The Horse Next Door

The two bay geldings live next door to the house where I stayed for two weeks, under the shadow of Taos Mountain in northern New Mexico. Each horse has a blaze of white from forehead to nose. We began tentatively, and deepened into a teacher/student relationship.

Their stalls stand in the corner of a larger adobe-walled corral. Each stall is about 20 by 36 feet, which seemed large for a stall but small for permanent residence. At one end, a corrugated flat roof covers one-third of the space so the horses have shelter when it rains. That end had piles of manure.

Orange metal fence sections wired together enclose the stalls. The section closest to me had faded to pink. Barbed green metal fence posts connected by four strands of wire mark the property line. The horse’s leaning out to reach the grass on this side had bent the pink fence section out at a precarious angle and collapsed the top wires of the second fence. 

I took a fresh carrot out to visit. I don’t have much experience with horses, and approached tentatively. The closest horse spotted the carrot, though, and tossed his head and snorted. I asked his name, but didn’t grasp his answer. I called him Mr. Horse.

“Good morning, Mr. Horse. May I talk with you?”
“I don’t understand why you want to talk with me,” he answered.
“I recognize you as a spirit in a horse body. I’m interested in what you think and feel.”
“Hmmmm….” Mr. Horse thought about it.

I changed topics. “Do you have shoes on all four feet? I can’t see a shoe on your left front foot.” Mr. Horse backed up and shook the dirt off his foot so I could see the shoe on his hoof. I thanked him.

We had similar simple conversations for the first few days. At first, he had pushed his head toward me, shaking it, looking for more carrots. Now he stood quietly, watching me. The morning sun rose behind him, showing the long hairs that looked like a thinly whiskered beard on his cheeks and chin. A curl of hair beside each nostril formed a mustache. I asked what his life was like.

“Not much happens. We stay here. Sometimes the man comes and we go out. I would like to run more. I enjoy being out on the trail and mountain. I know our ancients ran free. I have that memory.” 

“How do you feel?”
“I’m good. I’m young yet. Only half of my years have passed. I do need more exercise though. There’s not much to do here but stand around and eat.”    

“Do you get enough food?” I had noticed a standing feed bin, water trough, and empty rack for a bale of hay between the two stalls.

“Yes,” Mr. Horse said. “The man brings us hay. It is good. We eat it pretty fast – there is not much else to do.”

I asked if he would tell me a story about his life. Mr. Horse shook his copper mane and thought. “I remember when I was a foal, with my mother. [He showed me a picture of himself then.] Everything was new. It was always exciting to discover new things. I stayed close to her. She lived in a place like this, but had the memory of those before her running free. Now I am here, this is my life.”

A raven flew overhead. I was surprised how clearly I heard its wings stroke though the air. “There are many things you do not notice,” said Mr. Horse. His mane and forelocks looked auburn. His coat was still thick with winter hair.

“Is there something you would like to tell me?” I asked.
“I just enjoy talking with someone who listens.” He continued his unbroken train of thought: “I notice the scent of grass, insects walking on blades of grass and on the ground, the patterns of bird flight, the feel of the wind and its subtle shifts, the play of light as it changes moment by moment. Clouds form and dissipate and reform. Trees are in constant motion. I can see the buds of new growth unfolding on branches, drinking in the air and sunlight.”

“That’s a lot,” I said, and marveled at the new depth of our conversation.
“Yes,” he said, “everything is in constant motion. There is no boredom. It is quite entertaining, actually. I just observe and notice what fits into the natural order of things and what does not.”

The resident heeler/cattle dog and his visiting companion raced by, playing hard, and nearly knocked me over. “They are so young,” commented the horse, amused.

I asked, “How can I come to notice things as you do?” Mr. Horse shifted into Teacher mode. “You are in such a hurry. Even when you are sitting there, your mind spins. You must learn to be fully present in each moment, as if that were the only moment. Nothing before, nothing after. Then you will notice more. Think of each moment as a capsule that contains All That Is. As you move from one moment to the next, and be fully present in each, you will notice the subtle differences and changes. You can practice – pick one spot and watch it. That fence post for example – it doesn’t move and is not growing, so it should be easy for you. Notice how the light on it changes. Notice the insects that land upon it. Notice the scents, and how the post appears to change as wind blows dust in front of it. That is your homework.” I sensed amusement, and thanked Mr. Horse for his lessons.

The day the water line to their stalls broke, a pool of muddy water filled one-third of the stall space.

The next morning I went out to give Mr. Horse and his companion their carrots, and realized he was on my side of the fence, happily grazing on the dry grass. The other horse pressed against the fence, whinnying desperately. I approached the second horse, though he was too distraught for a carrot. The dog got too close to Mr. Horse, who bolted. He galloped out the driveway and down the dirt road toward the highway. No!

By the time I had run to the dirt road, here he came, galloping happily back the other way, tail streaming behind him. He looked exuberant. After a few passes up and down the road, he trotted down the long drive to his own corral, and stood nose to nose over the adobe wall with his friend before taking off to run in the adjacent open field. The less adventurous horse whinnied unhappily every time Mr. Horse left. By the end of the day, both horses were trotting around the corral.

After the Great Escape, Mr. Horse was glad to be in the larger corral, where he could move around and get more exercise. His friend was just happy they were together again.

When I went to tell them goodbye, Mr. Horse came as close as he could. The narrow passage between the shed and horse fence was now blocked by a pile of pallets. I tossed each horse a carrot, and thanked them for talking with me.

Mr. Horse nodded and turned to focus on the taste and texture of his carrot.

Leave a Reply

"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
Article Topics:
Newsletter Signup

Follow my posts: