Ella hasn't had a day off since the middle of last week, what with our trip to Michael's, and since it's going to be rainy and foul over the weekend I decided to let her take today. So she went out first thing in the morning, about 6:45, in one of our nice big paddocks to the right of my indoor, where I can keep an eye on her. I got on Fender about the same time, working him out in our front fields (he was great), and then did the same with Midge (he was great too), before starting teaching at about 8:30.
When I came to the indoor to start that first lesson, I noticed that Ella was pacing the fenceline by the gate. This is not unusual for Ella - something will upset or startle her, and she'll flee to the gate, pace a bit, and then settle down and go back to putting her head down in the grass. So I started the lesson. No big deal.
Except it is a big deal. Whatever has rattled Ella's cage is still doing it, because she's trotting at the gate now, flinging her head, and keeps looking back over her shoulder.
We're finishing up a much-needed minor construction project on the other side of the ring, and I'm sure that's what's upset her. And I'm thinking of going out there and moving her to a different paddock, one where she can't see the construction, when I see him: the big fat fox making his leisurely way through Ella's field.
He's a big one, sleek and shiny, but I immediately think RABIES, and leap to the rescue, armed with… a mason jar with a pen in it, to rattle at the thing. (That'll save us both, Ranger Rick.) He's actually quite beautiful - he and Ella are the same color - and while he's a pretty giant fox, he's still a fox; Ella is massive compared to the little pipsqueak, and none of the other horses have even raised an eyebrow at him.
My big scary weapon does do the trick - Mr. Fox gets one look at me and heads for the hills, and we don't see him again. But while Ella settles down, she doesn't graze more than 10 yards away from the gate the rest of the day, and she keeps peeking over her shoulder, just to be sure.