Sunday, May 25, 2008

My first memories of my horse

In honor of Memorial Day weekend, I've been thinking a lot about when I first met my horse.

I remember the breeder's surprise when Panama (though that wasn't his name yet) came up behind me while I sat with his injured mother, and gently bumped me on the back of my right shoulder with his nose. I turned to look and he took off, only to venture back again moments later. "He likes you," the breeder said. Panama had had little human interaction at this point, and had never approached a person on his own.

That is the first memory of Panama that has stuck in my mind.

The next memory is more powerful. It was after Panama's mother had been euthanized, and the vet realized that Panama was injured too. We were trying to catch him so that the vet could take a look at his injuries. There were maybe 6 or 8 of us out there, and we all surrounded the confused yearling, holding our arms out to keep him inside the circle.

As we got closer and his space got smaller, Panama made a break for it, right past the vet's son, who had just recently finished vet school and was helping his dad for the summer. The vet's son threw his arms around Panama's scrawny neck. "That's it, hang on, hang on!" the vet yelled, as Panama struggled to canter with a full-grown man hanging onto his neck.

Panama may have been stunted and half-starved, but a man was still no match for him. The vet's son dropped to the ground and then stood up, brushing himself off. Panama, meanwhile, turned and trotted back through our disappointed little group, head held high and mane and tail flying.

That's the image that will stick in my mind forever when I think of how Panama first appeared to me — not as a malnourished yearling who had just lost his mother, but as the colt proudly showing off that he had (temporarily at least) prevailed over an entire group of humans.

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