Tuesday morning, my canine companion, Elika, and I drove to the barn as we do every morning to feed our horses, Tara and her brother Fuersti.
Ordinarily, they are waiting for me in the arena in the morning. (They can walk freely in and out of it.) If they are outside instead, they see me drive onto the property, and they meet me inside.
But Tuesday morning, I didn’t see them when I drove up, and I didn’t see them in the arena. A quick scan of the back paddock didn’t reveal them either. And they weren’t in the shed out back.
I went back inside to get their breakfast ready and called to Fuersti. He answered with his deep call and poked his head into the arena, then left again.
Oh, no, I thought. What has his sister gotten herself into? By nature, Fuersti is the curious one, the mischief maker, but if Tara wasn’t coming in for breakfast, something was up. “Tara,” I yelled. My usually quiet mare called back.
I followed Fuersti outside and took a quick peek around the corner of the barn, into a very small area cordoned off with ropes to keep the two of them from walking over there and annoying the dogs that live in the adjoining back yard.
And there stood Tara, all 1200 pounds of her, over 16 hands high. The ropes were still securely in place, and hung low enough to keep the two of them out but not low enough to allow a foot to get caught in them.
“Tara,” I said in disbelief. “How the heck did you get in there?” She had to have crouched down very low and practically crawled on her belly.
I had seen her do this some years before at another barn, when she’d run down a barn aisle, dropped almost to her knees, and shimmied under a three-foot space left by a lowered garage-like door at the front of the barn.
She must have pulled the same gymnastics with the ropes. Unfortunately, for reasons I don’t pretend to understand, she couldn’t reverse the procedure, and so she found herself trapped.
I went back inside the barn and came out the door leading to the area she was confined in, an area maybe 10 feet wide and 15 feet long, put a halter and lead on her and was preparing to turn her around when the dogs came out of the house and charged the fence. Tara’s head shot up and her body tensed. “Tara,” I said. “If you spook and hurt me, I’m going to leave you out here.” She snorted, lowered her head, and walked quietly into the barn. I gave her her breakfast right there in the barn aisle because Fuersti had already eaten and I didn’t want to have to fuss at him to let her eat in peace.
Fuersti stood watching her, his head hung over the arena gate, his eyes soft, clearly relieved.
When Tara had finished her breakfast, I put her in the arena with her brother so that I could do my chores outside without their help.
Ordinarily, when the two of them have been separated, even if for just a few minutes, they go through their ritual of nickering and blowing in each other’s noses as if they haven’t seen each other in weeks and have huge amounts of information to share.
But on this beautiful summer morning, Fuersti greeted his sister with a quiet tenderness. He began to gently groom her neck and withers, his body language and soft energy saying, “You are safe now; you are well; I will watch out for you.”
I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I’d never seen them groom each other in the morning; they most often perform this ritual after dinner, and only for a few minutes. But on this morning, they continued to groom each other for a very long time, Tara seeming to melt into the presence of her brother in a way I could not remember seeing before. And the exquisite tenderness Fuersti used in touching his sister made the ritual feel holy.
You are safe now; you are well; I will watch out for you.
I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.
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