When I first started riding Eli, the joke was we had a “rapport.” In many ways, Eli and I are kindred spirits: we have a general dislike of people, we prefer a routine, our trust must be earned over time, we are slightly on edge at all times … Eli is a spooky, hot horse and I am an easily startled, somewhat intractable human being. We get along just fine. (Totally true for us is the “your horse is your mirror.”)
Tuesday evening, Eli stayed fairly sedate and my turn to escalate my wariness came. I arrived at a dark barn, horses all tucked in for the night, at around 7:30. I am often the last person there at night so I keep to the front area of the barn and park my car right by the entrance (okay maybe once or twice even in the barn) and just use the front aisle lights to conserve energy.
I flipped on the lights and started pulling tack out of my locker. This is when the first thing that got my hackles on end happened–something skittered along the roof. It sounded large, like fat and raccoon-sized. Whatever it was, it made a lot of noise on the roof just above the front cross-ties, where I set up my grooming stuff and tack. An isolated incident, not all that creepy, right?
I tacked up, turned on the arena lights, and had a lovely ride on Eli. He stayed relaxed through all of it. Nothing creepy there, and we stayed away from the rail on the darker side of the arena, the side with cows on the adjacent property. I noticed a slight burning smell on the breeze, which bothered me but it isn’t uncommon in a rural area. The darkness kept me from scanning for a column of smoke in the distance.
As I walked back in the barn, I heard water running. I figured someone’s automatic waterer had turned on for a drink. I pulled Eli’s tack off and walked outside to turn off the arena lights, and I realized as I came back into the barn that the washing machine was running through a cycle.
Right about at this time, I started wondering who the hell was using the washing machine, because it hadn’t been on when I first got to the barn, and as far as I knew, I was the only person there. I checked the load and it was saddle pads. I felt mildly unnerved, but chalked it up to a slow washer that takes forever to run through a cycle and probably someone had started the load and left right before I got there. I guess?
Eli remained chill, just cooling out in the cross ties and smacking his lips after I gave him an apple, but I started to crack a little under the collective weight of otherwise commonplace stuff. Then out of nowhere I heard what sounded like a cast horse struggling in a stall. Oh, great, a horse is cast and I am the only person here. I went down the barn aisle, having flipped the lights, which slowly warm up to full brightness, and even though dimly lit I could see that not a single horse was even laying down–all standing quietly looking ever so innocent. That’s a relief, right? But as soon as I flipped the lights off and walked back to the front, I heard the banging noise again. I ran back down the aisle, trying to figure out who was making the racket. Ultimately, I supposed it was a horse banging a stall door with its butt, although I never figured out who was doing it. (Because horses are incredibly innocent looking when they know people are watching.)
So, now it’s time for adding insult to injury. I had to unload Eli’s feed–a couple 50lb bags–and put them into the feed room. The feed room doesn’t have a light. As I dropped the bags, I heard scurrying in the walls … like, what now? I have seen both snakes and rats in there before, so I did not linger.
I left the feed room and as I walked back to the front cross-ties, I saw a huge rat scuttling along a cross-beam above the tack cleaning area. The damn thing stopped and stared at me. My phone had died earlier, so I couldn’t get a picture, but this rat was fat and beady-eyed. What rat stares at a person? Just go about your rat business and quit eyeballing me. Field mice are one thing, and actually I think they are adorable. There is nothing adorable about a rat that stares you down.
I could not get out of there fast enough. Once Eli cooled completely and I had wiped down my bridle, for once I left the barn in a hurry. Most nights don’t have quite so many creepy things piling up on me; just one, two tops. But this evening had too many offenses to my senses.
So I guess I am just as spooky as my horse.