There's a very special look some horses will give you, once in a blue moon. It's a look that asks, very plainly, "Are you my mother?" I've seen this look from just a few horses in my lifetime of hundreds of horses, and it's melted my heart each time.
I've gotten it from Rocket (remember him?), and I've gotten it from Crooked Dealer (my very first horse), and I got it today from a sweet mare named Bella. All of these horses happen to be ex-racers, and they all happen to be thoroughbreds. Is it a thoroughbred thing, you ask, since they are generally so affectionate and sensitive. Maybe. The more I ponder on it, though, I think this look could come from any horse who you really open your heart to and who opens his or her heart to you.
I really did open my heart to Bella today, and I felt hers open back like a little flower blossoming. Cheesy, I know, but it's so true. It was the second time I'd ridden her, and I was incredibly proud of her for remembering everything we'd worked on last week. I felt her trust me so much more this time compared to last, and I knew she was starting to understand that I cared about her. She listened to every move I made and followed every request she knew how to. Another rider who was watching us said later that she could tell Bella was trying so very hard to do what I wanted her to. I love that Bella's sweet little heart was so apparent, all the way across the arena!
It was when we were finished riding and I had untacked her that she gave me "the look." I was petting her and praising her calmness (huge turnaround from last week!), when she craned her neck around to put her eye about three inches away from mine. She stood there and just looked and looked into my face, ears turned softly toward me and breathing slow. It was the "Are you my mother" look I'd gotten those few precious times before, and once again, my heart melted.
My response is always the same. A caress on the neck, a kiss on the nose, and a gentle "no, but I wish I was." Finances can't stop me from loving her, though, and love her I will until it is time for her to go, which I know it soon will be just like it was with Rocket and Dealer.
It is heartbreaking, but without a doubt one of the most precious and tender emotions I've ever experienced. I wouldn't trade this bittersweet feeling for the world.