Arrival-Part Two

The trailer rocks with another explosive series of clangs punctuated by one pealing whinny, as the horses inside stomp with impatience and their own worries. I back away. Put me in any city and I’ll hail you a cab in even the most dire of neighborhoods. Offer me symphony tickets and I may well be able to hum the opening bars. But I’m no expert with trailers and horses. What would make me happiest right now is not to set foot anywhere near the trailer. As far as I’m concerned, while these may be my horses, Carol seems eminently more qualified to handle them. Besides, it’s her trailer. “Go ahead,” I say, indicating the trailer now jangling as if possessed. “Be my guest.”

Hinges squeak in protest as Carol throws the lock bar and slowly draws the back door open. There stands one long-backed, slender, red roan mare, her lead rope tied to a latch on the trailer wall. She frets, stomping back and forth the length of the short rope, the white of her eye visible as she cranes her neck left and right to see what’s happening behind her.

The myriad possibilities of injury or disaster in a horse trailer make me ungodly anxious and prone to sweating just thinking about it. Picture yourself standing in your grandmother’s coat closet, with an NFL linebacker. Now imagine that linebacker hears a play called and charges, only there’s nowhere for him to go other than the space inside the closet. So he stampedes all over you.

Anytime I’m in a trailer with a horse, I envision the horse startled by something only a horse would find alarming, me pummeled by flailing hoofs, or flattened, squashed, smeared on the trailer wall like a mosquito on a windshield. The probability that this mare will either aim a vicious two-legged kick at whoever enters her space or rear up and over in panic, breaking her neck, is high. I’m happy to stay outside and let someone else court death in my place.

Carol is unperturbed, either because death doesn’t faze her or because she’s done this as many times as I’ve snagged a Manhattan cab. Muttering low, gutteral “Woah babe’s” and “That’s my good girl’s” she places a reassuring hand on the mare’s haunch, sidles around her side, and nimbly unties her. Faster than I can crack an egg to fry for breakfast, she’s turned the mare around and is leading her out.

The mare fairly dances out of the trailer, then abruptly stops and swivels her head in puzzlement. It looks like her brain is struggling to process how one moment she could be surrounded by familiar, reassuring sights in her penitentiary stall, then undergo the trauma of intense highway noise while shut in a clanging box for 4 hours, and now be somewhere completely new and different, without ever moving her own feet. Being here must be as strange and unsettling as landing on Mars would be to an earthling. Her hoofs beat out a polka while her body gets longer, straighter, taller, all signs of a fabulously successful flight instinct. I take a good long look, thinking this may well be the last I see of her.

Continue on to Part 3:

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