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I have a soft spot in my heart for gentle mares. I think I would be one if I were a horse.
Mama is a gentle girl when it comes to pasture politics. She avoids the troublemakers. She knows to make a wide berth around certain horses. The bigger, stronger horses will push her down the line, and she always complies.
There’s no drama with mama.
She usually stands at the periphery of the Herd of Oldsters gathered at the gate for snacks, looking sweet and oh so hopeful. And each time we toss a hay cube to her, she responds with this expression that seems to say, “For me? You gave me a cube? Oh thank you!” Think Sally Field’s acceptance speech some years ago at the Oscars.
Mama is a Paso Fino and pure poetry in motion when she runs.
And she’s a great mother.
She still gives motherly attention to her now almost three year old colt. You can see his nose in the photo above.
If she is first to see that we are out feeding, she will sometimes call to Brio until he shows up. I presume she’s saying something like, “They’re here! Hurry up or you’ll miss out.”
Mama has been wearing a very old and ragged polka dot blanket.
At one time I’m sure it made quite a fashion statement, but lately it’s not been in the best shape. More than once, Rick has ventured into the pasture to try and tie up the parts that were dragging around Mama’s legs.
With this most recent cold snap though we noticed that Mama was sporting a new red and blue coat. One that fits her perfectly and keeps her warm.
We were thrilled. (We’re easily entertained these days!)
And she seems to be walking with a little more spring in her step.
When I get something new to wear that I know looks good on me, it always perks me up.
Does the same happen for you?
I doubt that Mama and I are the only two females that benefit from new clothes. What’s new in your closet? Do tell…
This is Fred, aka Beau, at the back of this picture. He’s been my nemesis all summer, because of his Lothario-like ways with my sweet old mare Pepper. And his aggression toward Bud and the other two old bachelors, Red and Amigo.
He’s not welcome when we are out feeding.
He’s learned this after several confrontations.
Many times, I’ve backed him away from the group.
But the real message-sender is my husband, aka “the enforcer.”
He and Fred have had some serious “talks,” with the end result being this message: STAY AWAY FROM PEPPER.
When I watch these “talks” I think it’s a very good thing Rick doesn’t have daughters!
To his credit, Fred has agreed to stay away at feeding time, albeit with a big dose of attitude.
I’m thankful that he isn’t always around. Miss P. is spending much more time with the Herd of Oldsters. Many days we don’t ever lay eyes on Mr. I’m-so-hot-and-you-are-mine.
However, on the day this photo was taken, Fred glared at us from a short distance away. For at least half the time Bud and Pepper were eating, Fred stood his ground, shooting daggers our way.
Eventually he moved away to find his other mares.
Can you say “power struggle?”
I think that’s what we have on our hands. A good old-fashioned struggle for power.
Fred wants to be the alpha. For one hour a day, we refuse to allow him that role. Who knows what happens the other twenty-three?
I’m not sure I want to think about it.
“What in the blankety-blank are you doing here?” is written all over his face.
Sometimes when the horses are in the far pasture instead of by the gate waiting for us to feed them, Rick will drop me off so that I only have a one-way trip to bring them in.
On this particular evening, Bud and the other bachelors were enjoying the sweet new grass in the southern-most corner of the pasture. I scrambled over the fence – no small feat in itself- and approached Bud.
The look on his face says it all.
“Hey wait a minute. Where did you come from?”
Then he switched to caution.
“You aren’t supposed to be out here.”
I could practically hear the gears turning in his head as he tried to figure out why I wasn’t in my usual location. Horses are curious animals and Bud is no exception. He enjoys a good puzzle as much as the next horse. He even looked around as if trying to catch Amigo’s eye for confirmation.
“Is she really out here or is it my imagination? What was in that grass anyway?”
As near as I could tell, Amigo confirmed that I was real. At least he walked up to me and sniffed my hand, always hopeful that I’ll be holding a treat.
Sadly there were no treats.
At least not yet.
I went up to Bud, stroked his neck and invited him to come in for dinner. Then I started walking toward the gate.
That’s when he got it.
