My horse comes when I walk into the pasture. I stroke my hand from between his eyes down his long face to the smattering of white on his nose. He sniffs at my hands and my pockets, his big leathery lips fondling my fingers, smelling, searching for the odor of a juicy orange carrot, or a sweet red apple. He’s snuffles over me, then probes the left pocket of my jacket, if he could just get his tongue inside then he’d have what he knows is in there. I slip my hand between the coat and his nose and produce the carrot. He chews with an expression of sheer bliss.
The carrot has been inhaled. He drops his nose into the tray of brushes and hoof picks just in case I’ve put something in there for him to eat and have forgotten to give it to him. I grab a handful of the coarse black hair in his mane and move the crest of his neck back and forth and decide he’s getting enough grass to eat. By now he’s figured out I have nothing more to offer him so he swings away to leave but the loop of rope I dropped around his neck stops him, so with a sigh he resigns himself to stay.
I put the halter on his head and fasten the buckle under his chin, rubbing a finger along the inside edge of his closest ear. His eyelids droop and for a few seconds he submits to my exploration for ticks, until he’s had enough and lifts his head too high for me to reach.
I tell him he’s a good boy and pat him all over. I like to think my horse loves me. I tell myself I’m everything that he needs to be happy, and all is good in his world just because I’m there with him.
And, he would come to me even if I didn’t bring him treats.
So I don’t bring him treats. Each day he meets me and checks my hands and pockets and the brush tray. Then he snorts. He looks at me and I think he might be disgusted. I wonder if his feelings are hurt?
Then one day he lifts his head but doesn’t take a step towards me. He watches me approach. I say his name.
“C’meer, c’meer boy,” I croon.
He’s gauging whether I’m carrying an offering. I can see the wheels turning inside of his head. Nope. He has decided my hands and pockets are devoid of anything for him to nibble. He turns his butt, swishes his tail and gallops off.
He knows I’m going to chase him, and eventually he will allow himself to be caught, but he just has to show me that since I gave him treats once, I need to bring treats – every time.