Stallions and Slippers

problem stallion, stallions fighting, horse stories, betty baxter horse

By Betty Baxter  

The morning grass is glittering with light. Moisture drops in crystals from bushes and trembles in the trees. The air is still and cool. After an early lesson, I invite my dressage coach in for coffee and pull my riding boots. He removes his shoes and stands looking out the window. 

“Are those both stallions?” he asks.

“Yes, those two are quiet and easy. They’re separated by a fence and a narrow alleyway.” 

Something in his tone makes me join him at the window... 

The vision outside stuns me. My two Canadian breeding stallions, Prince and Monty, are in full combat. They are a match for weight and height. His bleached flaxen mane glistening, Monty is up on his hind legs, his muscled chestnut torso rippling in the light. Prince, the older horse, his head sprinkled with grey, is also standing on his hinds stretched to full height. His black coat is dappled in shadow so it’s hard to see his twisting body. He rears again and strikes before all 1,200 pounds thunder back to the ground. I fly out the door to separate them. 

problem stallion, stallions fighting, horse stories, betty baxter horse

Above: Monty; Below: Prince - Photos: Deb Harper

problem stallion, stallions fighting, horse stories, betty baxter horse

The sound and ground-shaking power is intense, the sheer mass awesome, sweat and spit spraying. Frontal fighting — heads snaking in to bite, hooves flying to strike. The gate is hanging half to the ground, pulling the fence a kilter with it. I’m through it in an instance, dancing close yet conscious of the need to stay clear of their straining bodies. Even though so sharply focused on each other, I know they see me.

I point and command at full volume; “Prince! Get back to your stall! Monty! Come here!”

They are distracted. 

Then astonishingly, they obey! 

Prince’s black butt shows some sass as he turns and swing-hops the downed gate to duck into his stall, smug at having asserted his seniority.

Monty, gleaming in sunlight like a god, turns to face me, watching, heaving, sweat rivulets streaming down his head and chest. I stop to prop the gate up and slide a board to support the swaying fence. On the way out of the paddock I pause, move close to check for injury, stroke his face, and watch his breathing.

Deep in the rhododendron a junco twits, unafraid, protected by the foliage. Monty snorts, his nostrils flaring, alert to danger, but the bird quiets then hops brazenly along the branch toward the sunlight.

Related: The Benefit of the Doubt - Problem Behaviour with Horses

problem stallion, stallions fighting, horse stories, betty baxter horse

Photo: Shutterstock/Anatoliy Lukich

The scenario has taken a minute, likely less. My heart pounding, head roaring and body trembling with the rush of adrenalin, I move slowly back across the lawn. The light and freshness of the morning hold me.

Suddenly I am a ten-year-old child again, hours on my horse, covering miles of prairie, laughing and standing on the animal’s back to stay dry and as he stops mid-creek to splash and cool his belly. A pick-up slows on the highway and the driver calls out, “How much do you want for that fine animal? I’ll give you $500.” 

I glance at him, filled with power, and shout clear and bold in the afternoon heat, “He’s not for sale.”  

“Okay then.” The truck tears off.

Now, my skin throbs with the power of the stallions. I walk across the grass, the image of their bodies flashing in my mind. I walk in their beauty and the joy of seeing them in full power. My breath slows. My thoughts come back. 

They obeyed!

On the porch, my dressage coach pauses in his struggle to get into his shoes and says, “I thought you might need help, but that was impressive.”

I turn to look back to the paddock. Monty is standing at the fence watching me, still as a sentinel. My heart is the little junco, edging out to him now, fluttering in the morning sun, safe and close to this huge creature. 

My face full of delight, I turn to him. “Wasn’t it? Weren’t they magnificent?”  

A smile softens his whole face as I approach the porch. I look down. I’m standing in my slippers.

Related: Stallion Housing Affects Welfare

To read more by Betty Baxter on this site, click here.

Main Photo/Illustration: Canadian Horse Journal