Monday was the first day that I left the gate open to Big Paul’s pasture. Up until this week, the new, giant addition to my equine family really showed little to no interest in joining the other horses. He seemed content in his small pasture with just our gang (you can’t call this bunch of tiny hoodlums a herd) of miniature donkeys.
But over the past couple of days I noticed Paul grazing near the fence that separates him from the other horses. I saw him standing at the gate, looking out into the big pasture with definite interest. It seemed that the new guy was ready to make some friends, ready to explore new boundaries. I granted him the freedom to do just that.
I watched for a bit as Paulie took his first steps out into our big pasture. He stopped just outside the gate, raised his massive head up to scent the morning wind, his warm breath forming puffy little clouds in the frosty air as he likely pinpointed exactly where the other horses were grazing. I was grateful our herd was away from Paul’s gate at this moment. It gave him time to have a look around before running that gauntlet that all new horses seeking acceptance have to run.
After a few minutes of watching Paul’s very uneventful big release, I gave in to the pressing call of my morning schedule and headed off to work.
I didn’t have human children, but I now think I know how a mom feels the first time she drops her child off at school. It’s a good feeling…your baby is taking those all important first steps into the world. It’s also a terrible, what-have-I-done feeling that causes you to spend the day worrying about your little – or not-so-little in this case – darling.
I knew Paul could be in for a rough day. I’ve introduced new horses and donkeys into the pasture at Tails You Win Farm numerous times. it truly is just like a kid starting midterm at a new school. There are the nice kids who are welcoming with friendly curiosity. There are the kids who just ignore the new guy. And there are the bullies determined to initiate the newcomer.
Our pasture has all of the above.
I knew that Patty and Dublin would likely chase Paul away from the group. I guessed that Leo and GoGo might just go about their business, not caring about Paul one way or another. And I had a good feeling that our sweet paint mare, Cheyenne, would likely flirt a bit and follow Paul around like a persistent kid sister.
I got home from work after dark (why must the sun disappear so early in the fall and winter?), grabbed a flashlight and ran to the barn to see how my boy’s first day went.
Would he be stressed and hiding in a far corner of the pasture?
Would he have bite marks from hazing by the bossier members of the herd?
Would he need a hug and a cookie? (Anthropomorphize much?)
What I found was Big Paul standing in the loafing shed in his small pasture patiently waiting for his dinner in the feeder he has been using since day one at our farm. On either side of him were his new kid sisters, Cheyenne and our standard donkey, Delta Dawnkey. Apparently the younger girls at school did indeed develop crushes on the tall, handsome new guy.
Paul was quiet, relaxed, unscathed and hungry. His first day was apparently a success, though I can’t say he is part of the herd quite yet. He grazes near the “popular kids,” but doesn’t try to dive in the middle of them.
Smart boy. Flirt with the cute little girls. Take your time. Find your place.
Hey Paulie, this ain’t your first rodeo, is it? Geeze Mom, what were you so worried about?