ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms
News30 Jul 2006

Apparently I’ve stopped blogging. I haven’t posted anything here in quite a while. Partly I blame the heat: it’s just been too hot lately to think of odd ideas to talk about. And as for news of my life, well, in order to be blog-worthy, such happenings have to be 1) not completely dull and boring, and 2) something I’m willing to talk about in public on the Internet. Lately nothing has been meeting both criteria.

Until last night, that is.

So there I was, Saturday night, up too late (as I often am lately), contemplating going to bed, when, a little after 3 am, I started to noticed some strange noises. As I’ve mentioned here before, I live near the exhibition grounds. During harness racing season there are several horses stabled there. I often hear them whinnying from my apartment. It reminds me of home.

Last night I started to hear rather a lot of whinnying, which sounded more agitated than usual. I also heard some loud thumps and bangs and the occasional squeal – that particular whinny that a horse makes when he’s at close quarters with one of his fellows and doesn’t like his space being invaded.

I thought to myself, “something isn’t right over there”, so I grabbed a flashlight and made my way outside.

For those who haven’t seen it: the stables at the exhibition grounds are separated into 10 or 12 individual barns, each with an alleyway and between 4 and 10 box stalls. They aren’t connected to one another internally – to get from one to another you have to walk outside behind the race track. The stables back onto a walking trail that runs the length of the exhibition grounds. The area is fenced-off so random people out for a walk can’t get in and bother the horses.

I made my way along this trail behind the barns and went towards the source of the noise. I shone my flashlight in the window and saw several pairs of equine eyes looking back at me. They’d somehow got out of their stalls and were milling around in the alleyway of their barn, happily munching on tomorrow’s breakfast which had been left in front of their stalls.

There was an open door at the back of one of the neighbouring barns so I walked through and out into the fair grounds themselves. The barn with the loose horses was to my left. Somewhere off to my right in the darkness I could here the sound of hooves clattering on concrete and more whinnying. “More loose horses,” I thought.

I walked up to the barn that I’d peeked into from the back and turned on the lights. 4 horses loose in the alleyway, and about 4 more still in their stalls. I did a quick check to make sure none of them had got into any large amount of feed, shut one of them in an open stall, and then just closed the barn door (it had been wide open when I arrived) to keep the other three from wandering outside into the grounds while I investigated further.

I discovered an open gate into the parking lot and closed it. I could still hear another horse running around somewhere in the dark. A quick glance at some of the other barns had revealed every door open. I had no idea how many horses are normally stabled there, but I was beginning to wonder if maybe there were a whole lot of loose horses around. I was worried they might start to find their way out into the streets. I was also starting to think that maybe some drunk soul had decided it would be a good Saturday night prank to let all the horses loose.

The exhibition grounds seemed quite deserted of (human) activity, and I hadn’t seen any obvious emergency contact phone numbers posted in the barn where I had found the four horses milling around, so, not seeing any other way to get some help at 3:30 am, I called 911. I’ve never called 911 before, though I have occasionally talked to emergency dispatchers in the course of my old job with DNR. I have a rather hazy conception of what exactly constitutes an emergency – did a bunch of loose horses qualify? I thought so, anyway.

Fortunately the dispatcher agreed. She took my name and phone number and said she’d “send someone over” to give me a hand, and try to track down someone connected with the exhibition grounds to come and sort things out. I thanked her, and as I hung up my cell phone, the horse I’d heard moving around in the dark came running in off the race track and stopped near me. I managed to catch it fairly easily (this one was wearing a halter, unlike the others – and may I add: harness racing people don’t seem to follow the “halter and lead rope on every stall door” convention – things would have been a bit simpler if they had, as it was I’d had to scrounge around to find the lead rope I was carrying at this point). I put the horse in the first available stall and made my way to the far end in the hopes of finding another gate to close in case there were still more horses out on the track somewhere. No luck. I couldn’t hear any others in any case so I went back to find the 3 I had shut in their barn. I got a halter on one by coaxing it to me with the old “bucket of feed” trick, and put it in a stall. At that point I heard a car outside so and went out to flag down the policeman who had arrived. I filled him in on the situation. “Well, let’s go have a look” he said in classic laid-back cop manner.

We quickly caught the last two and put them in empty stalls. He seemed to know about horses, which was good. We then made are way along the other barns and checked more carefully than I had for any other horses that might be loose. We also located the stall that the horse I’d found running around probably came from (water buckets and fresh manure – it’s a good indicator =).

Meanwhile two exhibition grounds people arrived (I guess the 911 dispatcher had found some emergency contact numbers for me), which was good, as neither the policeman nor myself had any idea how many horses there were in the first place. We quickly ascertained that we had in fact found them all. Everybody thanked me for preventing things from becoming worse (“As long as they aren’t running around in the streets it’s all good”, said the policeman, “Oh, that’s happened before” said one of the fair ground guys) and seemed a bit surprised that I’d noticed anything amiss in the first place. I guess there aren’t that many insomniac horse people living near the ex-grounds in Fredericton =)

When I left, they were debating exactly which horse was which and thus who belonged in which stall (“Is this Sonny Pride?” / “I thought ‘Pride’ was darker than that.” / “Maybe that one is him”, etc).

I’m feeling rather pleased with myself today. I just knew my night-owlish habits were going to pay off sooner or later.

4 Responses to “Saturday Night at the Exhibition”

  1. 30 Jul 2006 at 7:43 pm Jamie

    Das Pferd muß gesagt haben “Scheiße! Ich werde wieder eingesperrt!”!

  2. 01 Aug 2006 at 8:08 am Jenn

    You let them out, didn’t you?

  3. 01 Aug 2006 at 1:57 pm Ian


    Yeah, see, I was sitting around at 3 am thinking “I know what would be fun! Chasing horses around in the dark! Now where can I find some horses to chase around?”

    No, I didn’t let them out, sheesh =)

  4. 01 Aug 2006 at 6:51 pm judith

    Hey Ian, Saturday night sounds busier than my saturday open house at Lori’s where I had to manage the relationship between 200 people (most young chilren) and school horses and jumpers…. In response to your comment about halters, leadlines and emergency numbers, I think racing people tend to see horses as commodities not sentient beings.

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