I started back at the training barn last week.
It feels like I’ve been gone a month, not two weeks. I’m sure it did to Trainer also. She had back to back class A shows, minus a helper, while I twiddled my thumbs in a darkened room, and strong-armed my thinking away from butter cream frosting. (My brain came up with an interesting combo. Horses made of Frosting. Nice.)
Bella took care of Hudson for me while I alternated between whining and imagining horses made of sugar. Hudson probably didn’t notice I was gone. As far as he’s concerned, Bella belongs to him. As long as one of us shows up, he’s good.
First day I see Hudson, the conversation goes like this:
Hudson: FOOD. Finally. I’m starving.
Jane: Nice to see you too. Did you even notice I was gone?
Hudson: What? Why is the bucket still outside the fence?
This makes me happy. Thank God for Bella. He feels so cared for and secure it didn’t register that I was gone. Friends like Bella are GOLD. I’m testing my stamina (for upcoming return to training barn) by currying the crap out of him. Note to self: it’s Hair Season. No lip gloss. Hairy lips. Blech.
Hudson’s one concession to noticing I’m back: he swings his butt toward me and backs steadily in my direction, angling his hip just so. While this would be cause to beat the crap out of other horses, I know what Hudson is doing:
I need you to rub my butt. No no. Not there. Jane! Just stand still while I back into your hand. Stick your elbow in…harder…no softer…no no…you missed it….yeah…yeah..right about….ahhhhhhhhhhh.
His eyes glaze, he stops chewing, and his ears soften and flop sideways. Hudson can always count on me for a butt rub. But as far as he’s concerned, he’s pretty sure he saw me yesterday.
That’s okay. I have enough “I missed you” for both of us.
At the training barn, it’s the same. In fact, I have to remind a few horses they DO know me. I go along, from horse to horse, doing what needs to be done. Don’t think much about it, and neither do they.
There is a horse at the training barn I call The Super Model. She is tall, has beautiful bones, long legs, amazing face, body, and her coloring….I don’t even know what it’s called, officially. In the summer her coat is a chocolatey color. Her mane and tail are flaxen with streaks of white. She is beyond stunning. I first met her when she came in off the halter circuit to begin her under saddle training.
For reasons I do not understand, I love this mare. It’s not about how she looks. I don’t want to ride her (frankly, I don’t have what it takes to ride her). I don’t want to buy her and take her home. I just…love her. I want to know how she is, check her, “listen” to her feelings.
It’s going to kill me when she is sold.
I have that feeling frequently at the training barn. So I assume this is a one-sided, Jane has an attachment and is probably over-dramatic thing.
When it comes time to go get The Super Model for her workout, I’m not thinking about much of anything. My expectations are low. I’ll say hello, listen, and off we’ll go to the grooming bay, while she’s thinking of other things.
It doesn’t happen like that. I have her halter in one hand, and move to go in her stall. She’s come up and hung her head over the door, looking at me with surprise and…happiness? Huh. She does that quiet, breathy, horse murmur. She leans against the door. It’s so clear she wants to take me in that I stop, and let her greet me the way she wants. Very gentle muzzle touches and inhaling of scent. She inhales deeply close to my nose….and waits. Does it again. Waits.
Oh whoops. Bad manners on my part. I put my nose close to her muzzle and inhale the sweet scent of alfalfa breath, and softly blow my breath back at her: it’s me...I missed you too.
I didn’t know the connected feeling was mutual.
I have to ask her to back up, so I can go in the stall. She does immediately, with a big question mark over her head.
Is this far enough? Did I do it right? Can I say hello again?
I’m flummoxed. I actually say out loud, “Sure…?”
She takes a step forward and inhales nearly every inch of my body. Her muzzle touches my legs, my hands, my face, my hair, my baseball cap. She reaches around behind me and touches my back and shoulders, my hip and behind my knee.
You’re BACK. I missed you. I missed you! I’m so so happy to see you. What happened? Where were you? You were gone a long time. Ohhhhh…just say hello some more…please?
I feel like crying. I’m so touched by her sweetness. She likes softness, so I whisper my hello back to her. Her muzzle gently inhales and exhales, touching me here and there. She comes back to my hat often. Funny that the hat interests her.
I take her down, groom her up, and it turns out she is getting a “recess” workout. She was at the shows, it’s new and difficult for her to be showing under saddle. She’s a hot horse, and anxiety can come out for her as ratcheting up in the high-strung department. Trainer feels mare needs a mental break, and some relaxing joy time. Safe-play exercise.
I’m free lunging her when a client walks up with question. The mare had a blast, and is done with her workout. I ask for a whoa and walk over to the fence to answer the client. A minute later, I feel the mare’s presence behind me, at a respectful distance.
Client laughs, says “how funny!” She motions with her hand, “turn around Jane, you need to see this.”
I turn, and the mare looks at me with a question mark over her head.
Um. Can I come closer, or am I supposed to stay here?
“Oh, she stopped…”, says client. “That’s too bad. She was being so cute!”
I feel a little twilight zone-y about the mare’s level of interest. The question mark is still over the her head.
“It’s okay”, I say to the mare.
Immediately she walks up to me. I turn back to talk to client, and I feel the mare’s warm, sweet breath doing the full inspection again. From my boots all the way up to my baseball cap. I reach back and rub her poll. She lingers on my hat, whuffling intently. She keeps checking me out while client and I talk, but I notice she is coming back to my hat more often. I notice she touched the front of my hat, but her muzzle is hovering just above the back of it. What the heck is so interesting about one side of the back of my hat?
“That’s what she was doing!”, client says.
Client leaves. I rub mare affectionately. She looks at me with a puzzled expression. Moves her muzzle to the back of my hat, and hovers over a spot. She’ll touch all around it, but won’t touch the actual spot she is interested in. Did I touch food and touch my head? Hudson doesn’t get cookies. No left over scent from that. Weird. I shrug it off. Clip the lead on, and begin to walk out. She hesitates. Touches my shoulder with her muzzle, and then back up to the hovering over my hat. Stops. Looks at me. Touches my shoulder, and hovers her muzzle over the spot.
I feel stupid. She has a giant question mark over her head, and all I can think is, “Lassie, did Timmy fall down the well?” What does she want?
Oh. My. God.
It hits me like a brick: this mare is whuffling her sweet breath over the exact spot on which my head hit the pipe. My eyes fill with tears. I reach up and touch it with my fingers, and look at her. “I hit my head here. It doesn’t hurt anymore”, I say.
I add, “And yes, I feel completely nuts telling you this.” I remove my fingers. She very softly and gently lowers her muzzle to rest incredibly lightly on my head. On the spot.
She moves her muzzle to touch my cheek. Then she steps into leading position.
Thank you. I noticed…something. It worried me. I’m happy you’re okay.
I had no idea she cared about me like I cared about her.
It was just one moment. Fleeting, beautiful, connected. I am so touched.
I have never, EVER had anything like this happen with a horse. Have you?
I still feel kinda twilight zone-y about this…I’d love to hear your experiences…