Why would a horse be afraid of a baby alligator, anyway?

When I was a kid, I spent some time boarding at a stable which served as a home base for a cattle operation. The cattle spent most of the time roaming the prairies and swamps on either side of the St. John’s River, except for the memorable time when a very dangerous Longhorn bull was mysteriously imported from Australia and put out in the horse pasture until they could figure out how to get it branded. Or something. They neglected to tell the boarders, especially the thirteen year old girl who innocently went strolling into the pasture swinging her horse’s halter and singing to herself, and very suddenly found herself scraping and swearing as she darted through a barbed-wire fence with a thousand pound bull hot on her heels. . .

Anyway. OTTB Number One, Rillo, had some brief experience moving cattle in his lifetime, and we would ride over to the cattle pastures and chase them around a little bit when we were reasonably certain none of the cowboys would catch us. I’d once had one of the cowboys catch my feet in a lasso and it had not endeared me to them, nor did my reaction do much for their opinion of me (Not to mention the English saddle and field boots, which were the last word in snobbery to them.)

There was all manner of terrain, from a high Indian mound covered with scrub oaks, to hardwood hammocks glistening with hidden pools beneath the cypress trees, to grass prairie,  cut into checkerboards by shallow canals that ran out to the boggy St. Johns. They weren’t exactly the clear sparkling rivers that I would later ride him through in Maryland; these were more of the blackwater, amoeba-filled, water-moccasin infested variety. But we splashed through anyway, because I was thirteen and idiotic, and because he was six and a Thoroughbred who knew no fear (well, he was afraid of pinto miniature horses, but mostly, no fear.)

This is my Concerned Face

It was on the high banks of one of these canals that I noticed what looked like an old red carpet stretched over tree branches. I rode past, glanced over with little interest, and found that it was actually the hide of a dead cow draped over its skeleton. The meat had been picked clean. Mostly. I turned back and looked at the canal we’d ridden through, noticing for the first time the alligator lying quietly next to the path. And the other alligator. And the other and the other –

I found a new path home that night.

Rillo, to his credit (or, perhaps not) never noticed that he had forded a stream swarming with alligators.

Final Call, on the other hand, was having a hard time concentrating tonight in one corner – NOT the ECoD, as previously discussed, but the one closest to the pond. I couldn’t figure out what he was looking at. Then the idiotic black dog started barking at something, and Something popped up out of the grass and hissed.

Oh, super. The little alligator, which spent the winter in the brush not bothering anyone, was enjoying the sun and the heat, and had decided to take a stroll. Through my paddock. While I was riding.

Well, it’s only reasonable that a Florida horse be prepared to deal with alligators. The ride must go on! And despite a little bit of neck-craning, some pricked ears, and that serious high head of his (How does he get his head so high? Giraffe!) he proved that he can work around alligators. Just add it to the list of accomplishments. I’m starting to suspect all Thoroughbreds are alligator-proof, though. Nothing like so frightening as a pinto miniature horse. They’re clearly aliens.



Filed under Final Call, Rillo, Training Diary

4 responses to “Alligator-Proof

  1. LOL!
    Awwww, what a cuuuute little alligator.
    snuggle, snuggles.
    That will look very good on his resume, for sure.
    Notices, but does not panic at, alligators.
    Clever boy!

    I’d be a quivering mess, but hey, I don’t see one everyday.
    Or every decade, for that matter.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      I am slightly freaked out that I was commenting on your blog while you were commenting on mine.

      Was it a comment pact?

      Awww GL the alligator won’t hurt you. It just wants some sunshine. I mean, all it does is hiss. If it was really scary it would ROAR.

  2. Wow! Real, live (as opposed to figurative) alligators! Good for you and Final Call!

    Steve lived in Florida (worked at KSC for a time many years ago) and has some very interesting alligator stories, but none that involve horses.

    I really must visit this land of alligators some day.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      KSC is infested with gators and rattlesnakes.

      Also manatees.

      I’ve never seen an alligator bother a horse. Water moccasins, I’ve had more trouble with, especially over there in the Space Coast. I haven’t had any of those here. We were happily gator-free until this past winter, when we acquired our first one. But there’s an old saying about Florida, put out a pail of water and eventually a gator will climb into it and call it home. It’s hard to believe that when I was a kid, they were actually an endangered species.

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