Riding on a summer’s Birthday

June 29, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Summer days inevitably make me think of those sunny days when my daughter Patricia and I would saddle up and cruise the country roads, the farmers’ fields [with permission] and the conservation areas of the Hockley Valley. With Patrick, my famous and fabulous horse who came to live in Canada when we did and Patricia on her Welsh-Arab pony Windsor, we would sometimes join others and other times go out just the four of us.

Those were treasured hours, not only at the time but equally in this present day as fondest memories.

It was a given that we would go out with our equine pals, specifically on our birthdays, and as today is mine, I thought to share the story of one of those rides with all of you.

It was a perfect day, and we went out early enough to beat the heat that might top the hour but not so early as to miss our tea and opening a gift. At the time, we shared our life with rather a large dog, short haired and brindle named Mickey. 

I never discovered what breed he actually was. I have seen others like him since he died, years after this adventure, but he was the only one we ever saw while he lived with us. He had a funny face with floppy lips which he could raise as a threat should he disapprove of whomever came too close to his darling Patricia, for he was entirely hers.

Heaven help the young man who would sit next to her on a couch and tried to resist the dog wedging his tremendous self between that boy and his Patricia. The discomfort of the hopeful visitor had us laughing for ages afterwards.

Mickey liked to come out with us sometimes on the ride, instinctively following along as though I had trained him (which I hadn’t) at our sides, trotting or running with no problem matching our horses’ pace. Our route took us along the unpaved country roads and past the driveways up to farmhouses or tidy residences set well back in their lawns and trees and gardens.

Patrick was the smartest horse I’ve ever known. He could perform a controlled canter behind a horse that was walking and had half a dozen gaits at the trot. If we got lost, he knew the way home and, given his natural bent for leadership, presumed his role should be leading the pack when we were out with others.

Out in the fields and along a pathway, he loved a good gallop and he loved to play. 

In spite of that, when Patricia was tiny, and her father would hand her up to me sitting on Patrick, he was a completely different horse, quiet and patient, knowing what was best and safest for her, teaching her young as she was, the joy of being abroad a horse.

Well, I have lots of stories about Patrick and I have told some of them in the pages of this esteemed publication. Seems I am always ready to write about Patrick. He was a remarkable 38 years old when he died, and he and I were together for 32 of those years.

Back to that birthday ride, the five of us with Mickey. We had toured a tree farm with good paths between the rows and permission from the farmer and were taking the road back to the barn where Patrick and Windsor resided. Their barn was 100 or so years old, raised in exactly the same format as other barns in the area. The consistency of design must have suited the needs and the weather for people coming primarily from the British Isles. Some of the names on the mailboxes we rode by still reflected those names going back seven and eight generations.

All of a sudden, three dogs tore out of a driveway we had passed many times before without incident. These dogs, two midsized but stout, the third nearly Mickey’s own size rushed to attack him. They threw him over and attempted to bite at his legs. Surprised and vicious, Mickey struggled with them, endeavouring to get up, to do his own harm with teeth and claws.

Patricia and I were shouting at them, but it was Patrick who took control of the situation. It had only been seconds really of the terror, and that horse marched into the melee, squealed and kicked out at Mickey’s assailants. As quickly as it had begun, the match was over, for Patrick must have been a surprise to them, aggressive and protecting as he was. They hadn’t imagined him until he was in their midst, me out of the way on his back, terrifying them in his turn.

It was over, and Mickey stood up, shaking himself and giving Patrick a respectful look. We were only a few minutes from our barn, and it was clear Patrick’s action had kept Mickey safe. The dog moved on toward our destination at a decent trot and without a limp.

When I checked him at the barn, he did not have a scratch on him.

So, it was a happy birthday…

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