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All Barn Creatures, Great and Small

By Cindy Hale

Monday, October 3, 2011

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Gabby the Goat

Gabby not only fit in with our horses, but she found a way into our hearts, too.

There’s something incomplete about a barn that houses only horses. Like a kitchen table without salt and pepper shakers or truck without a “Cowgirl Up” sticker on its rear window, a barn feels unfinished until a few assorted creatures take up residence alongside the horses. Often it’s a dog or cat that takes on the role of mascot. But it can also be a different sort of critter, maybe something not quite so equine. My friend Karole has a pair of potbellied pigs that waddle in and out of the horse corrals. As for my family, we had a pygmy goat named Gabby.

We never intended to get a goat until one of our Trakehner broodmares died a few hours after foaling. Stuck with an orphan bottle baby, our vet suggested we buy a pygmy goat to keep the little filly company. As luck would have it, a woman just a few blocks away raised pygmy goats and she happened to have a little mouse-colored female that was available. We picked her up immediately and named her “Gabby” because she was a gabby little loudmouth.

Gabby bonded with the warmblood filly just as our vet predicted. They ate, slept and played together. When it came time for the keuring, where European officials from the warmblood registry inspect the foals to determine which ones are worthy of being branded and placed in the studbook, Gabby came along for the ride. In fact, she was loaded into the horse trailer right next to the filly. When my mom and sister got to the keuring, both filly and goat were unloaded and brought into the inspection ring. As the filly trotted around the ring, displaying her movement and conformation, Gabby performed her own little pointy-toed goat dance. It was such a cute sight that the normally stoic jury exclaimed in broken German, “The goat gets high marks for its trot!”

Over the years Gabby became a celebrity at my family’s small ranch. Long since independent of the filly—now a big, mature mare—Gabby was the center of attention at holiday parties and get-togethers. Since her goat pen was just over the fence from my parents’ patio, she’d gambol up her little ramp, position herself on her sundeck, and peer over the fence and stare at the guests. Her striped face would glow with the rainbow hues of the row of twinkling lights that decorated the fence and she’d turn her head just so, with her ears pricked forward, demanding attention. And she’d get it: a carrot from the veggie tray, an ear of corn on the cob or an oatmeal cookie from the dessert table. At Christmas it became a tradition to bring Gabby inside and take her photo next to the tree. These indoor excursions must’ve proven pleasant, because she’d frequently invite herself inside.

“Who’s knocking?” a house guest would ask, alarmed at the persistent rapping sound.

“Oh, that’s just Gabby butting her head against the door,” we’d reply nonchalantly. “She just wants inside.”

When that wiry-haired little goat came into our lives none of us could have foreseen how much joy she would bring with her. And so, when we had to have her put down recently due to continually declining health, it was a sad day for our entire family. We got cards of condolences from friends and relatives who’d met our bearded ambassador; many of them recounting her air of self-importance and unabashed determination to sample whatever tasty morsel was set atop a party platter. To be sure, Gabby was one of most memorable souls to have lived at our barn.

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Reader Comments

Keisha    Greencastle, PA

10/10/2011 11:26:57 AM

My dog lives in the barn beside the horse. At first Spry was terrified of Teenya but now doesn't pay any attention to her. Teenya runs all around Spry. This morning Teenya slipped in the stall behind me while Spry was in there and started trotting around. I thought Spry would flip out and try to kick the dog but she just ignored her. Spry also enjoys seeing the cats in the back yard when we're out riding. The cats are supposed to stay in the barn but are to scared of the dog so they stay up by the house.

Emmylou    Aberdeen, ID

10/5/2011 7:15:50 PM

My family has two little pigmy goats that love keeping our horses company. We actually got them so that I could practice my goat tying, but they became really good companions for the horses. Sorry hear about the loss.

buttercup    beavis' town, CA

10/4/2011 1:59:18 PM

I'm so sorry. We have goats without the horses and I know how it is to lose one of those funny,sweet, obstinate babies.
Even when it's a stinky buck.

Kaitlynn    Queen Creek, AZ

10/3/2011 2:19:21 PM

My cowhorse trainer once got a big fat goose from a client. the idea was the goose was supposed to be eaten for Christmas dinner. Of course Gary couldn't kill the goose because it turned out to be a great pet. The big joke was that this tough old cowboy couldn't bring himself to eat a fat, juicy goose that was right in front of him.

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