Merlin was tried loosely to his hitching post outside. I had secured his saddle and breast collar, and slung the same saddle bags we have used for years over his rear end. His bridle wasn't on yet, just his halter. We were on our way to the neighbors to deliver eggs and goat cheese, a home warming gift. I realized his saddle bags needed some straps of leather to secure them to the saddle so I stepped inside to get them. I found a long piece of leather a minute later. I cut it in half for each side of the horse. Three minutes later I was outside again. Merlin was gone.
When things go down my usual anxiety-ridden, over-thinking, brain changes. It turns over like my F150's engine, growling quick. Damnit, the only time I'm not worried is when something bad happens. I stay up worried about money, love and death in a safe little bed, but when things go down I shift gears and focus. I like it when all you can do is react and solve a problem; when anxiety is useless. I think the apocalypse would be the only scenario I could actually relax in.
I called out Merlin's name. Nothing. I checked his pasture, the yard, the neighbor's yard. No sign of the horse. All that was left were the saddle bags, a trampled mess on the ground. Clearly they had slid off and that spooked him enough to bolt. I was just so grateful he wasn't in his bridle. If his bit or reins got caught in something it could mean real panic and even injury. I grabbed some grain in a bucket and set out for the same trail we have ridden hundreds of times. If he was scared maybe the repeated trail ride would be his go-to route. About a 1/4 mile from the farm, I found him eating grass behind some rose bushes.
I grabbed his halter and walked him back to the farm. I set him back on his hitching post and showed him the saddle bags. He didn't seem to mind them. So I put them on and secured them with the straps I had found. He seemed fine with it. So I took the lead rope off the post and was going to walk him around a bit to see how he did with the attacking saddle bags, and he lost it. Soon as he noticed the weight on his but he started spinning in circles. I calmed him by standing in front of him, palm on the length of his nose, breathing deep. He slowed. I took off the saddle bags and threw them over my shoulder. "Come on, you big baby. We'll walk together and I'll carry the goods."
And so we did. We walked as a team, me singing to him quietly. I watched his ears flicker and listen, felt his body calm and breathing return to normal. The neighbors weren't home, so I set the carton and jar on the porch and we walked home.
The plan was to ride, not to catch and walk a horse like a dog. So we returned to the driveway and I set the bags on the grass. I found my stick and flag, used for ground work. I wanted to see if he was with me or still anxious. I should have put the saddle bags inside, because soon as the flag moved him in their direction he did that insanely fast side-step that took out my elbow, I guess. It was the only time we made physical contact of any import.
I put the bags inside. We tried again. And we ended the day with a short trail ride just to the place he ran to and back home. Stick to the plan, ride the horse. If he realized that running away, acting up, freaking out, and being scared ended with that saddle never being used it would leave a wrinkle in his brain I didn't want. And if I was too scared to get on a horse, then I would stop riding them. Neither would do. Maybe you would have done differently. You weren't there.
And so after that short ride we came home, he was seen to, and I rubbed that elbow. Now I am worried I'll die in my sleep from internal bleeding. First woman to die from a bruise caused by accidental equine shoving. Where's my apocalypse?