So I used to have this horse named Rapidan.
Rapidan was kind of insane. He'd been a racehorse, he'd been a teasing stallion, and then he somehow found himself in a backyard in a town named Palatka. Palatka is every bit as urbane and sophisticated as it sounds, and if you are a Thoroughbred stallion with decided mental issues, a backyard there maybe isn't the best place for you. Especially if you get there and you're sharing that backyard with a goat and two massive pigs. Just saying. Think of your options.
Rapidan had the necessary corrections made to his anatomy before I got there, but the horse I took home from the company of the pigs and the goat was still fairly insane. Too much testosterone, not enough training. I gave him a lot of leeway under saddle, and absolutely none on the ground. To this day, Rapidan is the only horse to have ever kicked me when I walked behind him in the cross-ties. You know how you're always warned to stay close to the tail when walking behind a horse in cross-ties? Yes. Do that. It works.
Rapidan only kicked me once, I'll put it to you like that.
|He was less than captivating when I got him. Palatka backyards can do that to a horse.
And the coolest thing Rapidan did? He came when he was called.
I could stand at the gate and gaze out across the field and shout RAP-I-DAN! and that horse's head would shoot up, and his ears would prick, and his tail would flag, and he'd come a'runnin'. He'd gallop all the way up the pasture and throw on the brakes three strides before the gate, sending sand flying into my face.
The thing about Rapidan? He thought he was the Black Stallion. He really, truly believed that. And his impression, thundering up to the gate when he heard my call, standing without restraint to be groomed and tacked, was pretty damn good.
It's hard to tell what sort of personal affection a horse might hold for a person, and I never give them a lot of credit besides the general "Human Feeds Me, Human Good" assessment. But every now and then you meet a horse like Rapidan, who gave you that little thrill -- he likes me! -- just by being in a big hurry to see you every day. My big, scary, bad-tempered Black Stallion gave me love and affection, instead of just demanding his dinner -- I liked that.
Today I visited with a horse I used to see every day, but haven't been around in a few weeks. He was hanging out in the barn, and I was leaning on the paddock gate, waiting for him to notice me and come say hello, but he wasn't in a big hurry to leave his hay.
So I called him.
His head came out of that stall so fast you'd have thought I'd shaken a feed bucket. Then out he came. To see me, right?
No, to preemptively chase away his buddy in case the other horse thought he could visit with me.
Then he came to say hello.
And I thought, now that's affection. Not just coming over to say hello, but making sure no one else gets any part of me.
Or any feed buckets I might be secreting on my person, I suppose.
Whatever, I felt loved.
*by the way, you can read more about Rapidan here, at Retired Racehorse. And Palatka.