I walked out my front door that February morning to see something many little girls dream about: there was a horse essentially in my front yard. He was a brown and white pinto quarterhorse, well up in horse years. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The dogs were surprised, too, but all of us were happy. I went over to the fence to meet him and everything about him enchanted me.
I’ve never been a horse person. My friends growing up were horse-crazy girls, but I could not have cared less. Brownie — that’s what the kids ended up naming him — instantly melted my heart.
I sometimes fed him and often gave him carrots, and talked to him, and hung out with him, made sure he always had water. These were not my jobs and I did not have to do them, but something about Brownie made me want to be sure he knew I cared about him.
When I came home from school after my evening class, dark and lonely small town winter night, as soon as he heard the car actually pull into the drive he’d nicker. When I opened the gate, he pawed the ground and whinnied, “Hi, Martha! I’m glad you’re home!” Of course, carrots were sometimes involved in this, but not always. Most evenings I’d come in, drop my books, go to the fridge, get a carrot and take it to Brownie before I fed my dogs.
Brownie was not just a carrot-whore and this was not a carrot based relationship. There were other experiences, too. One afternoon I was scratching the sides of his nose and he enjoyed it so much he closed his eyes in pleasure, like a cat does when you pet its chin. Often when I came out my front door in the morning, Brownie would greet me with a bow — left leg forward, right leg curled up under his chest, head down and a small nicker. At night, before I went to bed, I usually went out to say goodnight to Brownie, stroke his nose and tell him what a great horse he was and that I was so happy he was there.
Hanging around Brownie, I began to experience a kind of communication I didn’t know existed. I thought this was all in my head, but when I saw his owner — a real cowboy — work with him, I saw that my perceptions were accurate. Brownie was very articulate, and my neighbor understood (and spoke!) Brownie’s language. I was just learning. I even dreamed of Brownie opening a gate (there is none) between his yard and mine, opening my front door and coming into my house. The symbolism of that is clear; Brownie found a place in my heart and my mind that I didn’t even know existed.