The Sun peeks over the Eastern horizon, staining the sky a pinkish hue. With the newfound light comes the rumbling of car engines – our breakfast bell. My friends call to one another in excitement. I remain patient, grazing towards the back of the pasture while Jessie eagerly paces at the gate. She is the boss of my herd and the first to leave come feeding time.
Soon enough, the humans, sleepy-eyed but with smiles on their faces, begin their march out to the fields. I patiently wait until my pasture is cleared out before approaching the gate.
The wait is worth it. I’m led to my stall to find a flake of hay on the ground and grain in my bucket. Hallelujah. I dive into my meal and finish within a few short minutes.
The morning trickles by. I mainly stand in the corner under my fan, a source of cool relief from the incredible heat. Kids burst into the barn, wide-eyed with grins on their faces. I watch them go about their lessons and hope that I will have my own child to work with today.
My prayer is answered, as shortly after a boy comes bouncing up to my stall door. He has to stand on his tip-toes to peer into my stall. A staff member retrieves me from the stall and leads me to the cross ties. The child begins the grooming process. He’s been here before and understands not only the order that the brushes go in, but the purpose of each grooming tool. I allow the cross ties to support my weight, nearly falling asleep from the cooling air of the fan combined with the deep massage of the brushes.
My day-dreaming is cut short as the boy returns from the tack room with a saddle. First he puts a saddle pad on my back, then the saddle itself, and then my girth. I blow up my belly in protest to the tightening of the girth but eventually relent. It’s time to work, after all. My leader slips the halter over my ears and buckles it before leading me down the barn aisle and out to the mounting block.
Safety trumps everything here, even I understand that, so my girth and saddle are checked one last time. My child bounces up and down on the mounting block, a toothy grin strewn across his face. I’m led to the mounting block. The boy’s anticipation grows with every step. Finally, with the help of his instructor, he is swings a leg over and seats himself firmly in my saddle.
One last safety check, and then we begin. His voice bubbles with joy as he shouts “walk on”. I happily oblige. Our journey winds around the White Barn and out the large swinging gate. We take a sharp right on the driveway and find ourselves on the Pirate Trail. At this point I wish horses were born with eyes on the back of their heads, if only so I could see the light in my child’s eyes. If he weren’t so disciplined from his lessons here then surely he would have been bouncing in his seat.
We navigate our way through several activities: cranking the pulley to lift the sail on the boat, steering a giant ship wheel, and, finally, using a series of color-coordinated keys to unlock a treasure chest. It may seem like a simple trail, but for us it is an adventure. The sheer excitement my child exudes is contagious. The adult humans all have smiles on their faces, shifting glances between the boy and the activity that presently has his focus. I remain quiet and obedient. This is my job, and I take it seriously. But if horses could smile, I surely would have had a grin on my face in that moment.
The lesson winds down and it’s time to say farewell. The boy offers me a huge hug before being assisted out of the saddle. He loves on my shoulder until his mother comes to get him. We say our farewells and I’m led back into my stall. The rest of the day is a blur. Dinnertime comes and goes. With a full belly, I’m led back out to the pasture. My leader lets me loose and I set out to grazing. Above, the Sun is dipping into the Western horizon, streaking the sky a brilliant orange. Slowly, it fades into a lavender twilight. The day has ended, and the joys that tomorrow will bring guide me through the night.