“Oh, she’s leading me to dinner. Now I understand.”
That and the fact that Miss P., ever the alert girl, had figured out what was going down. She was already moving.
Bud can’t tolerate her being first, so he got his giddy-up going.
A little trot – just enough to outpace Pepper. It’s a game they’ve played since day one of being together.
She’s the vigilant one. Nothing much gets past her. I often rely on her to see me at the gate and initiate action.
Bud follows her lead.
And then she lets him get ahead. In all the times I’ve called them in, I can scarcely remember when Pepper was first out the gate.
She orchestrates it so that Bud gets to be first.
Sounding a lot like an old married couple aren’t they?
And for my new readers, here’s the very quick version.
Pepper left the Herd of Oldsters and got a new “boyfriend.” For a good month, we disliked Beau because as far as we were concerned, he stole her from her friends. And wasn’t very nice about it.
It was horse life in living Technicolor.
And I didn’t like it.
Not one single bit.
They were upsetting my idea of how things should be.
Well, here’s the newsflash that I seem to need to learn.
I’m not in charge.
Let me say it once more.
I am not in charge.
I am nothing more than a participant.
And isn’t that true for each of us?
The harder we try to assert our will; control the outcome and make things go as we want them to, the more the lesson shows up.
Yes, we have to do our own particular brand of work – whatever that is. I’m not saying that we’re powerless over everything in our lives.
I don’t believe that. But I do believe that we are powerless over events that aren’t really ours to begin with.
Like the natural order of life in the pasture.
And just to drive the point home for me, I can see that the horses are working things out. As horses will do if left on their own.
The bachelors (Bud, Red and Amigo) are beginning to tolerate Beau. They aren’t friends yet, but they are able to be in the same general vicinity.
And Beau, the young hotshot, has learned some respect. He doesn’t chase the bachelors anymore. He’s loosened his grip on Pepper too. There isn’t as much carrying on when she wanders away.
It’s as if all the players have taken a deep breath, settled down and accepted each other.
And you know what?
I’ve done the same.
All is well.
We’ve even started giving Beau a treat or two when he wanders to the fence line.
It’s time we made friends.
About the picture above: I took it this week when we’d just finished with the farrier. I will say it did my heart good to see the four friends lined up.
Just like old times. (Okay, so I have a little more work to do on the lesson!)
There’s been some drama lately in the area where I feed my two old sweeties.
Most of the time, the Herd of Oldsters is waiting for me by the shed, while the rest of the horses are out in the pasture.
We have a routine that they know by heart.
But every so often a few of the younger horses wander into the shed area around feeding time.
That’s when the trouble starts.
The Oldsters do NOT like the young bucks.
And for good reason.
Horses get all wound-up when it comes to feed. They push and jostle each other. Sometimes they bite or kick. I know it’s hard wired into them.
Survival of the fittest and all that.
Really, I know. I watch the Discovery Channel!
But I don’t like it.
Call me Pollyana. Go ahead. I don’t mind. It fits.
So there is one horse (who shall remain nameless) that is out and out a bully. He’s big and strong and pushy. None of the horses likes him much. But my guys really don’t like him. When he walks into an area, all the horses scatter. It’s like a bad gangster movie.
The past few days he’s decided to position himself right in front of the gate. He’s not afraid of much of anything. I can swing the rope at him to get him to move, and he’ll back up a step or two. Then he comes right back. He’s definitely not afraid of me.
This makes it hard for Bud and Pepper to get out. Usually I can back him away long enough for my old sweeties to make a frantic run out of the gate.
It’s high drama.
Bud will blast through and head straight for the feed pan. Then Miss P. runs through, ears back, nostrils flaring. And all the while she’s eating, she’s tossing her head, and snorting. The bully could care less. He stands at the gate like a six-story building, not budging.
A couple of days ago he took a major chunk of flesh out of Red’s back. Red was trying to get up to the fence for his share of treats.
And the bully got all bent out of shape and bit him.
It made me really angry.
Then my little Herd of Oldsters, the senior citizens of the group, moved away from the bully. They clustered together, way down the fence line. They sent pathetic looks toward me. They wanted their treats, but were afraid.
