The day Henrietta came to visit

Mary-Joe Figueira



Some years back, I boarded at a lovely facility in Erin just outside Hillsburg. Erin has to have one of the prettiest country sides I have ever seen. The facility was quite lovely, large arena, huge stalls and great paddocks for turn out. It even had its own "diet paddock" which I found quite interesting. Never heard it quite like that. I don't know why it was classified as such. Too me once a bunch of horses are finished with the grass, they all become diet paddocks.


At this time I was boarding, my friend Lucy's, lovely mare, Menina (which means little girl in Portuguese). Lucy did not have a riding arena at her farm, so she was quite willing to let me board and ride Menina for the winter and thus keep her in shape and trained. It was a very quiet barn, not too many boarders which gave me the luxury most times of Menina and I having the riding arena all too ourselves.


Now with barns and farms it is a given that once in a while an unwanted and uninvited visitor comes to call, the odd skunk, nesting birds, raccoons and even pot belly pigs.


One particular lovely spring Saturday afternoon I decided to go up and ride Menina. Upon my arrival I noticed that there were no cars in the drive way; nobody was riding and worse no one was home. All the horses were in the paddock and seemed okay, although I was not too thrilled about being alone with a bunch of unpredictable horses and if anything happened, no one was around. Since it was Saturday I figured the owner had just gone to the store for some groceries and wouldn't be too long.


After getting my tack ready, I decided to go out and bring Menina in. As I was shutting the gate I heard the thunder of hoofs in powerful gallops and noticed the horses in the adjoining paddocks cantering around like total idiots. I then noticed Menina in total panic. This was lovely indeed. My worst fear was happening, I was all alone with a bunch of cantering, unpredictable horses, probably ready to jump the fences and one panicky female doing cartwheels at the end of my lead. At this point I couldn't see what had gotten the horses all in a "huff".


Now I had been warned from the other boarders that if I ever rode my horse outside I had to be careful of Henrietta. Henrietta was the pot belly pig who lived at the barn across the road. From time to time she came to visit. She escaped from her pen during her "heat" cycles, and loved to make her rounds of the neighbours' barns during those times. And here she was on one of her cycles, coming for one of her untimely and uninvited visits.


Now, I don't know too much about pot belly pigs. I think they are actually quite cute, especially since finding out that they are the pet of choice of George Clooney. And frankly, what is good enough for George would be good enough for me. I would love to have one if it wasn't for the fact that my kids would kill me if I left one more pet in my "Will" for them to look after, after I was gone.  


And so here I was all alone, trying not to panic, and not knowing what to do. Then I remembered a friend's advice. Whenever you are tense and scared, one way of relaxing is to start singing, whether it be out loud or in your head.


So, I started to sing hoping that my voice would carry and cause some sort of distraction. I figured if I created some stupid diversion they would forget about the pig. (No one was around so what the Heck!). You would think I could remember a favourite tune or song to sing at that moment. But no! In my fright and nervousness any possibility of recalling anything favourite totally evaporated out of my hair follicles. All I could think of was shrieking some "mumbojumbo" all the way to the barn in the hopes that Menina would at least calm down enough for me to get her into her stall so that I could deal with the rest of the crazies. Needless to say by the time I put her away my knees were in a "jelly mode".


After Menina was safely in her stall, I rushed back outside to see if any of the horses had by this time jumped the fence. I had visions of having to deal with a stampede. Lucky for me they were all still in their paddocks, albeit still very excited and agitated.


And, there was the culprit Henrietta, happily grazing away at the grass totally oblivious to the commotion that she had caused, and never realizing that if any of those horses jumped the fence she would have been making her "heat cycle" visits in the "heavenly pastures".


She was black, round and fat with a colourful bandana her owners had placed around her neck. She actually reminded me of a "charred pot roast" with a bandana. Cute as she was I knew I had to get this "beast" away from the horses. I started to wave my hands in circles thinking that maybe she would get the message to "giddy-up" on home. I must have looked ridiculous as I was still singing/shrieking and now waiving my hands around. As I waved, sang and "shooed-shooed" her all the way down the driveway she waddled and "snorted" her outmost displeasure with me.


Shortly after that, the owners got an earful from me about Henrietta. Henrietta's wandering days were over; as her owners finally decided for her own safety, to padlock her pen. Somebody told me later that pot belly pigs emit a "bear" smell to horses. We all know what a "bear" smell would mean. Whether that is true or not, I don't know.  So, I guess I won't be buying one. 



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Comment by Jackie Cochran on June 21, 2012 at 8:44am

Horses are scared of regular pigs too.  Once a group of pigs got into the pasture where we were boarded and all the horses were HORRIFIED, except my gelding who looked upon them with benevolent interest.  I did not know my gelding's early life, but at that moment I knew that he had been raised around pigs and liked them.

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