TRUE TALE

Once aloof and dis­in­ter­ested, Bodie be­came a dif­fer­ent horse when a mare named Mouse came into his life.

EQUUS - - EQUUS - By Jane Palmer

Love story: Once aloof and dis­in­ter­ested, Bodie be­came a dif­fer­ent horse when a mare named Mouse came into his life.

Idon’t know why some peo­ple refuse to be­lieve that an­i­mals have emo­tions and form deep at­tach­ments to others. I’ve wit­nessed this phe­nom­e­non first­hand in my own an­i­mals many times over the years. I know they ex­pe­ri­ence real love and con­se­quently miss their friends and mates when they are sep­a­rated.

One of the best ex­am­ples of this was Bodie and Mouse.

It started when my hus­band, Nate, sug­gested I get an­other horse. Our fi­nances were tight, so I couldn’t just go buy one. Plus, I wasn’t sure I was ready to open my heart again. I was still mourn­ing Bobo, the Mor­gan geld­ing I’d owned for 26 years. When Bobo died, I felt like I’d been cut loose from my an­chor and was adrift in sad­ness and loss. I stayed away from horses for five years. But Nate rec­og­nized that I was miss­ing more than just my horse. I had lost a life­style.

I started pe­rus­ing Craigslist for free or very cheap horses, and soon I found a post that piqued my in­ter­est. It de­scribed a small, black, old-style Mor­gan who was rock solid and sound. He was pur­ported to be around 14 years old. I ar­ranged to take a look.

It was not love at first sight. He was pretty enough, and re­spon­sive to cues, but over­all he seemed dull and aloof. His owner as­sured me the geld­ing would be con­tent to be alone on our farm. He had been a res­cue be­fore she got him, and she said he “hated other horses.” Af­ter the geld­ing’s sound­ness was con­firmed in a vet­eri­nary check, I bought him. I re­ally can’t ex­plain why. I just had a feel­ing.

The name he came with didn’t fit him. This guy seemed to have a good heart and a de­sire to please but also a de­gree of dis­trust. When I looked at him, I saw a story that I would never know. He had a smat­ter­ing of white hairs that swirled like a galaxy on his fore­head, so I named him Bode’s Galaxy (af­ter a galaxy far, far away); Bodie for

short. It seemed more fit­ting for a horse who al­ways seemed so far away.

Bodie and I got along well. But there was some­thing about him. Some­thing he ex­uded---a sad­ness, or a melan­choly. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The vet­eri­nar­ian said he was healthy, but Bodie was just not very happy. At times I would look out and see him stand­ing in the field with the look of in­dif­fer­ence about him.

The fol­low­ing spring I stum­bled across an­other ad on Craigslist. There was a photo of a lit­tle black mare, with her owner sit­ting on her back with a bea­gle in her lap. I was smit­ten! The mare was free, and she was close by. I called and went to see her.

Mouse was the same size as Bodie, around 14.1, but with more of a pe­tite build. She had gnarly knees and was a lit­tle re­luc­tant, but I liked her owner and de­cided to give her a try. Mouse had had lamini­tis in the past but checked out to be sound and healthy.

Given what I’d been told about Bodie, I ex­pected fire­works when I brought Mouse home. But I couldn’t have been

more amazed at the re­ac­tion I got---the mem­ory still brings tears to my eyes. My melan­choly boy was sud­denly full of joy. He arched his neck, pranced and nick­ered, and blew in Mouse’s nos­trils. It was as if they had longed for each other for years!

I ran in to get my cam­era, and when I got back, the two of them were stand­ing side by side, munch­ing hay in the dou­ble stall with their heads over the wall. As they set­tled in to life to­gether, never once did I hear a squeal or see a strike or an ear laid back. Just pure joy.

Bodie was a new horse. The in­dif­fer­ence was gone, and he hap­pily took on the role of “pro­tec­tor” of his herd of two. Mouse set­tled in as if she’d al­ways be­longed here and fol­lowed Bodie’s cues as if trained to do so.

Nate, who had never been a rider, was so im­pressed and at ease around the two horses, he be­came in­ter­ested in rid­ing Mouse. The lit­tle mare was calm and steady on the trail, and she quickly earned Nate’s trust. Bodie usu­ally led on our trail rides, but there were times when he would stop, un­sure of a scary ob­ject or un­fa­mil­iar area. Then Mouse would trudge ahead, as if to re­as­sure her mate that she had his back as well.

We had two lovely sum­mers of har­mony and bliss in the barn and on the trails. We de­vel­oped a rou­tine where the four of us would take short rides to the back of our prop­erty and can­ter around a hay field. The horses were so in tune with each other it was as if Nate and I were just along for the ride.

Our dream ended one morn­ing when Bodie col­icked. The vet­eri­nar­ian came, and we spent a very long day and into the evening try­ing ev­ery­thing to ease his pain. When it was clear our ef­forts were not go­ing to work, we de­cided to mort­gage the farm if we had to, and we loaded Bodie up in a bor­rowed trailer and drove him to a large an­i­mal hos­pi­tal about an hour away.

Things did not go well, and by the next morn­ing, we had to make the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to end his pain. The vet­eri­nar­ian also told us that Bodie was prob­a­bly a lot older than we’d thought, but then 14 had never been more than a fair guess.

Bodie had nick­ered qui­etly to Mouse as he had walked into the trailer, leav­ing her for­ever, and she had whin­nied loudly in re­turn. Per­haps they knew it was the last time they would see each other. Per­haps they didn’t. Ei­ther way, life on the farm took an abrupt turn and grief set­tled over all of us.

We still have Mouse. She has a new pas­ture­mate now, an­other Mor­gan geld­ing, but there is no af­fec­tion be­tween them. Their re­la­tion­ship is one of tol­er­ance and rou­tine, not love. Now Mouse has that melan­choly air about her---the same one Bodie had when he first ar­rived.

I wish their re­la­tion­ship had lasted longer, but I am grate­ful for the time Bodie and Mouse had to­gether, and I am also glad that Bodie had a few good years of peace and hap­pi­ness at the end of his long life. He was a good soul who seemed to want noth­ing more than to have a mate to take care of and cher­ish. I am glad he fi­nally got what he de­served … at least for a lit­tle while.

Bodie was a new horse. The in­dif­fer­ence was gone, and he hap­pily took on the role of “pro­tec­tor” of his herd of two.

KISMET: The first time they met, Bodie (left) and Mouse greeted each other like long-lost friends. Their owner, Jane Palmer, took this photo shortly af­ter Mouse’s ar­rival.

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