A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Home From Holland

Dec 13, 2013 - 12:39 AM
Wheatley is home in one piece, in spite of major travel drama. Photo by Belinda Nairn.

My mom’s fantastic new horse, Wheatley, landed from Holland on Wednesday. If you don’t know how importing horses from Europe works, they all spend two-or-so days in quarantine, and then are released completely (if they’re geldings, which Wheatley is), or moved onto CEM quarantine (for mares and stallions). Wheatley’s blood work was processed a little more slowly, with the inclement weather in the Midwest, but he was finally bust loose midday Saturday, and the haulers called to tell me I’d see them at midnight.

This would be a pretty boring story, had things gone to plan. But you know life with horses—things rarely go to plan, and if they can go spectacularly wrong, they will.

First, it was the late phone call. I was out with some friends, who were valiantly keeping me awake until the wee hours—I’m NOT a midnight person. The haulers told me that they’d call me when they were an hour away, and when 11 came and went, and then 11:15, and then 11:30, I started to get that something’s-not-right feeling. 

And sure enough, about 11:45, I got the call. The trailer had a catastrophic blowout. It took out four cars. It damaged a crucial part of the steering. They’re on the side of 95, just a bit south of Baltimore. The tow truck is coming. No haulers in the area are answering their phones. And, miraculously, both horse and driver are fine.

Let’s back up a little further. This is Saturday night. If you followed U.S. news last week, you’d know that Winter Storm Cleon (apparently we name them now, and we name them the most stupid things we can think of) had beaten the crap out of the middle of the country and was heading east, due to land on the D.C. Metro area on… Sunday morning, between 7 and 9. 

As such, I’d sent my staff home in the truck that normally lives at the farm with us, as it has four-wheel drive, and my girls’ cars do not. And this means that I’d broken one of my big rules: Always have a tow vehicle fueled and ready to go, and parked at the farm.

This is where the miracles started.

I was out with the Morningside team, and Connor said, without a hint of hesitation, “No problem, take mine.” (Thank you, thank you, thank you!) We hook his truck up—which, since Connor obeys The Rules, IS fueled up and ready to go—to my trailer, I make a cup of coffee, and I hit the road. It is now 12:15 a.m.

I make my way up to Jessup, Md., which is near the Baltimore airport, an hour and a half from home. (Note: if you have to drive I-95 around D.C. and Baltimore, 1 a.m. is a really good time to do it.) I find the tow yard where they’ve hauled the horse van to, and I can’t believe how much damage one blowout has done. It looks like a very small bomb went off under the passenger side. It is very dark and very, very cold. 

And Wheatley, to his great credit, is eating hay, with his blanket in a bag at his feet—apparently it would have been too much trouble to keep the guy from freezing his butt off in 20-degree weather in the middle of the night post-trailer accident. And to his ongoing great credit, he marches right off the van and right into my trailer, in the dark, in a parking lot in Baltimore, at 2 a.m. 

Ladies and gents, this is an amazing animal. (And also why you really should make sure your horse will load and unload without drama. Hoorah for his previous owner!)

The trip home is uneventful—we pass lots of VDOTers, getting ready for the storm. The road is empty of all but the craziest people, which means we pass some spectacular accidents including an INCREDIBLE car fire, but we make it back to Morningside a little before 4 a.m., when Wheatley cheerfully unloads, marches into his stall, gets a nice warm blanket put on, and looks at me and says, clear as day, “America gets better than this, right?” Yes, honey. Yes it does.

I go home and get a few hours’ sleep, and one of our heroic and brilliant veterinarians comes out and gives Wheatley a clean bill of health. How he came through such an ordeal without so much as a hair out of place is fantastic, but he did. And Winter Storm Cleon was really icky, so we’re really glad that all made it safely home before it started.

So, the moral of the story? Always have a truck on hand. Always have a friend on hand, just in case. Make sure your horses will get on the trailer. Coffee is your friend. And expect the unexpected.

(And welcome to the U.S., Wheatley!)



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