I have exciting news. You might think I’m a little crazy, but bear with me. Yesterday, Popcorn got feisty with one of his paddock mates. The mule snuck up on him when he was looking for leftover morsels of food under his bucket, and Popcorn pinned his ears and whooshed her away. I almost cried. This little bit of typical horse behavior made me so happy. I’ll tell you why.
I’ve been visiting Popcorn’s herd for a while now. Two of my favorite rescues, Dante and Dutch, came back to us temporarily, and in all their giant glory, they’re presiding over that field. I love being with them any chance I get. In addition, baby donkey Basil and his mom Sage are there, and believe me, if you ever need a spiritual lift, sink down on your heels and let a baby donkey approach you. And there’s yearling Phoebe, too—fiery, red, and 100% adorable. And getting braver every day.
However, for a good chunk of time after this herd arrived, Popcorn had me worried. Emaciated, with his long flaxen mane matted into crazy knots, this beautiful little pinto was completely shut down. He wandered the fence line alone and cowered and walked away if I got within twenty yards of him. I almost never saw him eating hay or grazing alongside his paddock mates. He was so frail and disconnected that I wondered if someone would find him collapsed, too far gone to save.
But Popcorn is another 13 Hands miracle. His caretakers have kept a close watch and have made sure he’s gotten the supplemental nutrition and the attention he needs. His eyes, once dull and sad, are suddenly bright and curious. He’s put on some weight, and now I often find him in the middle of hay line, nose-to-nose with the other horses. Just the other day when I exited the gate, he stayed by the fence and let me keep him company before I got into my car. I chatted with him for a good ten minutes.
Popcorn has a long way to go. He still startles easily with sudden movements. He still walks away if I approach him directly. And he still needs his alone time—maybe to process all he’s learning. But yesterday when I saw him whoosh away that mule, I felt like I was looking at a new horse who is becoming just who we hoped he would be—a feisty, engaged member of his herd.
Until next time—