As we pull our newly acquired horse trailer through the gate, the herd sniffs the newcomer-on-wheels with arched necks, squeals and flamboyant ground striking. Running alongside, they jostle for the closest premium position as we haul it up the driveway to park it in the sagebrush leaving the back door open for them to enter the enclosure at their own discretion. An equine mosh pit of excitement erupts with spontaneous loading, unloading and a blocking-the-entrance-game of this is mine. We put the new plaything away to restore a modicum of peace.
Our herd endorses change. This runs against popular thinking of equine behavior. According to the pundits, equines prefer regular, habitual routines without the upset of change. Agreed. However, within the context of an established community (see recent blog), change is a refreshing stimulant for these creatures of insatiable curiosity.
Case in point, two more monumental changes have been embraced with inquisitive ardor by the herd. A barn and run-in shelter were built over several weeks by seasoned, chain-smoking workmen. Chief physically blocked the front-end loader, refusing to budge, while languidly gnawing on the rubber tires with his intimidation look dialed in on the driver. Geronimo, using his muscular nose, unbuttoned work-shirt buttons and extracted cigarette packs from pockets. Traveler supervised the disruptions from a few feet away, backing into the fray with his rear end to be scratched in an ecstasy of flatulence. The juxtaposition of giggling guffaws from gruff men with tattooed necks was fabulously charming. But, the job had to get done, so the herd was corralled where they watched the construction from afar, heads directionally facing the hammering cacophony. The workers, big men who conserved their energy by hardly moving, cheerfully walked up the long drive to eat lunch with the jailed herd.
The barn holds the full attention of everyone. It stores hay, sweet mix and molasses. It also housed baby Guinea fowl, mailed to us from Missouri. The equines, soft and quiet, stood next to the window to hear the gentle peeping of the newly hatched chicks beginning their fragile lives beneath a heat lamp. The new aluminum siding, dented from teeth and hooves, are telling signs of persistent efforts to enter the crèche. No doubt, odiferous hay helps to incite breaking and entering attempts, but Paul and I are also inextricably enticed towards the warm, fragrant, newly minted, cheeping barn. Sensual earthiness is universally attractive.
The final change was the run-in shelter. Protection from high winds, driving sleet, drifting snow and searing summer sun is not essential for toughened mustangs and mules, but knowing they have a refuge helps me and Paul sleep at night. They now stand beneath a towering Taj Mahal-esque structure built on a precipice overlooking our human house. We get the impression they are keeping an upstairs eye on us, the downstairs scullery, but this is entirely my perception. They keep vigil over us, because we are part of them, The Herd.
The mechanical/structural changes have been sources of entertainment, but the acquisition of Guinea fowl has taken the proverbial equine oat-cake. The fowl have grown and moved to an outside coop, chattering and primping with throaty clucks. The herd surrounds their wire enclosure, eyes half-mast, loose lips twitching, inhaling the damp, downy, feathery scent of birds. A broody lullaby soothes all our roughened edges. Chief calls it Guinea Therapy. Paul and I concur, and are building yet another structure, a bench beside the coop, from which we can indulge in Guinea Therapy alongside our friends.