Blue And The Big Apple

   One of my most vivid memories from childhood is of standing in our barnyard and realizing that a high-strung heifer was getting ready to charge me. Then, another cow stepped between me and the hostile animal, blocking its path. My bovine defender was one I milked by hand twice a day.
    From that moment, inter-species bonding has always fascinated me. I've seen baby goslings standing in front of full-grown chickens with their wings spread to guard the bigger birds. There are documented accounts of goats serving as guides for blind horses. Youtube has many videos on the subject.
    As an adult, my daughter makes a living with horses. A mustang named Blue who had grown up wild was my daughter's first horse. We purchased him when she was about ten.
    So named because of his color, Blue was no beauty (neither Black Beauty nor Blue Beauty). Neither was he My Friend Flicka. In fact, when we bought him, he was nobody's friend at all. When he was delivered to us by trailer, he made a point of expressing his opinion of the entire proceedings by kicking every spot inside of the trailer that he could reach.
    I don't believe that Blue had been abused. I think he was born that way. Mustangs don't survive in the wilderness by being pushovers. I am not a horse whisperer, but I grew up with cattle and horses and certain instincts remained into adulthood and fatherhood. There was no way that I was going to let my little girl ride something with a bad attitude, so I set out to change Blue's temperament before we saddled him.
    I began with apples. At first, when I brought him feed and water, I would hold up a slice to get Blue's attention and then lay it on the ground near the feed. It took a while before he would even sniff at it. Eventually, he began to eat the apple slices. After that, I enticed Blue to take a snack from my hand. There were many days when I stood long in the cold with a piece extended towards his menacing glare. Much later, he started taking apples directly from my shirt pocket.
    Next door dwelt a problem dog. We lived in an part of Alaska where some who called themselves freedom-loving expressed such love by letting their pets run loose. This particular animal was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and was big even for his breed. I'd guess he weighed over a hundred pounds.
    The oversized pooch terrorized little kids on their way to the school bus. Maybe he didn't have a mean bone in his body, but when a big dog rushes at a small child, it's really scary. The mutt had knocked me flat on one occasion. His owner's response was “Oh, he wouldn't hurt a flea.”
    Blue stayed put because of a single waist-high strand of electric wire that circled his pen. One day as I was about to feed him, the dog left his owner's property and made a dead run straight for me, streaking across the street and underneath the wire. Blue counter-attacked by charging the trespasser at full speed.
    In seconds the dog was screaming like a scalded puppy and heading for home with a hoof print on his backside and 800 pounds of fury on his tail. The electric wire saved the Ridgeback's life. If Blue had known that hitting the fence at 30 miles an hour would have carried him through it with little or no pain, he would have slaughtered that hound in the middle of the road.
    I am pleased to note the ponderous fleabag never graced us with his company again. So – you ask – was Blue protecting me or his territory or his source of apples? Since I'm not a horse whisperer nor a reader of horse's minds I'm without an answer. To this day, I'm grateful to have known that crabby cayuse.
    Before long, my daughter was riding Blue and he turned out to be a good ride. As long as Blue was around, we had no problems with stray dogs and he became like family to us. May you roam free in Horse Heaven, old friend!