Day four of my summer vacation starts really at Midnight on day three because I arrived at the hotel at 12:15 only to learn that they had given my room away because they assumed I was a no-show. Little did they know that the horse auction didn’t start until 8:45 and that I had spent from 10:30 to 11:00 trying to catch the wild, untamed, unhandled horse that I had purchased, and then spent from 11:00 to 12:00 trying to drag the un-halterbroke horse on the trailer.
No worries, I went on my phone looking for the next available hotel. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that the Days Inn was the only discounted hotel in the area. There were rooms at the Hyatt, the Marriot and even the Weston for $295 per night. Now if my vacation was indeed a ‘real vacation’ where I wore open toed sandals, a flowy little sundress and drank margaritas at noon, I would not balk at $295 a night to sleep on 1000+ thread count and order room service. But as I stood at the counter of the Marriot with my big dirty truck and stock trailer conspicuously parked under the awning, I realized not only did I smelled like a dirty donkey, but also there was a mysterious stream of liquid flowing from underneath the trailer a likely result of one of the horses relieving himself inside; and given the volume of flow it was not the mini.
So off I went into the night looking for a cheap hotel. The kind of hotel with the bedspread from the 1970s, sheets with a thread count of 12 and squeaky bathroom pipes. Fortunately, I was to find such a place 20 minutes later. I was thrilled to see they accepted dogs, because I was travelling with one. For the past two nights, I smuggled her in to the hotel on the top of my laundry basket. Wanda knows the drill. She is not to move when covered in the laundry basket. AND yes, I use a laundry basket instead of fashionable rolling luggage. Laundry baskets are great for car trips. They fit all of your clothes, shoes, laptop, and the dog on the top covered with a towel as you walk through the hotel lobby past the “no pets” sign. The best part of laundry-basket-luggage is that you have a laundry basket full of dirty clothes when you return.
It was now three days into my rescue mission. I was completely exhausted. SO tired that I managed to put body lotion in my hair instead of conditioner. Is it me or is it just impossible to read the small little hotel shampoo containers? Oh well, my hair was unusually soft and shiny all day.
Before I left the hotel, I went into the trailer to inspect my three passengers. All three looked haggard and exhausted. I felt a wave of panic run through my veins when I saw one stretched out, lying flat on the trailer floor. I was relived to find that he was not dead, but just super tired. These poor horses go through so much as they are dragged from auction to auction.
It was a long drive, and an expensive drive. The tolls when you have a horse trailer in tow are staggering. The New Jersey Turnpike was $27 and a few miles later crossing the George Washington Bridge was $50. You would think with these toll prices the road conditions would be better; less potholes, smoother pavement, and less traffic. And what happened to Connecticut? It seems the last 5 times I have driven through that state it has been at 14 mile per hour in traffic. Why is Connecticut so full of traffic? Where is everyone going? I had many, many, many hours to consider traffic patterns and travel behaviors as I spent most of my day sitting in traffic in Connecticut.
At last I arrived home at 8pm. I was happy to see Maddy (my groom/volunteer) at my barn waiting for me. It’s always a bit tricky unloading and leading wild, unruly and un-halterbroke horses/donkeys from the trailer to the paddock. A combination of drag & chase works best but requires two experienced horseman to be successful. Being successful actually means “avoiding disaster” and in this case, we were not successful. In a surprising turn of events, one of the donkeys jumped the 4 foot fence (from a standstill). Donkeys can be quite athletic, and this donkey was very athletic, wild and now loose. Her first move was to head directly for the near-by road. We were able to successfully navigate her toward the backyard in a frantic foot race with the donkey in the lead. Since Maddy and I have been in similar circumstances, she instinctively went one direction around the house, and I went the other. We met in backyard and carefully coaxed the donkey between us. The flaw in this perfectly orchestrated plan is that donkey didn’t have a halter, neither of us had a lead rope nor were wearing a belt. At this point, we stood 5 feet from the donkey. The donkey was calm, not moving yet her worried eyes darted nervously. We had to contain her with something. Maddie said “use your bra, take your bra off.” I am not sure how or why it was determined that we would use MY bra and not Maddie’s, but I obediently stripped myself of my bra and slowly advanced toward the donkey to wrap it gently around her neck.
The donkey stood quietly as I wrapped my bra around her neck. However, that was just a trick that donkeys do: a ‘calm before the storm’ to humor us to believe that we are indeed smarter than them. As soon as I suggested she follow me toward the paddock, she overpowered me and darted away back towards the road.
She darted off onto the driveway, just as my son (17 year old) pulled up with several of his football friends. The driver jammed on the breaks to avoid the bounding donkey and then me as I followed suit, bra-less and with my bra in-hand.
It’s nice to know that teenagers have the ability to recognize disaster and have the critical thinking skills to out think a donkey. The teens jumped out of the car so quickly and like a seasoned cutting horse culling a calf from the herd, these athletic teens were able to convince this donkey that her battle for freedom was futile. Immediately, the donkey realized the game was over and gave up. She put her head down to eat grass.
I admit that most times donkeys are smarter than humans, but they have a weakness. Once they start eating green grass (or actually anything) they are easy to catch and manage. I ran up with my bra, threw it around her neck and marched her right back into the paddock.
Crisis averted, it was now officially cocktail hour….