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Will You be my Friend?

By Cindy Hale

Friday, April 10, 2009

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I’ve learned a lot from my horses. They’ve taught me the value of a good sense of humor. When things go wrong around the barn, I can’t help but laugh at my own follies. I’ve also learned to be patient and kind. Long ago I realized that you can’t make much progress with a young horse if you get frustrated and lose your cool. But most recently I’ve gained some insight on friendship and cooperation from an unlikely couple: Wally and Cowboy.

We all know that horses enjoy being part of a herd, and they go to great lengths to figure out just where they fit within the hierarchy. Whenever a couple of unfamiliar horses meet, you can almost hear one saying to the other, “Look, let’s just get this over with and decide who among us is going to be the boss, and then we can go eat lunch.”

For the time being, Wally is still residing at my parents’ place a few blocks away. And while he seems to have settled in—thus far he’s been perfectly sound and comfortable on the soft footing over there—he and my sister’s Thoroughbred, Topper, are having a cantankerous relationship. Jill and I have ridden our geldings together without incident. But until now we never asked them to live harmoniously on the same plot of land. Unfortunately, flamboyant Topper never avoids an opportunity to annoy Wally. Yet Cowboy, my mother’s palomino yearling colt, gets along famously with Wally. I have to believe that’s because Cowboy acquiesces to every one of Wally’s overtures. In fact, whenever Wally so much as looks in his direction, Cowboy displays the behavior known as “snapping”: He repeatedly opens and closes his mouth, as if he’s biting the air. It’s the instinctive way a young horse demonstrates submission to an older horse.

Cowboy and Wally gallop

So the other day, in an effort to foster goodwill and brotherhood, I turned Wally and Cowboy out together. And what fun they had! Because Cowboy accepted Wally as his leader, there wasn’t any animosity between them. Instead, Wally led the way and the two of them galloped around my parents’ arena, their tails aloft and their nostrils flared. Cowboy was like Wally’s shadow. Wherever my big red Paint went, the yellow colt followed a few strides behind. Once they’d finished cavorting, the two of them hung out along the fence line with the neighbor’s horses. Though Wally was still pumped up (I think he was savoring his moment as King of the Herd), Cowboy seemed utterly exhausted. When I went with their halters to catch them, I found Cowboy snuggled up to Wally’s side. The two of them had become buddies.

Cowboy and Wally

 Why can’t humans be more like horses when it comes to our interpersonal relationships? Life would be so much easier if we acknowledged our leaders and respected their authority. That doesn’t mean we’re less valuable as individuals. But is it so demeaning to admit that maybe, in some situations, someone else is better equipped to be the head honcho? By just making a little bit of an effort, we could all get along peacefully, and that would be wonderful. After all, what could be better than having a friend who allows you to rest your head on their butt?

Cowboy and Wally resting

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Reader Comments

Natalie    Norco, CA

4/12/2009 10:43:28 PM

We are so happy to see Wally back to his happy, sound cantankerous self....and a happy mom (Ms. Hale) back in the saddle again....with not just the original Wally Doodle....but his cute little shadow....baby Joey.....is it a concidence that the new horse is also a sorrel overo Paint????

Marion    Sussex, NJ

4/11/2009 5:24:53 AM

Looks like Wally has gotten over his hoof abcess very well and is playing like a young colt too. It's nice that they have become best buds and Cowboy is handsome too. Of course, since I own two palominos and have had palominos for all most 40 years now, you can tell that I am partial to them. But of course, I do love all horses. Just favor the yella ones. So happy that Wally is doing so great.

Kaitlynn    Queen Creek, AZ

4/10/2009 11:31:59 PM

Wow, Cowboy is getting so big! Glad to see that Wally has a friend and that his foot is well. I agree that horses know how to get along better than most people, too.

Danielle    Bothell, WA

4/10/2009 7:17:39 PM

That's so cute, Cindy!!! The pictures are adorable. Cowboy and Wally look totally devoted to each other. And Cowboy's getting to be such a big handsome boy!! Thanks for making me smile with your blog. :)

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