I drove to New Hampshire that sunshiney day in late November, my heart beating hard against my chest. I was honestly terrified that I was going to look at this horse, and realize that I had made up that feeling of connection in my head. I gripped the wheel with white knuckles as I drove down the winding back roads to rural southern New Hampshire. I don’t think I truly took a breath until I was parked in front of B’s house.
B came out to greet me with a warm hug and a wide smile. We picked up a lively conversation as we walked down the barn, passing through the pasture with her sweet old man Appaloosa gelding, William. He trailed behind us, his nose pressed against our pockets, as we approached the barn.
I peered around B’s shoulder, my heart hammering so loudly I was sure she could hear it. She opened the gate (thankfully, completely unaware of the internal terror that I was fighting) and there he was. His big, wide ears pricked forward and he raised his head from his pile of hay to observe us pick our path across the pasture.
It was cold that afternoon, but the sunshine was gorgeous.
I could romanticize this moment in so many ways, but it was honestly just a pure, simple moment of reconnection. He met us at about halfway to search us for cookies, his bewhiskered muzzle tickling the palm of my hand. He didn’t move off when he realized that we didn’t bring him anything good to eat…instead, he stood, his ears swiveling like antennae, his eyes bright with interest. I moved around him and began scratching his withers. He rewarded me by stretching his neck out, his lips twitching with pleasure. B and I giggled. My racing heart quieted. The nervous feeling melted from my body. This was good. This was right. I hadn’t made anything up, and I wasn’t making a mistake. If anything, this was going to be the best decision I have ever made for myself.
B and I stood out in that paddock for an hour or so, chatting about various things and watching Image and his Appaloosa buddy, Murray, antagonize one another. Every few minutes, he would amble back towards us to double check that we weren’t hiding anything yummy in our pockets. Every time he approached, I found myself doing things I wouldn’t do with any other horse I didn’t know well: I leaned against his sun warmed shoulder, wrapped my arms around his neck, and bent down to kiss the splash of white on his nose. He stood quietly for each display of affection, unphased by my antics. In fact, at one point, he reached out towards me, his top lip wiggling against my nose. He didn’t shy away when I started laughing…if anything, he leaned closer and continued his comical display, his ears trained on the sound of my laughter. B, watching the entire exchange take place, shook her head in slight disbelief. She claimed she had never seen him be so openly affectionate with anyone. I couldn’t have fought back the wide smile that broke out over my face, even if I wanted to.
The boys harassing each other.
Another hour or so later, I slid back into my car. I had done nothing but stand next to him in the pasture, running my hands over his inky black coat. I hadn’t asked anything of him, other than to tolerate my affection and to look pretty for my camera. Still, I felt like I had accomplished a great deal in the matter of a few mere hours. The most important thing – the one thing that had plagued my worries since the day I decided I was supposed to be his new person – had been achieved. There wasn’t a single doubt in my mind that this was meant to be. From that day forward, I finally allowed myself to daydream about what was to come. I saw cold winter rides, bundled up like a snowman as we gallivanted through freshly fallen snow. I saw summer rides in the river that ended with him grazing and me reading a book under a tree. I saw trail rides with friends, full of laughter and living in the moment. I knew that this was far in the future and that there was a lot of work ahead of both of us…but it was there, and I couldn’t wait to get started.
A few weeks later, in the midst of the hurry and scurry of the holiday season (and long, demanding 10 hour days at my customer service job), we settled on the date he was due to be moved: January 26th, 2013. Almost exactly 11 months since GP passed. I began counting down the days and preparing for the biggest life change I’ve had in a great while.