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March 22, 2013

This horse is master of his domain

The Daily Star

---- — If you drive by my house, there’s an old Appaloosa horse that stands up on the hill overlooking his domain.

Sure he has a place to get in out of the weather, but unless the bugs are bad in the heat of the summer, he prefers to stand up there and protect his kingdom no matter how bad the weather. Yes, you read it right — protect!

When it was legal to feed deer, I’d put a half pail of crimped corn out each evening for seven or eight regular visitors when I fed the horse. As soon as the Oso finished his grain, he’d stand at the corner of the fence and wait for the deer to come down over the hill. When they approached, he’d run and chase them, continuing the game.

The deer didn’t seem to mind. They’d split up, some running to the left while others ran to the right. After a while, all of the deer made it to the piles of corn and everyone was happy.

I found it rather odd that the deer never tolerated me. If I even went out on the deck while they were feeding, they’d run off and hide. Many people used to have deer come right up to them and eat out of their pail.

I had an old friend in the Adirondacks who used to feed deer at his camp right after hunting season was over. He’d go out on his porch and ring a bell, calling the deer out of the brush. Large-antlered bucks that had been hunted all season would come in and eat apples right from his hand. He even had a big doe that would come up on the porch and stick its head in the front door.

When I first moved to Wells in the late 1960s, a lady named Ester Vine was known for feeding the deer. She and her husband had fed them for generations. The does would bring their youngsters to the Vines and when they grew up, they did the same. She had shed antlers from bucks — that she knew by name — that she picked up in her yard year after year.

Anyway, back to the old, protective horse.

One day, a cock pheasant that had been released on the hill came into the pasture and started picking at the remnants of the horse’s dinner that he scattered. Oso ran at him with his mouth wide open and chased that colorful, long-tailed bird right up over the hill and out of his pasture.

For some reason, that old horse has mellowed. I went out to feed him this morning and a crow was sitting on his grain bucket waiting for something to eat. That 33-year-old horse just stood at the hay bail and ate, totally unconcerned with the whole situation.

The crow flew off cawing to its friends and the horse came over to eat when I put a scoop of feed in its pail. By the time I got back to the house, four crows were back picking the grain that he dropped.

Gosh, the crows are almost as brazen as the pigeons.

It’s funny to watch that old nag. If I’m out in the yard and don’t feed him when he thinks it’s time, he’ll pick up his bucket and throw it out in the yard at me. He’s done that a lot lately. He has trouble each year dealing with daylight savings time.

But life just goes on and there he stands up on his hill, with his butt to the wind and not another care in the world. That’s his home and he’s proud of it.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at