During the colder months of 2010, student Steph and I went to help a thoroughbred (ex-racehorse) brood mare and her foal, a gangling, scared, wide-eyed creature whose prey animal instincts were so strong that crashing headlong into a gate was preferable to being near a human.
The mum wasn't much more confident either, and this is why we guessed she was wearing an ill-fitting old leather headstall, that looked like it had been part of her head for some time. The pair tore around that muddy, sodden paddock, fear written all over them, as we stood quietly, waiting for them to relax. It took awhile, with lots of approach and retreat, for the trembling mare to accept our approach, (and I removed the headstall) though her terrified offspring hung behind her, head high, tail high, poised for instant flight at the slightest attempt for us to come close to her.
You may have followed the subsequent story of how we came to trust and know each other on my Facebook pages; it was a slow and emotional journey for all of us over the next few weeks ... the gentle but skeptical mare discovering that not all humans are the same, and for the young filly, learning how to trust and place her confidence in me. I named her Crystal, for her fragile nature. Over the next few weeks we built our relationship, and the young Crystal was ready to meet the barefoot professional, be immunised and dewormed - all which went comfortably and smoothly for everyone. I went back over the summer, taking other students with me, to boost her confidence with other people and to rekindle our friendship. She would come when I called her name, and stand at the fence watching me when I left, and I hated to admit it, but I had become hopelessly attached to her!
So, the months went by and this past week when I went to see her, I stood at the gate like I'd done before, and called her name. It was a beautiful moment when she raised her head from her grazing, 100 metres from where I stood, and came galloping across the expanse of bright green grass, her friend Pegasus alongside her. Delighted, I climbed the gate, and moved toward them, and then when they were almost upon me, I turned and ran away from them, and they followed me, the three of us sprinting back down the paddock, they bucking and me running as fast as my gumboots would allow over the wet soggy ground! What fun it is to be reunited with your friends!
I stopped, and they did too, walking over to sniff and greet me. After a few minutes, it was like old times, and as I ran my hands over their strong young bodies, I couldn't believe how much the fillies had grown. Crystal now a 2 year old and Pegasus a 4 year old (my story about her another time). We played the games of Horsemanship with Heart and I trimmed Crystal's front hooves (so overdue I didn't want to wait for the trimmer's visit) and we hung out a while, just walking about giving scratches and standing close.
When our time was up, I reluctantly left them standing at the gate after I had said my goodbyes, and they whinnied at me as I waved one more time from the car. Every day, in every way, daily in my career, I am reminded that it's all about The Relationship! And the Crystals and Pegasus' of the world are just two of the reasons I love my job!