I had just finished a full afternoon of playing with WhiteStar. As I turned her out to pasture, a couple of the friendly horses gathered around me for a quick pet. I stroked each of them and then turned to go.
That's when I saw him.
He was standing on the outskirts, looking both shy and interested at the same time. He shifted his weight nervously, obviously wanting to come closer but too unsure of the situation to pursue it on his own.
I shifted my weight and invited him to come to me. He hesitated and then came quickly. He stood by me with head up and ears flicking. He looked a little astounded by his own bravery, and he eyed me carefully to see if I was going to do anything scary.
I felt almost as jumpy as he did. He was so big and powerful-looking! I had only been playing with horses for a few months, and here I was next to a nervous horse I knew nothing about. What if I moved suddenly or touched a sensitive place and he panicked?
At the same time, though, I couldn't help but wonder at the circumstance. He was the one who wanted to meet me. He was the one who came at my invitation. For the way I felt, I could have been in a wilderness, approached by a wild horse. It was one of those breathtaking moments.
Slowly, I rubbed his shoulder and neck. As I did, we both relaxed somewhat. I picked some burrs out of his mane and forelock, and I talked to him. He still kept an eye on me but seemed to enjoy the attention. I scratched his face, and he liked that.
There were flies on his back, but I didn't know Caleb (or horses in general) well enough to feel comfortable reaching over his back without being able to watch his face. In my hand, I had a long stick with a string tied on the end. I used the stick to reach Caleb's back and scratch the itchy places. Then I tossed the string across his back a few times, kind of similar to the way a horse tosses her tail to keep flies away. Caleb closed his eyes.
Then Caleb stepped forward, head high, and crowded close to me. Silly boy. I put two fingers against his chest and raised my "energy". This is a signal that is supposed to mean "back up," but Caleb was not quick to respond. I kept my fingers there, waiting for him to figure it out, but I almost thought my fingers were going to get too tired and give out. Then, just before they did, Caleb took a couple steps back. I instantly relaxed. Whew! Good job.
So, as we stood there, just relaxing together and enjoying the sunny day, I really began to wonder about this horse. What if he just needed a friend? Somebody to play with him? What if I were to start playing with him?