It was the wind that blew the little hen away, but what made the little mare run away?
This is a brief story about Tres, the little red mare, running away, and finding home.
We used to have to keep the gates closed, and even then, keep a watchful eye for downed fences. If there was way out, Tres would find it. And she would GO.
The first time she ran away, she covered a lot of ground, went over 8 miles down the mountain. We followed her tracks through the snow in the moonlight. She gave no hesitation when she saw us, just seemed reasonably content to be out and about, and likewise to see a familiar face. But why did she go? There was nothing there, no one, just snow and mountains and cold trees and frozen river. The grass was no greener; it was buried under a foot or so of snow there, too.
The second time, at least it was daylight. Forrest, 9 or 10 at the time, had to snowmobile me to the truck, then drive with me further still in pursuit of the mare. After dropping me off to ride her home about 10 miles away this time, he had to take the vehicles home alone. (This is why we teach our children to drive in the mountains.)
The third time, we got wise, and were ready to cut her off a few miles down the road. Her plans had been foiled by her partner in crime, a gelding who was following her, but had no idea why they were leaving, and obviously would have preferred to stay home.
Where was she going? And why? What could I do to convince this horse that here is her home? Of course, foolishly I took it personally. I blamed myself; it must be my fault.
So, what should I do? Not trust her? That is no way to live with a horse any more than live with a person. I bought a horse once from a teen girl on the west coast, a lovely grey older gelding, a real people loving horse if ever I met one. When I came up to their yard in the suburbs to meet this horse for the first time, I pulled into the open driveway, past a hedge row, and there was the horse, nibbling at the lawn that looked like a mower kept it trimmed up similar to the folks next door. Did he really “live” there in the yard? Yes. Without gates barricading every route of escape? No, no need.
Ah… that is how I want all my horses to be, I thought. But it’s not that simple.
“She’s a horse,” a friend told me. Obvious, yes, I know. But funny how we overlook even the most apparent at times. “You will never be a horse, but you can learn to understand horses. Allow her to be who and what she is. Do not ask of her to be what she is not.”
“If you could stop taking it personally, you could learn to differentiate instinct from insult; you could learn to let it go. She’s looking for something that you can not give her, a job that you don’t know she needs. Give her time, she will find it. She needs to find her own purpose.” I could understand that. Help her find a job, and she will find her home. And once again, give her time. Oh, that terrible lesson of patience.
That was many years ago. The gates are left open now. Why would she leave? She has a job to do, and that job is here. Her herd, her family, her foals. She found her purpose. Perhaps just time helped her find this home. Perhaps something else. Her mothering instinct is far stronger than her instinct to run. This is her home. If I tried to take her elsewhere, she would want to run away. To return here. To return home. I try to understand.