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Tosh-1

The  Golden Girls have picked up a shadow. A young appaloosa, new to the pasture has adopted them. Like many other newbies, Tosh, short for Macintosh, has found safe haven with Pepper and Chickadee.

 

This boy is not even two years old and didn’t know thing one about life in a herd.

Truth be told, some of us thought Tosh was a bit young to be thrown into the pasture to fend for himself for food and community. The dominant horses did their usual yee-haw and giddy-up on him, chasing him and kicking each time he approached. He’s got the kick marks to show he tried. But Tosh is just a little too young to understand the ways of the herd.

Instead he chose to hang out with the Golden Girls.

Pepper may have given him “the look,” ears laid back accompanied by a snort or two, but that would likely be her only protest. So Tosh quickly learned he’d found a place of safety. It was probably a lot like being with his mom. And these two mares have been so good at taking in strays. Their maternal instinct is strong.

 

Tosh-2

Pepper and Chickadee have allowed Tosh to tag along as they wander the pasture. He’s found a place of safety where he can ease himself into herd life. He’s also learned about getting treats. That one came quickly!

Occasionally we’ve found him hanging out with some of the other horses, but then he returns to his safe haven. It’s like a human toddler venturing out away from mom to learn about the world, and then returning to home base.

 

Come to think of it, Tosh is a toddler of sorts.

 

Watching this latest drama unfold in the pasture has made me reflect on the people and places in my life that offer me safe haven.

I am blessed to have a rather long list— long enough to customize depending on the situation and what I need. I have friends, family, and mentors, all of whom are willing to make themselves available to me. And I have many places of comfort—places that hold and soothe me, both in the natural world and in my home.

 

Like Tosh, from time to time, each of us needs people and/or places to comfort us, to offer us safe haven from the storms of our life.

 

The time will come when Tosh no longer needs the safety offered by two old mares.

As he grows into a strong young gelding, he will likely leave them to take his place in the larger herd. But until then, they have his back.

And don’t you just love them for it?

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.

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