Nash is a tough character to figure out. He greets us when we approach the barn, and he seems very interested in getting your attention. Turned loose, he’ll follow us as often as not. But, approach his stall and attempt to pet him and it’s the old coy treatment. “No carrot? No pets!” his expression seems to say. It’s easy to take the cynical approach, that he’s only after carrots and doesn’t really like us – but that would be a disservice to him. The family we bought him from were not into feeding treats, yet the father said that Nash would follow him along the fence line as he mowed. No, I think Nash is one of those aloof sorts, with more going on inside than meets the eye. I’ve met that sort before.
My first horse, Wicki, was an App-aloof-sa. More often than not, he’d notice me and come over, but it was more of an “Oh, you’re here. Okay.” greeting than what I would later experience with Ben. I would no sooner set foot in the barn than Ben, at the far end of a forty stall barn, would alert the entire property that his mom had arrived! I could call from across a field, and Ben’s head would fly up. He’d trumpet his answer and then come galloping or trotting right up. Not so with Wicki, or with Nash. I more hoped than knew that Wicki liked me. There was the one time when he packed me around a cross-country course, after I was injured in a fall. But that was easy to chalk up to him knowing his job really well.
I think it was the very question of how much Wicki cared about me, over say any other person, that allowed me to accept the idea of selling him and getting a bigger horse. But it was through that very sale that I learned just how much I’d misjudged how he felt. Over the years we were together, we’d gone to many locations for schooling or showing. Wicki was mister “been there, done that” about all of it. Somehow, he sensed something was different this time. As I turned to walk away from his pen, he left his new girls and stood at the fence calling and calling. It broke my heart, and made me reconsider the concept of selling horses for profit. (There was eventually a happy ending to this story, which I will relate in another post.)
That lesson also makes me look at aloof horses differently. Of course, if anyone should know better, it’s certainly me. Being an introvert, I’m a quiet observer whose emotions are rarely obvious to onlookers. I have many stories about how I disappointed those around me by having a seemingly cool response to something they expected would result in squeals of joy. So, I’m certainly not in a position to complain about lack of obvious enthusiasm!
When Nash first came, he was more than aloof – he was largely shut down. Getting any reaction, positive or negative, took a lot of effort. His ears were never forward, always in a neutral disinterested position. By the end of the first year, his eyes were brighter, his ears moved appropriately, and he began to provide feedback on what he liked or didn’t. But he’s still not highly expressive, and touch has never been his favorite thing, in any form. Still, I don’t take it personally, and I bear in mind that little white horse who taught me that outward appearances can be deceiving. Besides, every now and again Nash will surprise me.
I have not been to the barn much this week, due to work and weather. I entered the barn this morning to an uncharacteristically expressive Nash. Ears forward, he reached toward me with his nose. He let me rub his face and neck for better than a minute before beginning to back up and give me that “No carrot, no pet” look. When you have an App-aloof-sa, you learn to take those little gestures as something meaningful!
Be good to your horses!