Saturday, on Halloween, I finally made the 200 mile round-trip to bring Big Paul home to Tails You Win Farm.
Well, small correction here. You see, in the somewhat impulse online purchase heard ’round my world, I overlooked one tiny detail. Big Paul is, true to his new name, too big to fit into our trailer. (If you missed the original stories about Paul, click here and here.)
Thankfully, the cavalry came to my rescue in the form of wonderful friends Dena and Dennis with their very roomy, tall, two horse trailer. They were kindly willing to chauffeur me to pick Paulie up and bring him home. Finally.
Dennis is our very trusted small animal veterinarian and also practiced as a large animal vet in the past, so I was very happy to have him along to see Paul. They also have beautiful draft horses of their own and have a wealth of knowledge about their care requirements. I had a private workshop in the truck on the way there and back. I am so very grateful to these lovely people.
To say that I was a tad excited Saturday morning is a huge understatement. I had been waiting for this day for over a month. Because horses on the killer buyer feedlots often become sick, I opted to quarantine Big Paul for 30 days to protect the horses, donkeys, and mule already in residence at Tails You Win Farm. It was the smart thing to do…but oh the wait!
When we pulled into Silvermoon TLC, a short-term boarding facility, I could immediately see Big Paul and he saw us too. The first time I met him he seemed a bit wary of me, unsure of my intentions. Saturday, however, he and his pasture-mate came right to us. He was relaxed and let me walk right up to slip his brand new bright blue halter on his head.
It’s funny, I ordered a draft size halter online and when It arrived I thought it was huge. I just knew it was going to be way too big for Paul. I was wrong. It fit perfectly. BIG Paul, indeed.
Halter secured, I snapped on my lead rope and Paul and I headed out of the gate toward the trailer. The mare, left behind, immediately started calling out to Paul as she raced up and down the fence line. She did not want her friend to leave and I worried for a moment that Paul would react and pull me right off my feet to return to his friend.
But Paul stayed perfectly calm and walked alongside me like a true gentleman. The only hint to his nerves came as we passed the side of the barn and the truck and trailer came into sight. Paul’s ears started swiveling back and forth between my quiet reassurances and his friend’s frantic whinnying. He took some deep, snorting breaths, but walked steadily beside me. A horse I already dearly loved made my heart swell just a bit more with each brave step.
When we got to the back of the trailer, Paul stopped to study the situation, planting his huge hooves at the edge of the ramp leading up. His life over the past few months had likely included one uncomfortable trailer ride after another. I couldn’t blame him for not being eager to climb aboard one more time.
But we were all patient. I stood inside the trailer to reassure my big friend while Dennis and Dena encouraged him from behind the trailer. After a minute or two of hesitation, Big Paul loaded into the trailer without any fuss. What a good, steady boy.
The trailer ride home was smooth and uneventful (though Dennis’ right ear may still be numb from listening to my constant chatter with Dena! Dennis is a good, steady man, too!). Thankfully, our homecoming day was overcast and cool; Paul had a comfortable ride and didn’t even break into a sweat.
Finally the big moment came. We pulled through the gates of Tails You Win Farm. Paul was finally home. I opened the side door on the trailer so I could go inside to help Paul back out. His sweet face immediately filled the open door as he perked his ears and got a first look at his new surroundings.
Paul backed carefully out of the trailer, no silliness, no excited prancing about. He simply glanced around, and immediately dropped his head to enjoy some of the thick, still-green grass – a gift of our Indian Summer. I decided that was the equivalent of a horse thumbs up.
Jim joined us by the trailer to meet our latest family member. As you may have read in previous posts, I may or may not have consulted with Jim prior to purchasing Big Paul. This goes well beyond, “Honey, I was on Zappos.com today and bought four pairs of shoes.” Well beyond.
Have I mentioned lately that Jim is a really great guy with a huge soft spot for animals? Lucky Paul. Lucky me!
We have a rather eclectic family living in our pasture. We have a blind appaloosa mare and her adult bay daughter, a mule and a paint horse who have physical disabilities, a feisty miniature horse (his only disability is being extremely vertically challenged), a ram (his purpose in life is to annoy the horses, I think), a very large hog who, because of a dog attack at a young age (not on our farm!), is missing an ear and has a leg with some nerve damage, five miniature donkeys and a standard donkey (their purpose in life is to chase coyotes and annoy our neighbors with their occasional “escape the pasture” rampages), a beautiful paint mare that we raised as an orphaned bottle baby, and one large and in charge appaloosa gelding.
Paul must have been wondering what the heck he was stepping into.
Now, normally when I have brought new horses to the farm, there is much excitement, evident nerves, pulling to touch noses, and ensuing squeals and foot stomping as everyone meets and works out the pecking order. Our other horses were at the ready, stretching their necks over the top of the fence as they took deep sniffs of the approaching newcomer.
Big Paul looked at the other horses with mild interest, but made no move toward the greeting line. My guess was that he had had quite enough of the meet-and-greets at the feedlots and really just wanted a little space.
No problem, friend.
We settled Paulie in our smaller pasture where he could have a little room to roam and a private loafing shed, but also be near to our horses in the adjacent pasture. It would be his choice whether to say hello or not.
In the past when I have turned a new horse out in a new pasture, I generally see excitement, some prancing around, maybe a lope the length of the pasture. But not Paulie. Nope, he was proving to be a very level-headed guy. He just sniffed the air a few times and then walked the perimeter of the three acre enclosure, stopping to gaze out over the south fence toward a neighboring pond. This would prove to be his favorite spot in the pasture, perhaps reminding him of a former home.
Everything about the big horse was calm and relaxed. No drama, no sweaty nervousness, no fretting. Just even-keel and steady.
After goodbyes to Dennis and Dena, Jim returned to the house and left me and Paul to get to know each other. I gave Paul a bit of feed and got him a stack of hay to munch. As he enjoyed his snack, I brushed him and talked to him, telling him all about his new home and everyone who lived there. When he finished his grain, he stood quietly enjoying the attention. Finally, after so many weeks, I was able to wrap my arms up around his massive neck and give him a hug. I buried my face in the slope of his shoulder and we both sighed in unison.
In this long anticipated moment, my eyes filled with tears as everything I dreamed about this horse while staring at his photos was realized. He was every bit the gentle giant that I hoped and knew he would be. I felt our hearts connect
Previously, I told you that Big Paul does not know what carrots are. Now I would like to tell you a few things he does know.
He does know that apples are delicious. He readily accepted several slices I offered, crunching away and looking hopeful for more.
He knows that our bay mare is a bit of a bitch (she tried to bite him in the butt twice. He knows to keep his distance for now).
He knows something about the view to the south of his pasture that I don’t know…but it’s apparently very special to him. I’ll spend some time there with him, seeing it through his eyes.
He does now seem to know who I am. Well, he recognizes me anyway. When I step out of the house and call to him, he perks his ears and walks to the fence to see me. He seems to understand that this funny human who likes to hug, who feeds him, and who knows all of the right places to scratch a horse is a good thing.
And most importantly, he seems to know that he is safe. Soon, I hope he knows he has found his home. This isn’t temporary. There isn’t another trailer ride in his future.
(Yeah, he’s earned a few nicknames…I expect there will be more to come.)