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She loved any kind of treat – the normal horse temptations of course - carrots, grain, pears, apples - but she would do tricks for a handful of vanilla snow cone or Sonic ice! Today I stopped at the stand in Farmersville for the first time and
bought a large vanilla and strawberry snow cone. It was delicious! I was already smiling at the thought of sharing it with Belle and Beau.  (Both of them meet me fence-side at the sight of a big Styrofoam
cup.)

It wasn’t until I was pulling up to the C4 Ranch gate that I remembered Belle wouldn’t be meeting me at the fence …  again … ever. I caught the tears in my throat for the 100th time in the last week and drove up to
the barn.  I walked over to the closest fence post and called Beau, our sweet boy that always knows how to make me smile.  He saw the cup and came prancing over in that clumsy Walker gate of his. He slurped up the snow cone from my palm and then laid his big head on the top of mine while I filled my hand back up with the sweet ice.  When the cup
was empty, he stood there with me and let me cry into his neck.  He didn’t move.  It was me that finally broke the moment with a big kiss on his snout. I know he understands where my sadness comes from and feels it too. We’re all running on autopilot right now. 
 
She came to us in early 2004 a little “broken”. 
         
  • She had been kidnapped and starved for about three months when she was younger so food was not something she took for granted. (That girl LOVED to eat and watching her was a complete joy. She appreciated every bite.)   
  • Although she enjoyed stall time, it was quite a while before she was really comfortable with the  door between the stall and the run being closed. We assumed it had something to  do with being trapped in the past so we respected that and left her door open.       
  • She had a fear of strangers, especially men. The man that had kidnapped and abused her also stole her trust. You could see the fear in her eyes and feel the tenseness  in her muscles when someone new would come around. Her flight instinct was in overdrive for a long time, so we made certain to introduce her to new faces and let relationships form at her pace.  
  • She lost a 5 month old foal to a tragic accident right before we bought her. This loss only added to her distrust and caused a sadness to define her for a time.

It was not overnight, but she eventually conquered all of the concerning bullet points above.
        
She still  appreciated every meal and ate like it was the “best thing EVER” every time, but  she was no longer anxious about eating – she was satiated and content and she knew there would always be more.
       
Stall time with the door closed changed from a prison to paradise. She would casually eat her hay and stare happily out her window.  She’d talk to us when she was ready to go back out in the pasture, but there was no urgency in her voice.  She knew we’d get there eventually and open that door.  
           
She learned that all men are not evil. She formed a bond with Tim and counted on him to pound any horse fly that landed on her. (She would come in from the back pasture every evening and wait for him to save her from the stinging beasts! Between bombing missions, she would rest her sweaty head on his chest in thanks.) Our farrier and vet respected our protectiveness and took the time to earn her trust. She became a model “pedicure” client and patient. She didn’t flinch for the vet and she would hand the farrier her big pancake feet!
         
She gave us two beautiful foals, Derby and Liberty, and I was in awe of her motherly instincts. I have no doubt that the opportunity to be dam to these fillies allowed her to redefine herself and heal her soul.

Those of you that haven’t spent much time around animals may laugh at the thought of a horse’s “soul”, but I assure you, the goodness and purity in animals puts humans to shame.  Belle was a perfect example of
this.  
 
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you may already know that she was my “watch-horse”.  I could count on her to let me know if something needed my attention…like the night Beau got caught on the other side of the fence or when a little deer was stuck on barbed wire at the back of the property.  She would warn me when a bad storm was coming or simply if someone pulled  into the drive. If I wasn’t paying attention, she’d get in my face and make sure I “heard” her!  
 
She said “please” with a bow and a barely audible neigh. “Thank you” was eye contact and a little lean in my direction. She told me she loved me every day by lowering her head to my level and closing her eyes.  She’d wait for me to kiss her big ole nose and lay my head on that wide, flat part of her face just below her eyes.  We’d stay motionless for several seconds. I’d whisper to her, “don’t tell the others but I love you best”.  She’d let me hug that big, beautiful lightening bolt neck. I’d breathe in her awesome horsey scent and say, “you smell ALMOST as good as Beau”.  I swear she understood me because she would open those big brown eyes, pull that head up and show me her “evil” eye at the sound of his name! It made me giggle every time.  We did this routine hundreds of times.

Referring to Belle’s “evil eye” is not a play on words – it was absolute fact.  Belle’s left eye was kind and soft and could melt your heart. Her right eye, especially in the beginning, was cautious and darting,  sometimes making you a little wary of what was to come. I think it was her way of reconciling the horse that hadn’t been treated well at times in the past with the horse that loved to run (and win), played in water with childlike abandon, simply adored being a mom, could make alfalfa look
like a lobster dinner, and had her humans trained so well. (Even my friend, Helen Bailey, an artist that can draw horses you want to reach out and touch, could see the difference in her two sides.) She was gorgeous from either view. 

All of our animals are such an important part of our family. Each and every one has something different to teach and share with  us.  And each has a unique place in our hearts. But Belle snuck into mine in such a profound way. She stamped her name on it in permanent ink and claimed her spot.  I  have NO doubt that she was “supposed” to come into my life. I needed her just  as much, if not more, than she needed me. She was my confidant, my protector, my rock, my friend.  
 
She learned that if she  snuck over to the corral gate alone in the evening, I would open it for her and produce an extra treat. We’d do our “I love you” ritual and she’d be off again.  She was a no-nonsense
girlfriend.  She took care of things, let you know how she felt, but had no time for idle gossip. She was the same way within the herd. She was the biggest and no doubt strongest, but she never pushed her weight around.  She was the first one by your side in a crisis but otherwise stood confidently in the background, ready to step forward if needed...In my mind, she is stepping forward now and offering that big flat spot on her face for me to lean on. 

Belle was one of the true loves of my life. To say that I miss her is not adequate.  We lost her unexpectedly last week. 

She came to us a little broken. She left us whole and happy.

Today I brought her a snow cone. 
 

    My name is Jamie.

    I left the culdesac for the country. My life is run by two Welsh Corgis. I discuss the biggest obstacles life throws at me with a horse named Belle. My family has suggested that I consider having my camera surgically attached. I pride myself on the fact that my armchair psychology has only caused a few disasters. And I love to write. I am not certain if I'm finding my sanity or losing it. That's where you come in - YOU decide! 

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