Coming home last evening, I saw Wally toss his head up at the first sound of my car and then leap forward into a joyful gallop toward the barn. His head high and his tail streaming behind, he was breathtakingly beautiful in the waning light of day. I wished with all my heart our paths had converged much earlier in life. He and I would have covered hundreds of miles together. He does not possess the most beautiful conformation of the Arabian breed, but he does possess the grace and lightness of all his forebears. "Oh, Wally!" I thought to myself. "You deserve a far better name!"
Of course, the magnificent gallop was toward the barn because I would soon be throwing hay. Wally knows if he gets there first, he can sometimes grab a few bites of extra hay before Miss Thang gets there with her iron hooves of rule. He also uses it as an excuse to run because that is what horses do.
Though I spent most of my childhood around horses, I do not know a lot about them. I am still a rank amateur except in what I have observed of their behavior during the time spent caring for them. Before Wally there was my dear little Orphan Annie. She was a horse with a sense of humor. She thought it was funny to gently knock me over when I bent down to pound the snow and ice out of the feed tub. I realize the idea that a horse might have a sense of humor is impossible for some people, but once you've experienced humor from another species, it is unmistakable. The intent is clear.
Ginger is too busy making sure she is the boss to have a sense of humor. Everyone better do as she says - or else! She and I have had a minor dispute a time or two. Hard to say who won. I am still walking around without any broken bones, so I guess she grudgingly concedes the ultimate title of Boss to me. Some one has to earn money to buy her hay and hoof care, after all. Since I bring home the bacon, that makes me the real boss. Ginger loves me. Of course she loves Wally more but I am her favorite human being. I humbly accept this affection from her highness.
Wally is a different story. He has never bullied me or pushed me around - except for unceremoniously rubbing his big head against me whenever I put a halter on him! He loves Ginger and takes his duties as protector of their little herd seriously, always going forward toward whatever threat they both can hear along the creek that keeps them on point. There seems to be a sadness in Wally. When the vet visited the first time, he came into the pasture wearing a ball cap. At first sight of a man in a ball cap, Wally snorted in recognition and came running only to slam on the brakes when he realized it was a stranger. I was certain Wally thought it was his former owner and that made me so sad. Wally likes me okay but he does not love me the way Ginger does.
I have read about old horse cultures that built their winter dwellings so they could shelter their horses with them. Of course, horses were the lifeblood of their survival so they would go to great lengths to protect them. But anyone who has ever loved a horse knows that if it were just more practical, living together in the same dwelling would be a great idea! They are just too darned big and then there's all that manure... I will settle for looking out the back door every morning to see my horses waiting for their breakfast.