The first thing I noticed this morning when I opened the barn door, was that Little Love had shavings all over her; she had laid down at night! This is the first time she has slept on the ground at her new home and a definitely sign that she feels comfortable. I must have looked like an idiot smiling from ear to ear at my horse, but there was nobody there to see it, since Becky is still gone and her husband was in the house.
It was an extremely windy day and had we still been at the old barn in our old life, I wouldn't have dreamt of going outside with Little Love in such wind, as that would just have been asking for trouble. But life is different now and I suddenly felt this confidence eminating from my horse (and myself?). So - we went out despite the weather. And it was brilliant. What a brave little mare I have. There were flapping tarps and scrurries of leaves and plastic bags and what not flying all over the place, but she marched along confidently, following me with curiousity. Sometimes I just had to look at her in awe; who was this horse and where the heck did she emerge from? Where before everything new made her extremely fearful, today she showed careful curiosity.
In the end of our walk we had to pass several houses and yard, something that always makes Lilo suspicious as her previous experiences of such places include dogs bolting from behind bushes and children kicking balls at each other and other such unpredictable events. We managed to pass all the houses without incident (she was following me wide-eyed but still curious, she even stopped to sniff a half open dumpster, I couldn't believe it) when we approached the last house on the right. As we came to the house, a car appeared from behind the corner and parked in front. A family of four poured out, all their eyes fixed on my horse. My first thought was: "Oh no, don't come here, she doesn't do well with this sort of a thing", but I tried to relax and go with the flow.
Little Love stopped. Her eyes were on sticks as she was scanning the house, the yard and the four eager people approaching her. They all said hello, and the man asked if Little Love was scared.
"Well, she is a little unsure, as there is a lot to look at," I said, neutrally, watching her closely to make sure she didn't suddenly spook and run over these people.
"Can we pet her?" the woman asked.
I don't know, I thought, can you? Little Love stood stock still. She was still alert but when the children (they were about 11 and 8) approached she lowered her head so they could touch it. I literally held my breath as she let the two kids and their parents caress her neck and head. She didn't move a muscle, even though the kids were right in front of her and beside her, completely fearless.
"What a beautiful horse," the man said.
No kidding. Not only beautiful, but brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I could barely contain my emotions as I spoke with the family for a few minutes. Then it was time to move on. So off we went, Little Love and I, walking side by side. When I looked back, the kids were waving at us and I felt like crying. Little Love sighed, long and hard as if to release her emotions, as it had probably taken some effort to deal with the situation.
I don't know where that horse went that was so afraid of everything and would never in a million years stood so patiently in a scary environment letting absolute strangers pet her. Maybe she will resurface again later, but at the moment, her spirit seems to have left my black mare. It's hard to describe the feelings I have when I see these small changes in Little Love. I am afraid to hope for anything, because I know that if there is something that can kill a horse-human relationship, it is expectations. But how do I keep myself neutral in the face of everything that is happening? Because, really, sometimes it feels like my heart will literally explode, in a good way :-)