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Wow, wow, Wow.
We walk down into the pasture, and I focus on just being there, on walking, on navigating the divots and the poop and the mud, on seeing who is where. Green grass, green trees, blue sky, dark brown earth. Hawks and turkey vultures wheeling. Horses scattered, watching and not watching.
I sit on the grass, grounding.
I walk toward a grazing horse. Dark brown, darker mane and tail. Not too close, at first. He lets me approach, and we check each other out. I move closer, and he sniffs me, like phew, what is that smell? Sunscreen, I’m afraid. Bad idea on my part. I don’t smell like the pasture. I don’t even smell like myself. But we both stay. He isn’t crazy about being touched, but ultimately he lets me scratch his ears and gently touch the side of his face, his neck.
We stand for a few minutes, and I hear a “shbbbbbb” behind him. Another horse comes along and interrupts, nosing the first horse out of the way. Dappled white and red, we introduce ourselves. It’s my turn, he says, and I oblige, letting him smell my stinky hand, then stroking him, admiring the red and white gingham check of his neck. Satisfied, he moves off and takes his friend with him.
Interesting. Not entirely satisfying, but cool. A good start.
I look around, absorbed. Absorbing. Blue sky. Green grass. Turkey vultures. Horses. People. Sweet smells. A red-tailed hawk. Red-winged blackbirds.
I walk, moving up the pasture. Maybe I’ll go up the hill and see what happens. I tear up some grass and rub it all over my hands, trying to wipe out some of the smell of sunscreen.
I walk along, and hear a red-winged blackbird’s reedy voice behind me say, “Over here.”
I didn’t really hear that.
Yes, I did.
I turn and look to my left, back toward the bird.
There is a great brown horse, dark brown mane, grazing. Studiously ignoring me, but he knows I’m here. Did he call me? I turn and walk toward him.
He grazes toward me. Three feet away. Sweet green clover luscious treat. I stop and tear some up, hold it out to him, and he delicately eats it from my hand. Another handful, another delicate nibble.
We stand close. He breathes me in, trying to get to know me. I blow down gently, letting him smell my breath. Smell me. Smell my essence. Don’t be confused; pay no attention to the sunscreen, I breathe. He breathes me in, and blows back, introducing himself.
We stand, breathing in rhythm.
We look at each other. We look around, standing. I look up at the sky, the vultures, the hawk, down at the trees, the sweet grass. It is a good day, I think. It is good to be here.
I look at him, he looks at me. Big brown eye. Who are you? I am Here. I touch his face, his soft nose. Soft ears. Big brown eye. I feel energy rise through my roots, warm, alive. I nudge him with my head, he meets me. I lean into him with my shoulder, he leans back into me.
We shift, he goes back to grazing. I sit on the wet grass, tear up a handful to feed him. He takes it from me.
I am standing again, near him. He lifts his right hoof and rubs his left foreleg. I lean down and scratch that spot for him. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.
Then he shifts, turns, and settles down on the grass next to me. Soft green grass. Warm sun on his back.
I lie down too.
I feel a strong urge to lean up against him, to snuggle. But maybe what he really wants is a good roll. So I stretch out on my side, at his head, up on one elbow, my head on my hand.
Hnff, he says.
Mm hmm, I reply.
Come next to me, he says.
You might roll over on me, I reply.
Hnff, he says.
Mm hmm, I reply.
It’s good, he says.
Mm hmm, I reply.
How long are we like that? I don’t know.
Then we are up. It’s time to go. I give him a nudge to say thank you, and he gives me a shove with his head as he whirls away. Go on now.
Is it Go away, I’m tired of you? Is it That was nice, we’re done now? Is it Your people are waiting for you?
I turn around toward the voice I hear behind me in the distance, and they are waiting for me, in a group in the shade at the edge of the pasture.
We talk. Our human leaders explain that what they just watched was extraordinary. Can I, will I, talk about it? I am willing, but I have trouble coming up with words. We connected. He let me hang out with him. It was a turn-on. That sounds so shallow, so lame. It doesn’t really describe it. At. All.
