Recovery, Hudson, and The Supermodel

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…


30 thoughts on “Recovery, Hudson, and The Supermodel

  1. She sounds like a very special mare. I think she really cares about you as much as you care about her. Mares don’t usually give their affections so easily, I’m sure you’ve earned it.

    My heart horse Erik was the same way with me. He would nicker to me when I walked in the barn and always play with my hair. Give horse hugs and although I was a novice rider and he was 17.2 hands of pure spook he always tried to listen and take care of both of us. My trainer once asked me “why will he do that for you and not me?” He used to ride him too. I said “because he loves me and not you.” Whenever I left the barn I would ask him for a kiss and he would lift his nose to me and kiss me goodbye. I still miss him.

  2. What a wonderful story and an empathic mare. My mare had a not so great polo pony past and when I first owned her she was stand-offish to say the least. Now, she nickers when she sees me and LOVES to snuffle my hair before and after a ride. We might have had our difficult moments, but she checked me out from head to toe and was incredibly gentle the first few rides after I got my gallbladder out last summer.

    1. Thank you for the links! I went and read. And read. I love your description : sometimes blogs are “quiet” after awhile, or temporarily. It’s wonderful you’ve had such a good connection experience!

  3. Thank you for a wonderful experience! I get it. I have a 16 year old paint gelding that weights 1400 lbs! He was “made” for me out of my Mom’s mare. I would brush her and talk to my baby before he was born and was his mid-wife when he was born. I barrel race him, carry the American flag at our local Pro Rodeo, and do just about everything in between with him. He can get himself worked up and excited but by me just laying a hand on him and talk to him he stops and will just stand and listen. My husband is jealous of the connection that I share with my boy.

    1. That is so beautiful..what a wonderful connection you have. I think you hit on a whole other topic: connection jealousy. It’s hard to explain to someone who is not horsey, or who hasn’t had that kind of connection, that’s it is not competitive, and doesn’t detract from the love you feel for others. Most of the time, it adds to it!

  4. This gave me goose bumps! I have to tell you, you have such a beautiful way of writing, not just the words you use but the cadence or rhythm or whatever you call it really adds to the emotion behind your words. I always feel like I’m there. I’m so happy you’re writing again.

    1. I’m glad to hear it feels like you’re there, that’s always how I hope it comes across! I’m still a bit dumbfounded this mare was so happy to see me. I wonder if I’m making it up. There is more than one barn on the property, and I have to drive by her barn on the way to trainers barn. Yesterday, I found a lost shoe, knew whose it was, and went to set it on the table near the mare’s stall. She called out to me, was weaving and tossing her head…until I said hello. She was perfectlly content to have me walk away, as long as I remembered to greet her. So unusual!

  5. Recently I took a few riding lessons on a horse who had done great things in his younger years with his rider (think Olympics). I lead him into the indoor ring a few weeks ago, and his rider was riding another horse. The horse stopped and watched his rider riding another horse with such *devotion* and *interest* it made my heart just melt. The feeling that he just loved her came off of him like a visible wave. It was very touching, and nothing I have ever seen before, in 40 years of being around horses.

  6. Wow. I once had a mare “save” me from an aggressive horse. He was going after me and she drove him off then kept him away from me while I got to safety. She belonged to a fellow boarder.I had very little contact with her before that. It was weird. She was an off track thoroughbred who couldn’t be ridden because she had kissing spine. She was a bit flaky most of the time but that day she saved my butt!

    1. Thanks for the link! So interesting. it’s wonderful you had a mare like this…a once in a lifetime experience. Hudson loves me just as much…but you wouldn’t catch him showing it. 😉

    1. I know, right? I am so lucky to have her in my life. I’m lucky to be part of the lives of so many very special horses. Sadly, I’m not what *she* needs. She needs a higher riding skill level than I have, is falling in love with the show ring (I hate it) and needs to live in that level of exposure. So I will continue to give her everything I can, and trust the right person for her will fall hard in love. Her owners are awesome, she won’t go to just any home. And she loves them. (I just didn’t know she cared about me.) She’s one of a kind in so many ways…

      1. That makes sense. I wasn’t sure if I should post this or not but when my horse was trapped in the swamp and I was trying desperately to get his hind leg unstuck I was standing right between his legs at his belly. His hind leg was inches from my head and he would only flail when I stepped back. When I came back he would stop and hold it away. I will never forget that or that was able to get up with a broken leg because I asked him to.

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