Beauties in the Backyard

We have four beauties in our backyard. Their names are Chadesea, Tanqueray, Peppy, and Guapo. They weigh about 5,000 lbs. collectively and eat 420 lbs. of food a week. They are the first horses I’ve ever spent any length of time with, and . . . I totally get the horse thing now. Totally. It has just been about two weeks but already I am learning some very cool things by analogy. Our neighbors got these horses suddenly and needed a place to keep them. We have a pasture on the land, and by the good graces of our landlords, they were able to come stay with us. The horses, I mean, not the neighbors. “What do I do to bond with horses?” I wondered. It was hilarious – I hadn’t a clue. One of the mares, Chadesea, is a four-year-old Arabian. I started just going out and hanging out with her. I was petting her and talking to her and just plain being with her—just standing there, really. I discovered by watching them that horses like to hang out. They stand together and are just with each other, just to be close. It’s pretty cool. People should try it. So, we are having a great time and just enjoying doing nothing, and then the hay runs out. One day it was low, then the next day it was gone, and it would be another day before the new bale came. We took out apples, carrots, and cherries to tide everyone over, but when you’re used to eating 15 lbs. a day . . . well, the snacks were about 14.25 lbs. too little. Chadesea was foraging for grass on the already worn-down pasture, and I walked up to pet her like I usually do, and she nipped me in the thigh. Ouch! I totally did not see it coming. I didn’t know what to do. It HURT! I was stunned. All of our great bonding . . . where had it gone? What did this mean? Sandy, her owner, said that the nip was meant to check: “are you something edible?” But the sense I got, being the recipient of the message, was “leave me alone! I’m trying to eat!” I was crestfallen. I waited for a couple of days because I just didn’t feel I could go back out there until the horses were fed. Well, I mean, I waited to go into the pen. We brought them treats and stood outside the fence to hold off the onslaught, and then the hay came. OMG, try moving a 1,600-lb. bale of hay with a truck and some utility straps, with four hungry horses trying to bite it! Anyway, finally, the horses are eating. And eating, and eating, and eating. You know, they say that the best way is to leave the hay out, and that the horses will self-regulate . . . but I ain’t seen any self-regulation going on out there. I’ve just seen constant eating, even at 10 pm. Soon things balanced out again. I didn’t know what to expect of Chadesea, now that she was satiated. I tiptoed into the pen giving off “help-don’t-nip-me” vibes. And, early in the afternoon of the first fed day, she sauntered over to me for petting to resume. Her old personality was back: cool, calm, and collected. If you have never petted a horse, or never cared to for that matter, you may not understand what such a reunion can mean. Horses have this amazing emotional bonding capacity that really is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s almost like they communicate stories to you, or whole depths of emotion, with this deep sense of a higher intelligence. They’re not about to replace dolphins or anything, but still. They emanate a peaceful connectedness that just feels like bliss. I touched her mane tentatively. But really, she was cool. She was fed and relaxed and back to herself. I wasn’t too sure about it, because I really didn’t know what kind of horse I was dealing with, but some time has passed now, and yep, this is her. Through it all, I learned something about interaction that was very helpful to me. I pretty much think there are two types of relationships in this world. The first is where you’re not a match, and it isn’t a good fit. Those relationships you’re better off not having; I’ve been noticing lately that they’ve been falling off the plate. The second is where you are a match, and the fit is good—the relationship is basically right for you, in other words. But even in those right relationships, sometimes the other can nip. They might just be in a bad mood or be hungry or inconsiderate. They might be imperfect—and they nip you, and it hurts! It’s so easy to get affronted and think “I deserve better. I shouldn’t be treated like that—I won’t put up with it!” It’s so easy to back off or not know what to do. But, like with everything, these circumstances deserve a second chance. I learned with Chadesea that she doesn’t have it out for me; she doesn’t even have a judgment capacity, for all I know. She pretty much doesn’t know me from Adam, since it’s only been a couple of weeks. She was just hungry! Get away! And that is really all there was to it. It is the same thing with people, I realized. Sometimes, we are just grumpy. We are hungry or hurt or irritated, and we take it out on those around us, and we don’t really mean it. Well, we mean it in the moment, but it isn’t monumentous. It’s just us being imperfect. It is how we are. Horses don’t really care, because . . . whatever. They don’t grow up in the school of “be-nice-if-you-want-people-to-like-you.” They just tell it like it is. People, on the other hand, have all kinds of guilt associated with pretty much everything, because it’s totally socially unacceptable to nip someone if you are crabby. Well, don’t be coming up to me and biting me or anything. But this is just my way of saying, if you have an off day, I understand. And I hope you understand for me.