Deep and unfathomable as the cosmos
Small hazel eyes
Maybe also as deep and unfathomable as the cosmos
We saw each other
We talk, and the others share their experiences. We hear the stories of the horses, and begin to see that we are attracted to each other for reasons. Like attracts like. Prince, my partner, was a racehorse who had a long-term jockey who loved him. His jockey took Prince with him when he retired and started an equine program for handicapped kids. But Prince was just a little too… animated. So he came here.
Interesting… did we connect because we are both “animated?” Or because we are opposites? I don’t know. I don’t know him well enough to say. I don’t know myself well enough to say.
I’m still so absorbed in my experience that I have trouble concentrating on the others’ stories. I only get bits and pieces.
As we talk, horses come up to our group, looking for attention, wanting to join our herd. Often a horse will appear as someone is speaking, as if attracted by that voice. They come close, and we are warned, “Watch your feet.”
A big horse walks right through our group and pauses as he passes me, shifting a little toward me. I’m curious, still wide open, and I don’t move fast enough – he steps on my right foot. I try to pull it out but he steps down harder and I can’t get it out. “OW!!!” I yell, and push him away with all my might.
He is gone. Nobody moves. Our lead humans look at me, and I feel Very Stupid. So much for being Horse Whisperer Of The Day.
“Is anything broken?” one asks.
“I don’t think so.”
“Can you move your toes?” the other asks.
I try. “Yes.”
“It’s going to be sore,” one says.
“It already stings,” I say.
Oh shit, I think.
We keep talking, and my foot hurts. We keep talking, and I feel my boot getting tight. Oh shit. We keep talking, and my foot starts to throb. Now I really can’t concentrate. I picture myself having to get x-rays, and wearing a very different kind of boot. I start to get light-headed, and sit down on the grass as unobtrusively as possible. I put my foot out in front of me, slightly uphill. Ahh, that feels better. The person next to me sits down as well. We keep talking. I try to concentrate and look casual.
More horses come along, curious. I don’t really want to get up. I pull up my knees and wrap my arms around my legs, leaving nothing sticking out to get stepped on. Spirit the Dog appears next to me and pokes his head through my arm and snuggles in next to me so my arm is around him too, as if to say, Don’t be afraid, I’m right here. Thank you, I say. This happens several times more, and he appears each time to protect me, showering me with kisses.
We wrap up our conversation, and it’s time to head back to the barn, a quarter of a mile away. I’m not looking forward to that walk. I look at our lead human. “I’m going to need someone to lean on,” I tell her.
“Did anyone hear Susan’s request?” she asks. No. I have to say it again. Our other lead human volunteers. We head off toward the barn. “We’re just dancing,” he says, “and you get to lead.” That’s good, I think, I suck at following when I dance.
We get a lot of talking done in that quarter mile. My husband’s death. My voice. His near-death experiences. His Mission.
There is a chair and a bag of ice waiting for me. People scurry around getting me water, ibuprofen, something to eat with the ibuprofen. I wonder if I look as pale as I feel. I certainly feel very sheepish, and I do not want to be the center of attention, but I need the help. I try to be as gracious as possible.
Then someone thanks me for a great experience. What? And tells me I’m brave. No, I’m not, really. Just present.
We get my boot off without having to cut it off, and with no screams. We ice my foot, and he massages it, testing the edges of pain. It’s better than I expect. My car mate appears with a sandal for me to wear; it’s one size too large, but so is my foot, so that works. Things quiet down and people head home, and those of us who are left (and all the dogs) move outside to eat lunch in the breezy shade of the barn.
After lunch and conversation, I limp to the car to test my foot and see if I can press on the pedals. I can, and I’m able to walk. Carefully. My foot is stiff and sore, but there is no Pain. I tease my car mate that she engineered the whole thing so she could drive the Corvette home, but no such luck.
Big brown eye.
I tell myself this is actually the universe’s way of keeping me humble – giving me a swollen foot to keep me from getting a swollen head. “Don’t get cocky, Ponyboy,” pops into my head from a novel I read in junior high, and I have to laugh.
Big brown eye.
Hugs all around, with an open invitation to return, and we part.
What just happened? I won’t know for a while.
But I have a feeling this is just the beginning.
Big brown eye.
Want to learn more about The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership? Click Here.