I have owned horses for more than 30 years, and if there's one thing that I've learned in that time, it's that horses are big. And strong. And they move pretty darn fast.
I learned that lesson the hard way. I have been knocked down, kicked, run over and just slammed by horses that were scared, mad, young or just plain mean.
I treat the horses with a lot of respect, because they can do more than just knock you down -- they can kill you. I always remember the story I heard when I first started breeding mares. A story about a woman who went out to feed her broodmares and didn't come back. When her family went looking for her, she was lying in the broodmare field, dead. These were nice, calm broodmares, and the woman had been in the horse business for years.
That story scared me, because even if they aren't trying to hurt you, horses can still kill you. I have had a broken collarbone, a broken thumb (boy was that a stupid thing) and more bruises than I like to think about.
I have to admit, the broken thumb was because I was trying to stop a mare from kicking another mare, and I stuck my arm out to stop her. Wrong decision. She not only got the other mare, she got me.
But in all those years of being hurt, stomped and flattened, it's my dogs that have hurt me the worst.
Yup, those sweet, wonderful border collies that I live with have sent me to the hospital more than once. And last week, it happened again.
My dogs have a routine. Every morning, they go out and run. Except for Kate; she just moseys around and smells the ground and eats disgusting things. But Jan and Peg and Len make a couple of laps around the fields, making sure all the cats are accounted for and checking that no horses are running amock.
After about 15 minutes, I let the dogs back in the yard, feed and water them, and then they sleep all day while I'm at work.
So that's my routine. Unfortunately, last week I broke that routine, and I paid for it.
I came home and went in the yard to get the dogs. I let Lenny out of his kennel, and then Jan and Peg out of theirs. That's usually when I just follow them inside. But this time, I wanted to see if I could fix the gate that Peg had been squeezing through to get out.
My back porch is about 4 feet off the ground, with steep steps. I was on the porch when I decided to go check the gate. I started to take one step down, and that's when a dog, not sure which one, went through my legs and down I went.
I fall a lot, I guess it's part of getting old and taking care of horses. But this fall was something else. The only good part of it is that I didn't break any bones. But I ended up with a black eye, a split lip and bruises from my shoulders to my feet. I almost wish that I had landed on my head, because that's pretty darn hard.
Believe me, I was mad. Mad, mad, mad. When I got myself up and back in the house, I couldn't find any dog at all. They knew I was mad, and they all hid from me.
It's been about a week now, and my bruises are finally starting to fade. I look like a domestic violence victim, but believe me, no human being hurt me, just a bunch of rotten dogs.
Since that time, my dogs have made sure to not come near me when I am walking. Len has made a huge deal out of it, and if I even start toward where he is, he slams into his crate, where he feels safe and the big mean person won't get mad at the poor innocent border collie.
My dogs definitely know now what "out" means. I have always used that command to get the dogs to move away from me, but now all I have to do is say "out" and I can't see a dog anywhere. The bruises and pain are almost worth teaching my dogs a lesson. Almost.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.