The Best Laid Plans
As I dressed that morning for my second date with a man I recently met, I could never have imagined the turn the day would take. We were going to have a picnic and watch the Spring Horse Trials at a large and very beautiful local park and then possibly head to a winery afterward to see a musician we both really like.
I packed a wicker hamper with flavored seltzers, roast beef sandwiches with smoked Gouda, avocado and horseradish aioli on grainy bread, goat cheese with a jar of fig jam to accompany it, a Triple Cream Champignon Brie and some artichoke dip. A small plate of prosciutto, soppressata and salami came next with baguette, crackers, almonds, grapes and the first gorgeous strawberries of spring.
He arrived right on time, enthusiastically greeted my menagerie and we were on our way, ready for a relaxing day of picnicking in the sun and watching stunningly beautiful horses compete in an equestrian triathlon of sorts: Dressage, eventing and cross country. The wind was gusty but we both ignored it looking forward to enjoying the day.
Listening to music and chatting amiably, we turned into the entrance of the park. Our mouths dropped open when just ahead, we caught sight of a horse wearing a halter with four or five links of the chain from her lead rope still attached, running straight for us at full speed. The look in her eyes was wild and she was headed for the road. We stopped as she blew past us, quickly turned the car around and began our pursuit. Once we were a reasonable distance from her, I jumped out and began talking to her calmly trying to get close enough to grab her halter. Each time I thought I had her, a huge gust of wind would set her nerves on edge and she’d take off again. She ran straight across the road and down a long driveway toward a house with large metal gates. I thought I could close the gates, containing her safely until help arrived but they were electric and firmly locked in the open position. I inched closer to her, going slowly and that damn blustery wind startled her once again and soon she was galloping at full speed straight for me. I had no choice but to sidestep and let her run right past me to avoid being mowed down by her terror.
She turned right onto the street once again and headed for town and the more heavily trafficked roads. My date and I decided he should drive into the park, alert someone about the loose horse and try to get help. I took off running after the mare, alternately cursing under my breath at the situation and praying an unsuspecting motorist wouldn’t hit her. Cars were passing me now, some fast, some slow, many rubbernecking but none stopping to help. “Please, please, please” was my mantra now and suddenly she stopped. She stood there looking at me as if seeing me for the first time. “Oh hey, it’s you again! Why do you keep following me? Do I know you?”
Finally, I was able to grab hold of her halter and guide her to the side of the road. Surely, her owner and others would be coming any minute to find her The minutes ticked by and they never did. We had been at this for at least a half hour now. The park is a 1,000 acre historic estate with miles of hiking and riding trails. She could be anywhere. I’m sure they never could have guessed that she had made her way all the way out of the park and onto the road, putting herself in serious danger.
A car sped by a little too quickly at the same moment another cold gusty wind blew and her head shot up, giraffe-like, yanking my shoulder hard and causing me to lose my grip. It took a few minutes to catch her a second time and now, instead of thinking I could lead her back to where she belonged, I decided to encourage her to graze while we waited for her search party to arrive.
A man in barn clothes slowed his car and looked at me knowingly. “I work in the park”, he said. “Do you need help?” He searched the trunk of his car and while he didn’t have a lead rope, he did have a gym bag with a shoulder strap. He detached it and looped it through her halter. This made it slightly easier to hold onto her while he repeatedly called other staff within the park for help, but no one came.
My date had found someone and told her about the runaway horse and me. She grabbed a lead rope and leapt into her truck with her two young daughters in tow to find us. About 45 minutes to an hour had gone by now and at last, she pulled up and attached the lead rope to the frightened mare’s halter offering to lead her back toward the park and ultimately a horse trailer sent to retrieve her. I hopped into the woman’s truck, a total stranger, and drove her girls and the truck back from whence they came. The girls directed me to where they had been watching the cross-country event and I parked the truck carefully. I got out and started walking aimlessly, having no idea which way I should be heading or how I would ever find my friend. When I leapt out of his car to chase the horse, I left behind my coat, my purse and of course, my cell phone.
A vet pulled up and offered me a ride. I gratefully climbed in and asked him to bring me to the main spectator area figuring that would be my best shot. “Would you like me to call him for you?” he asked. I laughed. “I don’t know his number. It’s only our second date.” As a matter of fact, I don’t think I actually know anyone’s number any more! He dropped me by the main jumping ring and I stood there, feeling cold now, my eyes watering from the heavy wind. I wondered what my next move should be. My eyes scanned the crowd but this new man and his car were nowhere to be found. I looked down at my wrist – my Apple watch! I could call him after all! Nope. No phone signal. I tried again and again – nothing. I was able to text my location, but clearly he didn’t see it. He was on a search of his own and had called me only to be crestfallen when he heard my phone ringing in my purse on his car floor.
Eventually, he had the show officials page me over the loudspeaker and we were reunited, hugging and laughing after our escapade. What the hell happened to our lovely, civilized picnic?! We decided we had had enough horses for the day and a bottle of wine (or two) was in order.
We headed for the winery and gratefully sat by a beautiful lake watching the ducks swim while we enjoyed our picnic and a velvety, rich Cabernet. I ripped a piece of baguette off, slathered some goat cheese and a dollop of fig jam on the crusty morsel and began to feel my adrenaline dissipate. “A hell of a second date, wouldn’t you say?” I smiled. “What’s going to happen on the third?” I can hardly wait to see.