And I’m telling you, it broke my heart.
It was yet another reminder of how the old and weak and disenfranchised get pushed out in societies – human and animal.
By the way…Red is fine. Horses are used to getting kicked and bitten. I’m not used to seeing it!
Older now, you find holiness in anything that continues.
Naomi Shihab Nye
In the pasture horses come and go. Oh sure, there are the regulars who’ve been here for years. Amigo, Red, Chickadee, Bud and Pepper are fixtures. Everyone knows them. Recently a new face showed up in our herd of oldsters and he fits right in.
He’s old, and more than a little worn. Rick dubbed him Griz, after Grizabella in the Broadway musical Cats.
We fell for him instantly because of his spots. He looks to be part appaloosa and part draft. He’s a big boy with feet to match.
When I first saw Griz he’d just been put into the pasture. He had a big cut at the top of his tail. I worried because it was gaping open and looked nasty.
It’s rough breaking into a herd.
He soon found the oldsters and then life became nicer for him.
They don’t need to prove themselves anymore.
As far as the oldsters are concerned, fighting and chasing and posturing are just a waste of energy.
I can so relate.
I recently volunteered to do some work for a professional organization in which I used to be quite active. Then the meetings and telephone conferences began. I found myself spending more time talking about doing things than actually doing them. And the conversations about being careful not to step on anyone’s toes were absolutely exhausting.
I felt like Griz, thrown back into the herd, chased hither and yon, becoming worn down and worn out. My breath coming in ragged gasps. My creative energy frozen.
I think there comes a time in life when the games no longer appeal. A time when we realize that we’ve paid our dues. We call enough to the posturing and politics.
I think I’m there.
I still want to contribute and have a reservoir of experience and imagination to draw upon and give.
But honestly, I want to do it my way.
Sometimes I feel guilty about that. Like I’m being some kind of prima donna.
But my patience for B.S. is worn thin. In fact it’s gone.
I watch Bud and Pepper avoid conflicts in the pasture. They stay clear of the young upstarts out to prove themselves. Bud, Pepper and their herd have become pacifists. They do their thing.
It’s where I’m headed. I want to find the holiness and grace that come with simply continuing. In my way. In my style.
How about you?
About three weeks ago we noticed two new horses in the pasture. Two mares that are definite friends.
For at least two weeks they hung out by themselves, sort of in the same vicinity as our little merry band.
They are quite a stunning pair. My photo doesn’t do either one justice.
Of course, I gave them nicknames.
Dusty is a dark sooty gray with a black head, mane and tail. She is stunning – a very stylish girl.
Then there’s the other one, the mare who really caught my heart.
She’s a one-eyed appaloosa.
And what a sweet girl she is. She needed a name with some pizzazz, so I dubbed her Scarlett.
One afternoon we arrived at the gate to find Scarlett facing the road toward the barn. Dusty wasn’t around. Turns out she was in the barn having a workout. Scarlett waited, offered the occasional whinny, and looked for her friend to return. I imagine she felt alone and vulnerable with her only companion and protector gone.
These two have had a rough time breaking into the herd – finding their peeps. For a while I hoped they’d find a home with Bud and Pepper.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
They were tolerated as outliers, but never part of the group.
And the larger, more aggressive herd chased them all over the pasture.
Scarlett has several cuts on her left side – the one with no eye. She’s obviously taken more than a few kicks.
This ticks me off.
I hate horse politics.
Come to mention it, I’m not that fond of human politics either.
At least with horses, I can justify that it’s simply part of their nature, their biology. It’s all they know.
I don’t think we can say that for humans. We do know more.
The name calling, allegations, accusations, fear mongering, and attempts to discredit the opposition are ramping up. It looks like it’s going to be a wild fall.
It makes me grateful for the ability to record television programs and skim the news. These days I make a point to avoid the politics, at least the nastiness.
I don’t like underhanded, sneaky, mean-spirited actions from anyone. I don’t want to bring it into my consciousness.
And I don’t like kicking a horse when she’s down and only has one eye.