Monday, January 12, 2009


Suzanne* and I were forced to work together in a church program, some years ago. I say forced but we were volunteers, attempting to serve God in some meaningful fashion. The trouble was, I didn't like Suzanne. How's that for Christian sisterly love? She'd never done anything to me, on purpose, but I found her extremely annoying, her personal habits and ways of relating like nails on a chalk board. I'm pretty sure she felt the same way about me. After the "blessing" of working together, there wasn't much point in our association. Note to self: Email God. Request sufficient distance between Suzanne and I in the Holy City. Actually, now that I think about it I need to ask God for plenty of space in heaven, period. I'm on the anti-social side and don't want the saints butting into my private time.

Horses are never apathetic about the herd. They know they need each other. While they may render appropriate discipline for insubordination, horses are motivated to work out differences. No matter how irritating somebody is. A horse never thinks, "I'm going to go it alone; these folks drive me nuts!" Even horses with opposing personalities will eventually bond over time. The horse that made them crazy is the same horse they will whinny hysterically for when it is removed from the herd. "Troop welfare" is a concept understood intimately by these creatures. Human beings could learn a thing or two.

When I adopted Chance a year ago he had serious herd issues. Basically, he was a misfit whose social skills were never properly developed as a youngster. I wondered if he would ever come around. If Chance had been a human child his chart in school would have read, Does not play well with others. He would have had a special learning plan, been given Ritalin and often told--That's not okay!

I devised a somewhat different plan of social rehabilitation for the cantankerous ex-stallion. It involved dumping him into a field full of swaggering, unsympathetic geldings. One in particular--Tonka--had only recently lost his manhood. A muscular, hunk of a horse, I felt certain Tonka would school Chance on the finer points of equine social graces.

After about a week I went to visit Chance at my neighbors. From a distance I could tell he was slowly integrating into the herd, though my friend told me he was definitely not playing nice. As I approached I tried counting the cuts, scrapes, and indentations scattered over his body in varying stages of healing. It was impossible. And I had never seen Chance so happy. Though obviously guilty of many a faux pas, he was finding joy in relating within a herd. For a horse, nothing else compares.

Over time Chance has made great progress in his herd dynamics. We still keep him alone as he tends to cause trouble but he is able to touch Tango and Eli over the fence and enjoys their company. Recently I saw the first signs of affection between the three.

Tango has harbored a deep dislike for Chance from the beginning ( see post, Smelling the Soul). He reserves the ugliest looks and "talk to the butt" posturing for Chance (though everyone knows, in hoof to hoof combat, he is the loser). Tango's pal is Eli and visa versa--twos company, threes a crowd. That's why it was a surprise to hear Tango nickering warmly after Chance when I moved him to another pasture on New Years Eve. In the past Tango wouldn't have wasted his breath. Upon returning Chance, I watched the two horses banter over the stall door--Tango showing affection by nibbling on Chance's neck and face and Chance actually allowing it, bobbing his neck as if to say, "You're alright kid." Apparently, they'd decided to look past personal irritation in favor of companionship. At least for the moment.

Chance and Eli are still working out their differences. Because of Eli's gender this may be difficult but I have hope.

I talked to Suzanne recently for the first time in a long time. We actually shared an experience in common. For once I didn't find her completely annoying. You're alright kid.

Hopefully she feels the same way about me.

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