There are so many times when my heart swells with love for our sweet old Appaloosa gelding. Bud is the epitome of gentleness these days.

He’s how I want to be in my old age.

In his younger years he was a force to reckon with – leader of the herd. He was tough, strong and had an air of “no nonsense” about him.

But as most of us do when we get older, Bud has slowed down and mellowed. He knows he’s not the alpha anymore. His world has narrowed somewhat. He spends his days as part of the Herd of Oldsters, content to leave the kicking and snorting, and power games to the younger males.

Over the weekend, when I was out feeding, I noticed that Pepper was up to one of her old games – eating Bud’s food.

I first talked about this last year, and you can catch up with that story here, if you’re so inclined. The condensed version is this: sometimes Pepper decides that Bud’s food is tastier than hers. Ever so cautiously she will sidle closer to him, at first just sniffing the pan. But soon enough she is nose deep in Bud’s grain.

And what touches me so deeply is that he allows her to do this. He’s the perfect gentleman. He simply shifts his position slightly and continues to munch away. There are no fireworks. No shows of dominance. Just pure acceptance.

Perhaps he knows that soon enough he’ll be able to clean up her pan, which of course he always does.

I spend the time trying to push each horse back to his or her respective feed pan. It’s the medicine thing. But honestly, many days it’s a losing battle.

Eating from another’s plate is an extremely intimate act. We don’t do this with strangers, or people we’re just beginning to know. We reserve this action (if we do it at all) for those in our closest circle – lovers, husbands and wives, children, parents, or extremely dear friends.

Think about it.

Among all the people with whom you’ve shared meals, from whose plates would you feel comfortable sneaking a bite or two of food?  I’m guessing it’ s a short list.

Reserved for only the most intimate of relationships.

And that brings me back to Bud and Pepper.

Old friends.

Partners.

A herd of two.

Always.

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