My baby wants to see her friend, Sam.
Meet Sam. He's a lovely, spoiled, hyper, immature, athletic, high-maintenance, sweet horse.
To be more specific, he's my horse. My relationship with him is sometimes complicated and always in flux, depending on what we are working on, how distracted I am, and how independent he's feeling.
Sam loves me (and he should, after more than six years, two life-saving hospitalizations, one surgery, a year off, and about 18 million horse treats).
But he really loves Beep.
Sam has been a part of Beep's life, almost since she was born. Her very first outing as a newborn was to the barn to see him.
I've always considered myself the teacher, Beep's guide, and the intermediary in their interactions. I assumed she'd need the help for quite a while... probably until she was old enough to sit astride him and grasp the reins herself.
I never set out to embed my daughter with a love of horses. I just wanted her to experience horses (along with the rest of the world), and I took my cues from her.
Beep was a tiny baby snuggled in a carrier on my chest when I started holding her hand to run it along Sam's neck. Her tiny fist in mine, we'd stroke his red coat. Then I'd hold her up high, alongside his tall neck, to let her experience his scent and the tickle of his mane on her face. He'd respond by curling his neck around to encircle me and the baby, his deep inhalations ruffling her peach fuzz as he learned about her.
When Beep was just a few months old, I'd hold her hand open and encircle her palm with my fingers. I'd place a treat on her palm and guide Sam to gently take her offering. Her eyes would widen at the soft tickle of his lips politely, tenderly lifting the cookie.
The other day I held my 18-month old daughter in my arms and watched as Sam ruffled her hair with his sweet, hay-scented breath.
It went on and on as he sniffed and snuffled and she giggled and patted him.
Watching the two of them, I suddenly realized they have their own relationship.
They didn't need me.
So I took a step back, and watched, and let them do their thing.
I thought back about all the times over the past year and a half when it was really difficult to juggle a baby and a big horse. It was a challenge to safely carry my tiny baby while handling Sam, and I often worried that it was too sunny, or too hot, or too much for her to deal with. Often, my back would hurt from the carrier, I'd regret postponing nursing, and wish I hadn't pushed myself or my baby to make this extra stop on our way home after a long day apart from each other. Many days, we stopped to see Sam not because I was excited to, but because I had a responsibility to him.
In time, as I learned what worked for us and Beep gained strength and the ability to hold herself up, things became easier and simpler. She became a better passenger and then a participant. Our time at the barn together is now really fun and I love seeing Beep developing her horse sense, her love for horses in general, and Sam specifically.
When I think back to those early visits, I know now that I was planting the seeds not only for Beep's assimilation into our lifestyle, but also for her relationship with Sam. So yes, I planted seeds, but they have taken root and have already grown more beautiful than I could have hoped.
This? This is a sweet harvest.