A few months ago I started spending time with Little Love doing nothing. No riding or longing, no brushing or even leading around, but just hanging out in the arena together and going where the "flow" takes us. Sometimes we just lean on the fence and look at the birds from the open back door, sometimes we walk around together, sometimes we walk apart and sometimes… we run.
At first, Little Love was very skeptical about this new development. She would half-heartedly spend some minutes watching the birds with me, but then soon would want to move away and do her own thing, away from the suspicious humans. She would barely follow me when I walked around and if I ran... well, she would either take off in confused bucks, or just watch me in scorn as I did circles around her.
But I persisted. Oh, did I persist. I wanted her to join me in life, but I didn't want to force her. I wanted to ask her like you ask a friend. And I asked many, many times; I made a fool of myself asking.
Little Love has always struck me as a "humorless" horse. When we first met, there was nothing funny about her, she was all about being a wrinkle-browed and tight-lipped, angry animal who did nothing silly. When loose, she would run and buck like any horse, but out of fear or rage more than anything else, and I heard that in a panic, she had jumped a few fences in her life time. It was hard to see beyond the mask of depression this horse carried about like a well-earned trophy; the mare was the spitting image of a lone island with an inaccessible shore line.
And she had every reason to be that way. Hadn’t she seen it all, everything humans were capable of? Breeding her at a young age to calm her down; selling her to owner after owner; keeping her in a stall for years with no freedom; testing every bit made by mankind in her mouth; forcing her into submission with draw reins and long spurs and whips; beating her into a trailer with lunge whips. Why would she want to be friends with me, a member of such an ignorant and brutal species?
I don't know who changed first, but somehow we transformed each other into something completely unexpected. Maybe I led the way by letting go of my hopes and expectations for her, or maybe one day she felt there was no need for fear from her part, I don’t know. All I know is that it has been a long and tedious journey, a journey that still continues into the unknown, as there is no handbook for this kind of stuff, the stuff of the heart.
Now, on a good day, Little Love stands at my side for a good half an hour and just smells the wind with me. Then we walk around and every once in a while I feel her nose touch my arm as if to make sure I am really there, walking with her. Sometimes we run, and as she goes left in her most expressive trot, I cross behind her and turn right. She turns quickly and darts past me, her neck curved and her ears flickering back and forth. She stops and looks at me, blows air out of her nostrils and when I lift my arms, she rears up high. Afterwards she walks over to me, licking and chewing as if to say: “Did you see that? Did you see that??!!
In the midst of all this I rarely touch her, not because I don't want to, but because she doesn't like to be touched and I want to respect her wishes. But… although we are not connected through physical touch, I can feel our souls touching and I know she lets me into a sacred place inside her, the unmapped black horse territory only few have seen. And the landscape of her soul is so beautiful it makes my heart ache.