Sunday, 30 January 2011

A weekend on my horse...

In which I learn that the best way to get a male horse is to whore out a mare, it bloody hurts when a horse stands on your foot, and sometimes you shouldn't willingly jump off a horse...

My horse (Peter Jr.) has, for all the time I've been here, been living the life of Riley in the field behind the house with two mares (one of which is his mum, but he still tries). As we were going to leave the farm soon and I still hadn't ridden him I asked Carlinho whether it would be possible to take him for a ride. Carlinho looked a bit reluctant, but eventually agreed.

So, after we'd finished milking the cows on a Saturday morning Carlinho, Euda (mother in law), and I headed up to the field to go and get him. I was on another stallion and was tasked with herding all three of the horses towards the bottom of the field and the gate. Once there Carlinho and Euda would spring the trap on Peter Jr.

With the plan set Carlinho urged me to go and find them.

I set off at a gallop and I soon spied them at the top of the field happily munching away. I circled round behind them and started to 'encourage' them down the hilly field to the waiting clutches of the in-laws. Unfortunately my slow encouragement forced them to bolt meaning I had to weave left and right to make sure that they didn't get away. I was going as fast as I could and am not embarrassed to admit that at some points I was gripping the front of the saddle for dear life. Whilst I thought I was coping rather well at break-neck speeds, Cristina who was watching from the house said I looked uncoordinated and thought I was going to die. That's relativity for you. Chasing them back and forth I managed to get all three of them down to Carlinho and Euda. Carlinho told me to stay back now and let them do the work. One of the mares managed to get away quickly, but the other smaller one was still cornered. I eased a little bit forward on the horse as Carlinho and Euda tried to close the gap. Unfortunately, as they did this the final mare ran past them and away. With that, Peter Jr. ran in the opposite direction and started to get away - Euda was shouting for me to chase after him whilst Carlinho was telling me not to. I decided to set my horse at full pace and ran straight for him, only slowing down when we both had no more space to run to. I moved a little bit closer only to have Peter Jr. raise one hoof and whinny, trying to strike my horse on the head. Carlinho was now shouting to leave it. I decided that perhaps this was the best option and let Peter Jr. escape. Carlinho let out a sigh, took his baseball cap off and rubbed the bald patch of his head in what can only be described as frustration.

We decided to give it another go and I set off again. This time the horses were ready for me and started running straight away. I chased after them digging my heels into the horses flanks hard trying to make it go as fast as possible. This time as I ran after them I managed to get some air as we topped a mound and the horse pushed off the back of it with its' hindlegs. It was quite fun to have a horse effectively jump under you despite the somewhat shaky landing. However this attempt again ended in a big fail as when I rounded them to the bottom of the field they bolted before Carlinho and Euda could trap them.

Deciding that trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, I thought I would try an alternative approach for my third attempt. I set off again and found the horses just behind the house and instead of running them down, this time I thought I'd take it at a leisurely pace and walk them in. This seemed to work despite the occasional instances when I moved my horse too close to Peter Jr. and he tried to smack it with his front hoof. I walked them down to Carlinho and Euda and kept a fairly safe distance back. Peter Jr.'s mum escaped and so Carlinho and Euda focussed on the other mare. They closed in on her and managed to tie her to the fence. Now with a captive female, it was easy to encourage Peter Jr. into the clutches of the in-laws. It wasn't long before he succumbed to the small mare's feminine wiles and we had him haltered up and ready to go... Not before we'd stopped off for breakfast however.

After we'd had a bite to eat I followed Carlinho on my horse down to the farm where we met the rather nervous new farmhand Andre. This was only his first week ever as a farmer, but I'll get onto that in a later post. Carlinho saddled up a horse for him and told us both to go back up to the field we'd just been to and bring all of the cows down for vaccinations. As Andre had never really ridden a horse before, Carlinho's one piece of advice to me was to 'go slow, don't scare the cows'. Obviously I'd got him worried since my attempts to round up the horses had backfired slightly.

Still we headed up to the field and set about bringing the cows down. As we drew near I could see Andre getting more anxious by the minute. This likely had something to do with the fact that we were on two male horses and the closer we got to the two mares in the field, the louder their whinnies got. You could see the shivers of excitement running down the back of their spines. Opening the colchete we went in and decided that Andre would circle to the right and I would circle round to the left and we would both push them slowly down towards the gate. With the plan set we went to the top of the field and started our slow trot down to the gate. It was about two minutes in when Andre realised that our plan left him on the side with the mares. He was battling with his stallion trying to keep it away from the females, and after about a minute of this he realised he was on a losing streak, got off, and started to pull it by the rope on its' halter. I stopped for a moment before deciding that I may as well continue on my own. I tried to cover the whole field now, pushing the cows further and further down, with the occassional five minute break when my horse neared the mares and I had to practically physically force it to move. Once Andre was far enough away from the mares he saddled up again and joined in. We got them all the way down to the colchete. All of them bar one that is. Rather embarrassingly the one left behind was on my side. I made some excuses and went to check out why she hadn't moved and headed off at speed towards her. Upon approach I realised that it wasn't just a cow, it was a cow and a calf. Once even closer (remember I don't wear my glasses on the farm as the tractor incident has clearly proved) I saw that the mother cow was eating something. Then when I was finally practically on top of them both, I realised that the mother was actually eating the placenta - she'd just given birth. That explained the rather shaky looking bezerro next to her. I called Andre over and we thought it best that we leave her in the field and just tell Carlinho that she was there.

With the main group of cows now down at the gate we opened it up and started the descent to the farm. Moving slowly we tried not to spook them too much. Unfortunately something did spook them and they all bolted down towards the farm. I'm not too sure what Carlinho thought as he saw a herd of 40 cows rushing towards him - he likely put the blame square on my shoulders. I headed off to the right to pick up a few strays and moved them back to the main group as we ushered them into an alley in the milking pen ready for Carlinho to dose them with whatever vaccination was needed. Standing there with two injection guns he looked a little bit like Texas Pete... He was wearing a baseball hat however which kind of ended any similarities. Thrusting each arm forward he injected each one in the neck over and over again the bleeting of the cows (that's what it sounded like - they were like sheep!) getting louder and louder as each of them got more and more agitated. It was like shooting fish in a barrel (so the saying goes) and we let each one out of the alley as soon as they had received their treatment of the good stuff. Instead of herding them back up to the field they'd come from, we just let them laze around in the main field.

I sensed Carlinho may have been bored as he beckoned me to get onto my horse and follow him (now on Andre's horse). We headed off up the dirt track towards our usual Cachaca stop farm. On the way I asked Carlinho a question which I thought fairly obvious - do male horses only attack each other when a female is around? He replied 'yes - only when there is a mare there'. That made me feel much more secure on my rather stubborn and feisty horse. We neared the colchete that opened onto the farm and Carlinho opened it whilst on horseback leaving just enough space for my horse to pass through. Squeezing through I was somewhat surprised given the information that Carlinho had just provided that my horse let out a whinny and raised his hoof and tried to smack Carlinho's horse. I was getting the impression that Peter Jr. was extremely similar to 'Furious D' (formerly known as Duncan) the racehorse from the Simpsons. With no damage done, and Carlinho's horse not even flinching, we shut the colchete and stopped off at the farm and greeted the very old farmhand whose name I believe is something like Desejeste. We drank some cachaca and chatted for a bit (mainly about how his wife had fallen off of a horse at great speed and ruined her face) before we asked him if we could collect some coconuts to drink the water later. We took four of them and put them in a sack and tied it to the saddle of my horse. Continuing on into the next field (which also contains Carlinho's cattle) we counted the number of cows there before trying to locate any missing ones. We headed down a steep slope to a river and trotted further and further up with the water only an inch or two below our feet. When we reached a dead end we stopped to think. At this point my horse caught me rather off guard and started to frantically bash his hoof into the water over and over again like a bull getting ready to charge. I was slightly perplexed and thought that he was getting ready to attack Carlinho's horse. I heaved at the reins trying to pull him back with no success. Carlinho was laughing as I got off of the horse and tried to move him away. It was only after I got back on that Carlinho said in between chuckles 'ele quer tomar banho' - he wants to have a bath. I felt a bit sheepish, but I had never seen a horse do that before... It wasn't long before we found the missing cows (one of which had also given birth - they were obviously popping them out that day) and we headed off on our way back to the farm (stopping off at Desejeste's once more for a couple of cachaca's and for Carlinho to recount my experience of my horse having a bath) to finish the day milking cows.

