The March 2008 issue of Horse & Rider magazine offers horsewoman Abby Kogler's first-hand account of San Diego's wildfires. H&R's consulting editor, Sue M. Copeland, boards her horse, Drummer, with Abby. The big tobiano Paint gelding, well-known to H&R readers, takes most things in stride, and a fire evacuation and unfamiliar scenery were no exceptions. Here, Abby writes about how Drummer took a ghostly setting (yawn) in stride.
Every year the Del Mar Fairgrounds hosts a Halloween "fun fest" called the "Scream Zone." This year, the fire evacuation meant horses were stalled in the Scream Zone compound. Imagine unloading and leading horses past "bodies" hanging from trees, "monsters" crouching to attack, through the Haunted Abyss and past Nuclear Holocaust sites. Add 70 mph winds and blinding smoke, then surround the entire compound with 10-foot high billowing black plastic, and it sounds like a setting guaranteed to spook any horse.
More than one horse came willingly through the gate, but quickly left again, handler in tow, as the plastic flapped and snapped in the howling winds. Most were troopers, or perhaps they were so unnerved they were just happy to have some authoritative to follow.
I led many horses off trailers and vans. And, even though I was a stranger, they all followed me trustingly and obediently. Still, I was glad when I saw my own horses and Sue's horse, Drummer, and I was proud of how well they behaved in all the commotion. My 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Wonder, did a double take at a body hanging out of a haunted hearse (can you blame him?), but other than that they were great. I led Drummer and my 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, Zach, off the van together, and those two pros followed me like they walked through flapping plastic gauntlets and hanging bodies every day.
When we knew we were safe and were just waiting to be allowed to go home, we had fun with the various Scream Zone effects. Drummer particularly liked Swamp Thing but seemed disappointed that it was inedible. They liked walking through the Haunted Abyss, sniffed all the Industrial Waste Holocaust containers, stepped tidily among the "bodies" at the Haunted Car Accident Scene, and at one point, Zach was seen communing with the wraiths in the Haunted Cemetery.