I met the herd first by moonlight last night. The moonlight was intense and beautiful, the air crisp and cold. And large gray and white shadows danced in the starlight under white canopies.
Natives are complaining it's too cold, but it was about the same as what I left behind, only drier. The wind had died down, which was nice. Just as still as could be. Sounds of dogs barking, an occasional owl. A couple of coyotes sounded quite close and that seemed to set all the dogs off. Apparently, cats are house pets around here. Otherwise they end up as coyote fodder.
Morning is very bright and crisp, but nice in the sun. I have been shed on. I have been leaned on. I have had my ear kissed by a horse and that feels weird. I have had my shirt nibbled on and I have no cookies to offer. I have been leaned into, a horse's head dropped onto my shoulder. The herd is shedding and so scratching is much wanted. I have sat on a very polite mare and had a very polite riding instructor tell me how to sit and move. I am thankful I have worked on my core muscles and lifted weights for 2 months.
Did I mention the shedding?
My clothes smell delightfully horsey with a side of chewed hay where they used my shirt as a napkin. My boots were licked and I have no idea why. Everyone wanted to check me out, though his royal highness Pooka only deigned to sniff me. That's ok. Going too close to all that testosterone is not on my list of things I want to do this weekend. But having a herd take turns getting attention was fascinating. Learning to tell them apart is easy with some, more difficult with the others. I'm sure dancinghorse does not need to covertly glance under the tummy to tell if she is talking to the one and only gelding. I'm still learning all their names and elementary ways of telling them apart. For example, huge white horse often off by herself is Pandora; fly mask is Capria; young black mare is Tia; Ephiny is gray; Khepera is the gelding...gee, I'm doing better than I thought, I'm lousy at names and faces. But I better quit while I'm ahead.
Did I mention the white horsehair all over my clothes?
So I brushed Capria to thank her for letting me sit on her back. She would have preferred hay, but was itchy and polite about the attention. After everyone was let into the ring, I was let into the ring and given a talk on herd politics. And then a demonstration. No one acted up, but they gave way to each other in order, depending on who came over for hugs, kisses and lots of scratching. Tia was a silly thing. She's not full grown at 2, but enough to make me think twice when she insisted on nibbling every inch of my shirt and then kissed my cheek and frenched my ear. Then she pushed at me and I had to learn not to back away from her, but to push back into her space instead. Counter-intuitive as she was definitely invading my space and my tendency with humans is to give way. She really checked out every inch of me, head to toe.
And with a good instructor, it was easy to get on a horse again. Especially such incredible animals. Very different from a trail horse or a camp horse.
Did I mention that I now smell like a horse and not a frog?