I loaded the cart with ten flakes of hay for the five horses. I wheeled the cart out of the barn, opened the gate and noticed that Carli wasn’t doing her usual Queen dance. You know the one, that little dance bossy mares do when they want the rest of the herd to act a certain way?
Chiefy was by the gate – his usual vantage point – much easier to knock the hay cart over. Cru was standing obediently next to his bucket, awaiting the big flake toss. However, there was confusion between Zig and Berlin. They couldn’t understand why Carli was standing off by herself and they were a bit leery about coming in too soon.
What was going on?
I managed to keep the cart upright while I made the loop, tossing flakes on a clockwise arc back to the gate. All the boys dug in to eat. Miss Carli, on the other hand, she followed me to the gate. Hummm…
Carli and I haven’t had much interaction lately. Most of the time, I leave her alone unless she asks for something specific. We have this sort of agreement, you know? I mean, she’s been there and done that a thousand times over – racing, three day eventing, hunters, dressage, cattle, demonstrations, performances – what else does she need to do? And she’s aged – believe me, she doesn’t let me forget it. Anyway, the agreement states that she’s done enough already! I believe the official document states “Retired, tired and looking to have some fun”. So, I mostly leave her in her own little world. Oh, trust me, she’s not ignored, not by any means. But I certainly don’t ask her to do anything for me and I haven’t ridden her for several years now. She seems quite content with our little agreement.
Not this evening…
I opened the gate to bring the cart back into the barn. Carli blocked my path. A not-so-subtle demand that she come along. To which I agreed. She obviously wanted something, so I headed in with her to figure out what it was. She ambled along beside me and when we arrived in the center isle, she waited patiently for me to get it for her.
Without a thought, I disappeared into the feed room and brought her a few carrots. We feed organic carrots here, don’t’cha’know. Only the best. She eyed the fine stemmed orange jewels, gave one a hurrumph and a polite lipping, and then dropped the half eaten veggie on the floor. OK then! Perhaps something else for Your Highness? I got the brilliant idea that she wanted a different type of hay. Off I went to hay storage to get her a flake of the finest orchard shipped-all-the-way-from-South Dakota has to offer. I laid this on a silver platter at her feet only to receive a look of sheer distain. She actually cocked a hind foot in protest! Uh oh. This court jester was in serious jeopardy of being packed off to the hills.
With front hooves on her hips, she leveled me with a scornful glare. Perhaps I was some sort of village idiot?
And then it dawned on me...
After a performance, to the sheer delight of the crowd, I would open a bucket of Nicker Maker Cookies and Carli would dive in. I raced back to the feed room, found a brand new container of Nicker Maker Cookies and opened it right in front of her face. With a look of pure delight and satisfaction in the knowledge that she had not lost her communicative edge, Carli very daintily lowered her nose into the bucket and removed one cookie. She rolled this tasty morsel around in her lips, flapped them about, then opened her teeth and crunched down.
For the next thirty minutes I sat in awe as she repeated this procedure until the entire bucket was empty.
Then Miss Carli quietly turned around and strolled back to the gate, whereupon she turned her head and gave me ‘The Look’. Silly me! I jumped up from the tack truck and ran to open the gate.
And Her Majesty didn’t even spoil her dinner!