The more we worked together, the more in tune to each other we became. I was slowly falling in love with Estes, but she just tolerated me. Her daughter, Meeker, was also one of our ranch-horses-turned-livery-horses and looked just like Estes. When they would get muddy, we’d have to scrape the mud from their hocks, just above their hooves, to tell them apart. Estes has two socks, Meeker has three. Meeker may have inherited Estes’ looks, but certainly not her temperament. Estes was very stand-offish, she tolerated people, but never showed any affection. Meeker, on the other hand, loved everybody. I don’t know that Meeker’s ever met a stranger. If I ever needed equine therapy, a horse just to cuddle with, it was Meeker, not Estes that I spent time with. Estes could take me or leave me, it seemed.
There was one ride that I was working with my mom. I was riding drag and knew that there was a wedding scheduled. Whenever we had a wedding scheduled, we knew we’d have to be on poop patrol. Brides don’t like having to avoid horse droppings, no matter how quaint it was to have horses riding by outside the tent. We normally did poop patrol in the evenings after the livery closed, but on days with weddings scheduled, we cleaned up almost before the poop hit the ground. Of course, on the return ride, less than a half an hour before the wedding was to begin, one of the horses had to go. Right in the middle of the “Bridal Path”. Knowing that I had to get it cleaned up, Estes and I peeled away from the ride and trotted ahead to the livery. I tied her to the fence, grabbed a manure fork and headed out through the yard to the scene of the crime. I ran past the returning ride, cleaned up the mess, raked the wood chips back into place and ran back to the livery. I pitched the manure fork through the fence toward the barn and went around to the staging area to help unload the ride.
Imagine my surprise when I turned the corner, looked over at Estes and saw that she was standing at attention, ears forward, watching for me. As soon as she saw me, her eyes softened, her body posture relaxed and she nickered at me. That was the most affection she’d ever shown anyone and it about brought me to tears. My heart filled with joy, the Heavens opened up and the Angels sang. At that instant I knew I was head-over-heels in love with that little bay mare…and that she might have a place in her heart for me, too.