Leaning in, I lightly pressed my shoulder to the horses shoulder. While the big red gelding brushes his lips over the back of my coat, I slip one hand under the stirrup. Hoisting the leather over my arm, I deftly loosened the girth. Not enough to let the saddle slide off, but just enough to give Red Rover a break from the tension.
I turn to face the horse, gently moving his curious mouth away with my hand and walk around to the right side of the saddle and remove a halter and long lead line. Rover, lowers his head, anticipating my actions. The buckle on the bridle is old tarnished fine silver and the leather is dark and butter soft from years of saddle soap and oil. I contemplated the last time I’d actually polished the silver on the bridle as I the slip the halter over Rover’s nose and buckle the crown.
As the Rover forages around for bits and pieces of grass and forbs, I sit down and rifle through my saddlebag. Rover pricks his ears forward at the sound of a rustling baggie.
As a long yearling, Rover was greatly frightened of the crackling rustle of plastic. I, ever aware of just how many plastic bags find their way into the Nevada desert, took extra pains to inure the rawboned youngster to the ever-present baggie “danger.” Often, I would carry bags of sweet cornhusks and watermelon rinds, luscious treats to any equine, out to him in grocery store bags. In order to get his mouth around these mouth-watering treats Rover had to overcome his fear of the horse eating baggie.
Now as I open my peanut butter and potato chip sandwich he is intent on divining whether I’m going to be generous or stingy. The sight of the horse with his intense look, big white blaze and bright eyes, his head paralleling mine, makes me smile. The once frightening sound has been transformed into a horsey dinner bell.
I briefly mull over the notion that a 1,350 lb horse truly believes that he needs half of a relatively small peanut butter sandwich. Rover has not moved a muscle, not twitched his skin or swished his tail. His eyes, hypnotized by the sandwich, are still brightly focused; his ears are still pointed towards the area of the sound.
I sigh, look out over the high mountain lake in the distance and tear off a piece of the sandwich. Rover takes a step forward and gently takes the piece off my hand. As always he touches the palm of my hand with his tongue.
Rover eats his sandwich, rightly discerns that I’ll offer no more goodies and begins to sniff the forage near my knee. I rub his forehead, take in a big breath of clean mountain air and consider that life can’t get much better.