emergency. Three foals watched their mothers negotiate the floods and then followed suit. It was not my wild horse or her baby that were ever in danger. Yet her paddock was just as under water as the other mare, whose baby almost got swept away. Because I don't actually think it's the breed of the horses that makes them unable to handle to cope with stress, I definitely think it has to do with the learned behavior and their experience as they grow...

Last night I moved all the horses to paddocks, where they had shelter and high ground, where I thought they would be well out of danger, if it did flood. But what the weather man told us vs. the amount of rain we actually got was very different. Light flooding we expected, the stream to have risen almost 3 meters an burst its banks, with water gushing across every inch of flat grounds, and streaming down the hills in torrents, is not what I was expecting to wake up to. But I awoke bolt upright to my mother's " we got to move that horse she's standing in the middle of the floodd waters with her baby!!" and looking out the window I let out a string of curse words that would make a sailor blush. Every bit of flat ground looked to be under water, by at least a foot or more. It was then a mad dash to throw on wet clothes from yesterday, and get out and move the horse and her baby.

This mare, who for now I'm going to call 'numb skull' because she has no common sense, or self preservation at the best of times, was by the time I got to where I'd seen her, had moved further down the paddock. Good to note, this mare had access to high ground, in fact 90% of her paddock was high ground, which also had big shelter trees, where she could have stayed safe and dry, but she was down in the only bit of the paddock affected by flood. So I went off after her, knowing that she needed to be locked up somewhere, where she couldn't make stupid decisions and get her and her baby drowned. I found 'Numbskull' and her beautiful baby, pacing around a tiny island of higher ground, only a few meters long, right next to the stream and surrounded by a good few feet of water, that was actually very fast flowing and strong in places.

I looked at this, and thought, I don't want to bring her back this way, my alternative was to go up the hill and around back to the barn, long and steep, but without the danger of trying to lead her and the baby through the deep water, which wouldn't have been a problem for her, but the delicate and wobbly legged baby, I was worried about, as the stream was only a meter from the fence, with ground dropping off very fast, so if he lost his footing, he'd be gone. But I didn't have time to do anything, the mare who already looked to be a shivering mess and not thinking straight, saw me let out a bellow of "saaaaavee me" and ploughed towards me. Baby forgotten by the wayside in her panic. She ran through the water with one great bound, and headed off past me back down the paddock, almost steam rolling me in the process. I jumped out of the way in time, just to feel the pit of my stomach drop to my feet, that absolute sinking feeling, when you realize a disaster is about to unfold before your eyes.

Sure enough the foal had tried to follow its mother, but was trying to cross right alongside the fence, where the water was deepest and the current strongest. As with any disaster everything seems to happen in slow motion, and you just can't move fast enough to help. I watched him as he staggered few steps sideways, and hit the fence, by this time he was in water up around his belly, and supported by one of the wires on the fence, at about the same height as the water. It really was the most gut wrenching feeling, knowing at that point I was too far away to help him in time, knowing that there was no lower wires in the fence to prevent him being swept under into the stream if he lost his footing, knowing he'd be gone in a heartbeat if this happened and knowing that really the next few seconds were up to fate, one of those moments where everything literally was hanging in the balance..

But luck was with us this morning, he gives two shrill cries to his mother, and instead of panicking and trying to speed after her, he set his little face in the most determined expression I have ever seen on a baby animal, puckered his little mouth, and inched his way along the fence, step by fragile tiny step, until he was out of the water.

Mother Numbskull, in the mean time was galloping around like a loon, making her way back to us, heading straight back to the water, from which shed just come. Not wanting to see baby follow her back into that raging torrent, this time I leapt directly in her path, waving and shouting like a mad women. It had the effect of stopping her in her tracks, long enough for me to halter her, and calm her. It had the funny effect that as soon as she was caught she calmed down as If she was thinking "thank Christ, the human's got me, my brain was hurting from trying to figure out what to do!"

I managed to lead Numbskull, baby in toe back along the paddock, through all the flood water, which was deep, but at least was just standing water not flowing with any force . Feeling our way along the driveway, which was completely submerged, we finally made it to the barn, which thankfully is on top if a hill. Another disaster survived. Mother and baby were tucked into a semi- dry stable, the driest we had, and I spread a thick layer of hay for bedding across the ground, and let them tuck into a big feed of grain to help warm them. So as long as the baby doesn't get pneumonia or anything from being wet and cold, crisis averted.

You know what though, Fern who was in a different paddock with her baby and the rest of the herd, did not have any of the problems as the other mare. After throwing hay out on the hill for them, I watched her come from the other side of the paddock, only taking the route that provided all high ground, Sonny walking at her side. The other horses in the herd came barreling through the water and up the hill. Not the wild horse, she was calm and sensible and kept her baby with her the whole time until they were well out of any danger.