I "met" Belle at a barn where we first boarded Sugar and Beau, before the C4 Ranch existed. She came to the barn with a beautiful filly at her side name Skeeter. That little girl was adorable! She was petite and playful, quite a contrast to her cautious and protective dam. Belle allowed only a few people to interact with her foal and she was only truly comfortable with her owners. It was obvious that she had trust issues. Her owners spent some time telling me her incredible life story to date which included kidnapping, abuse, and subsequent rebellion. It was their goal to be kind and gentle with her and prove to her that the world was not a bad place.
Skip ahead a couple of months to an awful accident at the barn that left Skeeter with permanent brain damage. The owners of these two horses did all they could to save Skeeter but sadly Belle came home from that last trip to the vet alone.
I was managing the pasture horses in exchange for board of our two so I was on site a lot. I remember the next four days like it was yesterday. Belle was released into her pasture and proceeded to run and scream until she had no voice. At first she would have nothing to do with me. She was crazed with anguish and continued searching and calling out for Skeeter. I sat on the fence for hours at a time watching over her and doing my own share of crying. There was real concern that she would hurt herself so we all pitched in to help the owners keep an eye on her.
On day two she noticed me. She changed her path, which was worn in the ground from the day before, to come by my spot at the fence. Even with her at a dead run, our eyes would meet. She continued to cry but almost no sound came out of her mouth. She would run until she was foamy with sweat and then run some more. I didn't see her sleep at all. She wasn't stopping at the trough. She wasn't grazing. Her grief was palatable.
On the morning of day three, she watched me as I climbed to what was now my place on the fence. She would run at me full pace and stop like a reining horse right in front of me, staring intently at me as if to ask why I cared and daring me to be afraid of her. This day, I was armed with a small bucket of water and a rag. After several passes and angry snorts, I think she realized I wasn't going anywhere. She stopped to sniff and thoroughly check me out. She slowly began to allow me little opportunities to touch her face with the cool cloth before she would take off again.
By the end of that day, she had taken a carrot from me and drank a little from the water bucket. She had been so unpredictable that I had known better than to get in the pasture with her, but now she was walking and tired and she invited me to join her. I'll never forget how overwhelmed with emotion I was when she leaned her heavy head into my chest and just stood there. I rubbed her neck and her face for what seemed like an hour and she didn't move. I honestly think it was the first time she had rested in 3 days.
On the fourth day Belle was hoarse, exhausted and sad. She would take off every now and then, running and crying that guttural scream, but she spent most of my time there that day looking straight into my eyes or laying her head on my chest. She let me brush her and put water on her hot face and neck. She cautiously allowed me to lead her to the trough. She was communicating volumes to me by letting me take care of her. Her sadness was profound but she had grown to trust me - and I had fallen in love with her.