New horse in the pasture.

I first met the newest member of the pasture sometime in late February. She was young and seemed frantic to find her place in the herd.

Herd politics were in full swing and this little filly was being run around the pasture until she was worn out. She’d sidle up to one group, only to be chased away. Then she’d try another group with the same result.

It reminded me of the classic children’s book, Are You My Mother? In this book a baby bird can’t find his mother and approaches the cow, the horse, the frog, the cat etc. with the title question. He was trying to find where he belonged, just as this little filly was.

I know it’s part of learning to be a horse, but it was hard to watch. My mothering instincts were clanging like a church bell.

We didn’t know her name, so we dubbed her Baby, though lately Rick has taken to calling her Nicoletta Nickerbean. The reason will soon become clear.

Turns out she’s a yearling. Only one year on the planet. She seemed young to be put in the pasture to fend for herself, especially since it was winter and everyone was into power struggles over the hay.

After being chased for a day or so, Baby found the geriatric herd – that would be the one comprised of Bud, Pepper, Red, Amigo, Macie and Hanger. Not everyone here qualifies as geriatric, but they seem quite content to live in this little band. Most of the time, it’s a kinder, gentler place to hang out. Maybe they’re the pacifists of the pasture. Baby seems to fit in nicely.

She’s the first yearling I’ve had the privilege to know, and I really love the experience – and her. Baby is a blank sheet of paper. Everything is new and she reacts with curiosity and enthusiasm, with ears alert, and face open. She’s full of energy and a bit gangly, which makes her all the more adorable.

Baby waiting for treats.

She quickly learned that I am the “treat lady.”

It’s true.

While my two old sweeties eat their grain, I dispense treats to the rest of the geriatric herd, usually lined up along the fence waiting. This has become part of the daily routine for them and me.

Baby talks to me.

She nickers. It’s as if she’s saying, “Oh, there you are. Do you have a treat for me?”

A nicker is a vibrating, throaty sound that a horse makes with her mouth closed. It is usually a greeting. It is one of the sweetest sounds I’ve heard.

Baby seems to know that when she nickers at me, she gets another treat. Like I said, I’m a sucker for nickering. It’s a form of behavior modification. She nickers and I reward her with a treat.

The only thing I don’t know for sure is who is modifying whose behavior?

In truth, she’s trained me well!

Here’s how it goes: She sees me, runs toward me with that adorable throaty sound that ends with an upward inflection – kind of a little squeal. And I turn into a puddle of goo, and dig out another treat.

My justification is simple. A fifty-pound bag of treats costs less than two glasses of wine at a restaurant.

Between you and me, doling out the treats is often more pleasurable and I don’t end up with that red-wine-headache the next day.