It’s seems that we’ve been spending much of our time doing things other than riding the horses. Last week it was picking plums (before the squirrels cleared the trees). This week it’s been berries (though you can only reach them while elevated by sitting on the back of a horse). Sammy and Katelyn’s lesson was spent sweeping the walk and braiding tails. Shana and Claire’s lesson was spent brainstorming a horse based video drama centered on animal rescue.  The plums were tasty, the drama amusing, but today’s discovery provided the best summer entertainment to date: baby rats.

Technically, they (Maddie, Haley, Katelyn, Sammy and Shana) had tacked up the horses, ridden to the arena, then untacked the horses for turn out, with plans for riding and playing after lunch. But the horse plans went out the window once the rats were discovered; three gray, ping pong sized fluff balls with black, beady eyes, comic book whiskers and ridiculously long tails, they were ready for stardom on Cuteness Overload. OK, maybe the one that was near death wasn’t so cute. But that did not deter the assembled crew.

Alarmed by the unexpected residents of the tub, I had quickly dumped the rats onto the ground, assuming they’d scurry off into the shrubbery. The horsegirls, however, had other plans. Haley found paper bowls in the shed and scooped up the rodents, each to it’s own bowl, while Katelyn and Sammy hovered over the bowls and Shana bounced around saying, “Don’t touch them. They have diseases!” The rats were given water, seeds off of Katelyn’s bagel and oats from Sammy’s granola bar. Rat #3 really wasn’t doing very well. Haley called her mother, a research biologist, for advice. She recommended setting the rats free and described the process whereby they could humanely dispatch the one mini muncher who was fading before our eyes. Haley’s mom was ignored on both counts.
While Chavali, Stoney and Cowgirl whirled around the arena, excited by the flagging work being done in the adjacent round pen, Maddie, Haley, Shana, Katelyn and Sammy plotted, prodded, named and renamed and fawned over their tiny charges. When I stopped to check on them at one point, two of the bowls had been covered with inverted bowls and a rock had been placed on to of each because the rats had been “getting lively”. The third rat, ever more feeble by the second, needed no covering and was, at that point, making Maddie (age 14) cry, though the rest of them were unfazed.  They trio were eventually released to their respective fates, two of them substantial fortified by water and snack food.  Shana did manage to tear herself away for  some galloping back and forth across the arena while MaeMae, age 5, younger sister of Katelyn, got lead around the arena on Cowgirl, but were it not for an impending engagement with the vet, the rat show would have gone on for much longer.

Cowgirl has a wind gall, Stoney has a bursa and Chavali’s stifle is acting up.  They are all due for a rest and the abatement of riding activity for the day surely did them some good, nor was the day was not a loss for the kids.  No doubt the tiny, warm fur bodies was beat out Eclipse when it comes to summer entertainment.

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