Outdoors Column: Riding With the Wind

About a month ago, I moved the horses to the west pasture. There was a bale of hay back there as well as plenty of grass left over from summer. Two creeks run through it into the lake. It is a perfect place for a couple of horses to hang out until the water freezes. Running water will stay open below the freezing point, but the forecast calls for several days of below zero weather. I thought I should move them back to the house before they got stranded out there without water.

Saturday morning when I headed out to move the horses, the temperature was not too bad, but the wind was howling, making the wind chill well below zero. A light rain had fallen on the new snow the night before, making a crust over everything. I put on most of the clothes I own and started up the Ranger. Jag, the terrier, knew a good adventure was underway. He jumped in with me and refused to get out. I know his routine and relented, letting him ride along. When I got to the Cabin Gate, as usual, Jag jumped out. He insists on riding a short distance and then wants to run. He led me across the dam as fast as his short legs would carry him. I was surprised how fast he could move across the ice encrusted snow, breaking through frequently. I tried to convince him to get back in the Ranger when we got to the Top Gate. He would have no part of it. He was in prime squirrel and rabbit country. I drove off down the trail while Jag took off into the woods trying to find rabbit tracks on ice.

I was just ready to break out of the timber above Twin Sluices when a herd of deer jumped up and ran off ahead of me. I got just a glimpse of the horses as they turned and ran when the group of deer appeared to be bearing down on them. They spooked and ran off into the woods on the far side of the clearing. Usually the horses run toward the Ranger because they know I am bringing grain. This day, since I was in a hurry to get them moved and get back into the warm, they were nowhere to be found. I drove around for ten or fifteen minutes before I saw them again. I was driving down a trail when a two-horse stampede headed up the trail, directly at me. They went thundering by, stopped and loped back to the Ranger. They were feeling mighty fine running around kicking up a spray of snow and ice. They decided to chase the Ranger up the hill, bucking and kicking as they made laps around me.

Jag suddenly appeared in the path ahead, drawn by the commotion. He ran toward the horses, determined to protect me. The horses found this entertaining and tried their hardest to stomp the little dog. It did not take long for Jag to decide it might be safer inside the Ranger than out on the ice with two happy horses. He jumped in, barking viciously and snapping at the horses each time they passed by. It seemed like a rolling mad house until we get back to the Top Gate.

Coming through the gate above the lake, the horses broke into a dead run into the wind in the open pasture. Jag finally settled down and I could relax knowing my windshield was not going to get kicked out at any moment. We drove to the house facing the howling wind. Chilled to the bone, Jag and I were both glad to be back in the garage after our adventure.