Separation & Reunion
Only a traumatic situation would make me leave my horse, but things happen in life and you just have to deal with them as best you can. Bob and I were not getting along for a period of time so we decided it would be best if we split up. I had no money or job so I went to live with my brother in Connecticut. I couldn’t bring Danny. Doug was a friend of ours that fed Danny whenever we went away. He lived nearby to the cabin and had worked with us logging. He had always admired Dan. Someday, he had told us, wanted his own workhorse. I proposed to Doug that he could borrow Danny for a year or so and when I got my own place I would come back for him. Doug was overjoyed and readily agreed.
Doug came over and we got him ready to go. I hugged Danny around the neck and said goodbye. Doug jumped on Danny’s back, took the reins, and rode away. As soon as they had rounded the bend in the road and were out of sight, I turned to walk to the barn with wet eyes. All of a sudden I heard hoof beats I turned around and there came Danny cantering up the road without Doug. He ran right up to me and lowered his head. I hugged him and scratched his forelock.
Emotions ran high and were very mixed, happy for his show of loyalty but sad that he absolutely had to go with Doug. Doug tried to ride him away three more times and the same thing happened. Finally I said “I’ll ride him over to your place.” But Doug replied, “No, he has to learn who is boss now.” Doug got a stick to use as a crop and tapped Dan on the hindquarter as they trotted away. This time Danny did not return.
While I was living with my brother and Sean, trying to sort out my life, Danny was not behaving for Doug. Seven times he jumped the corral fence and ran the two miles back through the woods to the old cabin. Doug said he always knew where to find him; he’d be looking in the windows of the cabin or hanging his head over the porch rail. Danny wouldn’t work for Doug either. Doug harnessed him and hitched him to a log, but Danny would just stand there, not budging, ears laid back flat, meaning he was mad. Danny could be stubborn like that. Doug continued to try to work with Danny and take care of him as best he could.
Dan looking in the windows of the cabin.
Over the next two years, my life took me several places, including Alaska and California, while Dan stayed with Doug. I had another marriage, which was brief but it yielded two more children, Dylan and Teresa. We moved back to Massachusetts and went to visit Danny in New Hampshire. When we got here Danny ran up to the corral gate and I hugged him, the kids gave him the carrots and apples they had brought. It was so good to see him, but so sad to have to only visit and leave again. I longed to have him back with me.
Doug called me a couple of months later and said Dan had a bad cut on his leg. I drove up to New Hampshire and treated the wound. Danny had lost a lot of weight and his ribs showed, like they had when I first got him. Doug put food out for him but he wouldn’t eat. So I called my friend Jenny who had just moved back to Massachusetts and rented a farm in New Salem. I told her the story and she agreed to rent me a stall. I borrowed a horse trailer and went back to get him. When we pulled up, Danny picked up his head and pranced around the corral. Doug was amazed. “He’s been hanging his head for days. I’ve never seen him act so lively.” Doug had tried his best to keep Danny in good shape with good hay and grain but Danny was just depressed. Doug said, “He always was your horse. There was nothing I could do about it.”
I was so happy to have Danny back, I could hardly speak. Jenny drove with me in the pickup, pulling a borrowed horse trailer to help me get Danny. When we pulled up to the corral, I called out his name. Danny started running around in circles and came straight to the gate when I walked up to it. I gave him a big hug and snapped a lead line onto his halter. I told him we were going home and he seemed excited. Danny snorted at the opening to the horse trailer then walked right in, amazing for a horse that had not been in a trailer for many years. I thanked Doug for helping us and for taking care of Danny.
It was an hour and a half back to Jenny’s place with a few stops to check on Danny. Every time I peeked in the trailer, I couldn’t believe I had my Danny back. When we got back to her farm and opened the trailer door, Danny backed out and I unclipped his lead line. He took off at a gallop around his new pasture, happy to be free and with his family again.
A few days later we set to improving the fence around Dan’s pasture. The fence had a small low gate so Jenny and I spent all day sinking in two stout posts and hanging a sturdy metal gate. As the sun set we stood and admired our handy work. All of a sudden Dan came cantering towards us as we stood next to the gate. We stepped aside and Danny flew over the gate and trotted off to the barn. It was feeding time. “Well guess that’ll hold him,” Jenny said, laughing. Danny was obviously feeling better. After a few days at Jenny’s, he knew when grain feeding time was in the barn and didn’t want to be late for dinner.
Jenny’s farm had so much good energy – kids running around; a small house surrounded by fields that let in a lot of sunlight; rabbits, dogs, cats in the barn; and a big garden out back. We built a stall for Danny in the barn so he’d be warm at night. Dan was getting old – by now we figured he must be at least thirty. Jenny helped me put weight on those skinny old bones with good grass and extra grain. I also had the veterinarian float his teeth or file off the sharp edges. Dan was back with his family and he healed up and gained weight. His coat got glossy again and his hooves grew out solid and hard.
Jenny had two girls, Lily and Juniper. Danny loved kids and now he had attention from a whole gang of little ones. They played with him in the hot summer with a garden hose, spraying each other and Danny, Dan always loved water. One day when the kids were playing in their wading pool next to their swing set, Danny was grazing peacefully a hundred feet away. Dylan, my youngest, went toddling off toward Danny to give him a hug. Dylan threw his arms around Danny’s knee and wouldn’t let go. I ran up and pulled Dylan back. Dan had never moved an inch. I was so scared because a horse that big could crush a baby in one step. But Danny knew what was going on and his caring gentleness shone through.
Dan and the kids in the wading pool.