Saturday, July 26, 2014
When I arrive at the barn, I head for Lincoln's stall. He raises his head from the flake of hay in the corner, sees me and bobs in greeting. I spend a few minutes whispering to him, calling him "Mr. Handsome" before I head off to check the list and prep for the afternoon lessons.
After a few other horses have been groomed and tacked, walked to the arena for their waiting child, brought back, cooled down and led to the fields, it is Lincoln's turn.
I go into his stall, hook the lead rope onto his halter and lead him to the grooming bay. I secure him and begin to brush him down. His coat is sleek and shiny, a dark bay with a black mane and tail. As I curry and comb I talk to him softly. I brush his mane and he turns his face to me. We are on eye level with one another, his huge eyes staring into mine. I gently scratch his ear and sneak a kiss. I lean into him, smelling the aroma of warm horse and hay. I get the tack on, preparing to tighten the girth. Lincoln is a "girthy" horse, meaning he hates when the girth is tightened. I have been warned to watch out for him as he has been known to nip when his girth is tightened. I pull the leather straps slowly and evenly, watching his head out of the corner of my eye. He swings his head around and I begin to murmur, "It's OK, Mr. Handsome, Good man, what a good horse..." and he turns away, never even attempting to nip me.
I finish tacking him and take him to the leader who walks him into the ring. I stand at the wall watching while they warm him up. His stride is beautiful, fluid, graceful, he is easy today, not spooking or distracted. Lincoln is patient as the child is helped up onto his back. I leave so as not to distract the little girl who is giggling and happy to be on "her pony".
At the end of the lesson I go to help untack him. I am informed that Lincoln is going to get a bath by his little girl. I lead him to the wash bay. I am asked to hold him by his lead rope and halter so the little girl and her physical therapist can bathe him. Lincoln tries to walk out of the bay, without thinking I press my shoulder into his chest and back him up. He rests his chin across my shoulder, his head against mine. I stand there, interlocked as the little girl squeals in excitement, as the PT and OT get the bucket ready with sudsy water. I ease away from Lincoln holding onto his halter with one hand. He raises his head in alarm as a spray of cold water lands on his back accompanied by a high pitched squeal from the little girl.
I reach up and rub his cheek and he looks at me, those huge eyes again boring into mine. "Steady boy, good man" I say.
The little girl nearly topples into the bucket in her eagerness to sponge off Lincoln's legs. Her PT grabs her tighter as she struggles to take the few steps closer to Lincoln's side. As she and PT began to scrub him Lincoln bobs his head, when they hit an itchy spot he suddenly begins to rub his nose on my shoulder. He head butts me like a cat and rubs his face against me as I lock myself into a stance so he can't push me over. It is the first time he has made physical contact with me to this degree. He continues to nuzzle me, his nose both silky soft and prickly with a few coarse whiskers. I find myself looking into his eye again. Today we seem to have reached a new level of trust and communication and I am again amazed by this animal.
After he is soaped and rinsed and dried off a bit, we put his fly mask on and I am told to take him to the pasture. We walk out together, his tiredness fading as he realizes we are heading out of the barn and the workday is done.
We walk along the paved pathway to the field, his hooves clip clopping steadily, a rhythmic beat that lifts my own tiredness. Before we go through the gate, I allow him get a few bites of clover by the fence. I open the gate and lead him in; turning I close the gate and take off his halter and lead. He stands for a minute, his eyes hidden behind the fly mask, but I sense he is looking at me.
"Thank you" I say. "Thank you, Lincoln". He bobs his head, and turns to amble in search of more clover.
I lean against the gate for a brief time, watching him, his coat gleaming, his neck arching to graze and realize, once again without my knowing, another being has worked its way into my heart... and I am so grateful.
Thank you, Lincoln for trusting me, for not biting me, for letting me into your world. Thank you from the depth of my soul, thank you for healing me in ways I didn't know I needed. Thank you, Mr. Handsome.