I walked outside with the Corgi boys first thing this morning -
in an oversized Volleyball T-Shirt that I’ve used as a nightshirt for years and my knee-high rubber boots. (I just wanted you to enjoy my glamorous moment with me.) Beau spotted me immediately and managed to make me feel absolutely beautiful – he tossed his head at Sugar (my biggest competition for his attention) and did his cute Tennessee Walker jog over to where I stood. I stroked his huge face and stood on my tiptoes to give him a hug. This is how we start most of our days.
Beau followed me in the corral and made his way into the nearest stall. There he started his ritual of pushing his nose back and forth across the stall door, making the metal rails clang, just in case I had forgotten my part of the bargain. Beau is what is known as an “Easy Keeper” – a polite way to say he gains weight if he looks at food. In horses, being tubby can lead to serious hoof problems (among other things) so we have a routine with Beau to help monitor his intake.
He comes in during the day and we let him back out in the evening so he can graze when the grass sugars are not as high. His reward for being so cooperative is a cup of his favorite feed. (No, the irony of a huge horse being thrilled with one cup of feed is not lost on me.) In addition, he gets the comfort of a cushioned floor, a breeze from the fans, and enough hay to keep him busy. He usually takes a nap in the shavings, checks out all the stalls, plays with Gibbs the cat, and tosses his Kong toy around the corral.
Inevitably at some point during the day, at least one of the girls will come to the gate and ask to join him. Our old mares, Sugar and Bobbie, are always welcome but we let Beau decide if he wants to be bothered with the younger mares. They have such crushes on him! You could say he’s the Justin Bieber of the C4 Ranch. We truly believe that’s a big part of why he so willingly trades 50 acres of pasture for the solitude of the corral every day. It’s his personal man cave.
Beau remains calm and patient all day. If I walk through the barn, he meets me at a stall window and talks in his soft, deep voice. He closes his eyes when I rub his face and he leans his ears towards me so I’ll scratch them. But as soon as dusk hits, he starts pacing the fence. The mares show up at the corral gate like clockwork to join him. The neighing“chatter” is non-stop until we open the gate – and of course if we take too long, Derby gets busy on the latch. Once he’s free, he usually kicks up his heels and acts like the girls are annoying him as he trots into the back pasture. However, if you watch closely, you’ll see him looking back to make sure they are following…..and they ALWAYS are.
I delight in the fact that Beau knows that he can count on us to do what’s best for him. He never seems to question our intentions. Just now when I went out to check on him, I was inspired to say “thank you” to him which is what got me blogging today. I may be taking care of him by making sure that he eats right and gets the best care for his feet, but he’s the gentle giant showing me patience and kindness and trust. He makes the job of caretaker easy. Now if he’d just have a chat with his groupies.....
I wake up every morning to a view of the herd in the pasture. I wear perfectly worn-in jeans and dusty cowboy boots. Mucking a barn full of stalls and emptying full wheelbarrows into the compost is the best medicine I know for what ails you. I clean hooves, brush the dirt off of eight good size horses and tend to any wounds. Scrubbing and filling two 100 gallon water troughs is an everyday chore in the summer. Walking the pasture to meet up with Beau and bring him in the barn is part of our morning routine to protect him from his sensitivity to grass sugars. We finish off that routine by grabbing a bale of hay or alfafa and throwing a couple leaves into his stall.
If you just peeked in on me in the midst of my chores, you’d think I was a real cowgirl. But if you stood there a little longer and looked a little closer, you’d see me kiss every nose in the herd. You’d see me lay my face on that beautiful flat spot between their eyes and talk to them. You’d probably hear me sing “My Girl(s)” at the top of my lungs with my arms around Beau’s neck watching his harem with him – or worse yet, “Candy Girl” (Sugar, ahhhh honey, honey) while laying on Sugar’s back enjoying the warmth of the sun. If it was a hot Texas day, you’d most likely catch me pulling out the hose to cool off my water lovers (even though they have two large ponds to dip in). I have, quite accidentally, taught my originals (Sugar,Beau and Belle) to come to the back door and knock for a carrot. When we sit out back in the evening, Derby and Kit come on the patio and try to join us at the table. Kit wants a sip of wine. Derby wants to sit in your lap.
In other words, I violate the personal space rule by allowing them to invade mine constantly. This is against all Cowboy codes. The reasoning is simple:(1) safety is not possible when you’re laying your face on the head of a 1200 pound animal that may decide to look up (2) boundaries are essential when you are establishing who is in charge, which leads to (3) it's imperative that you are the alpha horse if you want to avoid broken bones and unnecessary bruises. Horses, however sweet, are bigger and heavier than, well, YOU. Compare horsing around with a horse to see-sawing with a sumo wrestler - unless you convince him to put you down gently, you're in trouble.
I have basically turned our herd of horses into big dogs. Now that it’s time for our youngest ones to go into training, I am worried about how they will do with a real cowboy - someone that expects them to act like horses. This is especially a concern with Rey. She is all cow horse – born and bred to work with cattle – no doubt she’s going to excel and LOVE her job….but she’s sensitive and sweet so I’m worried about her "f e e l i n g s”. (I can hear the cowboy population howling with laughter.) Even as I'm typing this, I'm hoping my horse friends don't read this far.
I’m professing this whimpiness to you because it’s time for me to COWGIRL UP! Putting it in writing makes me somewhat accountable. Our herd is well-bred and bright. They are healthy, completely socialized with humans and horses alike, and move beautifully. They amaze me every day with their communication and problem solving skills. The only thing holding them back is ME - a proud mom having a hard time letting her kids grow up. It's time for me to stop protecting them and allow them to shine. I’m taking back my personal space and throwing them out into the real world!………....tomorrow.