I woke up on Sunday with much the same thing planned - herding cows for vaccination duty. After the normal milking period, and the following breakfast, Carlinho and I headed back down to the farm to saddle up the horses. My horse and Carlinho's were relatively easy to catch as they had been kept in small fields, but as Andre was coming with us today we needed the pony too. This proved a little bit tricky to catch (we'd stuck him in with a mare and he was getting quite used to perching on top of a mound and doing the beast with two backs with her). After a bit of tooing and froing in which I unsuccessfully tried to outpace the pony we cornered him and put his saddle on. With that we headed off to the furthest field (stopping off once again for a bit of a chat and some cachaca at Desejeste's house). Andre looked a little scared given his inexperience on horseback (or should that be ponyback?). His fear seemed to grow even more whenever I drew Peter Jr. close to his pony automatically invoking Peter Jr. to lift a hoof ready to strike the much smaller beast. We eventually made it to the field with Carlinho and I in front, and Andre trailing somewhat at the back.

The field while the furthest away, was also the biggest. We could see one or two cows, but there were more further up at the top. We set off to the top of the field and Carlinho and I got behind the topmost cows in a position to start chasing them down towards the gate and the awaiting farm. Andre was keeping well back as we were going to need to do this at speed - he didn't quite want to get involved with this yet as he was scared of the pony let alone going at any speed. We kicked our horses into a gallop and started to move the cows down the field. Again, Peter Jr. peaked a mound, but instead of the thrill of the horse jumping underneath me, Peter Jr. did something quite different. We topped the mound at a gallop, and when we touched back down on the earth he landed with a thump his feet splaying out underneath him. I saw him start to lean over to his right and couldn't shake the feeling that he would land heavily on my leg. I felt as if the ground was nearing my head so in a panic I tried to free my feet from the stirrups. I successfully managed one and then the other and jumped as hard as I could to my right. Bizzarely I landed on my left shoulder with a thump which means that I must have done a 180 in the air. I slowly stood up and fortunately didn't feel too bad. My left shoulder ached slightly but apart from that I was fine. I shook myself off and looked up to see that Peter Jr. had not fallen at all, he'd just made a bit of a mess of his landing on the soft land. He was happily munching away on the grass about five metres as a laughing Carlinho got off of his horse and tentatively grabbed my horse's reins. I clambered back up on to the saddle with the feeling that Peter Jr. wasn't too happy with the idea of carrying on. From the looks of Andre I think he thought the same - his worst fear is falling off of a horse. After that the rest of the herding and vaccinations went without a hitch. Well apart from the moment my horse decided not to chase any cows because of the smell of a nearby mare - the horndog. Carlinho was shouting at me to chase down a hefty heffer, but Peter Jr. was not budging an inch. I managed to encourage him to get over it by getting off of him and pulling him by the halter. On the downside he stood on my foot and I can tell you that that hurts alot...

With all the cow herding and vaccinations done Peter Jr. was once again forced back up into his field with his harem, and the three of us relaxed and had an evening drink. Carlinho was aching all over because of the day on the horse, and I must admit that my behind, my shoulder, and my foot were all decidely sore. It wasn't long until we all headed off to bed (not together - farm life isn't quite that close) to get ready for the 3:30am dairy wake up call.

No comments:

Post a Comment