Before I put the truck into park, I can hear Annahi calling out. She can't even see me, but I guess she knows what the truck sounds like.
It's turn-in time and I'm at the barn to do my stalls, feed and turn the horses in. We only have four horses (two are mine) so it's not a lot of work. In fact, this kind of "work" is always more inclined to be a pleasure.
There's nothing nicer than coming in to an already swept barn at the end of the day, when the sun is cooling off and the bugs are beginning to go wherever they go in cooler weather. It's calm, the air is fresh and the work itself is meditative.
It's a familiar routine. Do the stalls. Set up the dinner. Add water, make up tomorrow's breakfast beet pulp. Greet each horse with the same enthusiasm they bring with them to the gate (of course, their excitement is likely more about the dinner than seeing me).
There's a lot of walking, between setting up the stalls, catching and escorting the horses in, and whatever else needs to be done in the process. But it's a good kind of walking. The varied footing beneath your feet feels good. Sometimes you're on grass, sometimes the concrete floor of the barn. Other times, it's dried up mud.
Annahi knows when to call again. She waits while I do the stalls. She waits while I set up the other horses' feed - hears the banging of the feed bins, hears the buckets as they are picked up and put down. She even knows when they go into the stalls. Yet she waits - until just the moment after I dump the feed into her stall bucket. How does she know that one is hers? Horses can be so smart.
The walk to the paddock is so gratifying. Both "girls" are impatient. They want to get out of the bugs and into their dinners. This is when Annahi gives me an earful. She varies her tone. When I'm farther away, it's a loud squeal designed to be heard from far away. When I get closer, it's lower and more guttural and staccato. It sounds like the sweet nothing sounds a mare gives her foal.
Friends for almost a lifetime, they walk in together with me, Kayla on the left, Annahi on the right. My two legs to their four seem woefully inadequate. The catch - they both walk faster than I can, and invariably, I'm always telling them to wait up, wait up, wait up... until I have to reinforce with a tug on the lead. They reluctantly comply but they're always polite about it.
I pat Kayla's back as we walk, in rhythm with her strides. Her ears instantly flick forward, her pace picks up again and I ask her to wait one more time. But I know she likes it. I pet Annahi on the shoulder because she's closer to me and she too gets all perky-eared and enthusiastic. I walk a bit faster.
You might wonder how two horses can get through one doorway. It's easy, when you're Kayla and Annahi. Their long-standing herd dynamics sorts it all out with no fuss, no muss. Annahi first. Me beside her while Kayla waits behind (I leave extra lead rope for her so I don't pull on her in the meantime). Then Kayla's turn to delicately navigate through the doorway on her own. No sweat.
I can't help being satisfied when I hear the grinding and munching sounds - then the snorts and sighs. The occasional swish of a tail, face scratch on a leg. Sunshiny day to explore out in the open field, and cool, refreshing, bug-free barn to lounge in at night. Life really can't get any better.
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