We put Copper with the cows. He had spent the past five years with a herd of cattle so he trotted right over and began grazing with the beefy bunch. I gave him a few days to settle before beginning his conditioning.

We were all intrigued with Copper and his racing past. It was like having an ex-Olympian in our backyard. We’d wait and watch for a glimmer of his athletic past only to be disappointed with a lumbering trot or easy lope.

My father, like most fathers, is not well acquainted with horses and their personalities. One day Dad came in from the field where he’d been checking on the new calves.

“That horse can run!” he exclaimed, drawing out the word “run” for emphasis. I lit up with pride. Not only had my dad taken notice of my horse, he was also impressed.

“Really!?” I had yet to witness Copper in action. He was so chill about everything.

“A couple of cows got out in the garden and he tore up and down the fence line until I herded them back in the field,” he said.

It was encouraging to hear that our horse could actually move.

A week later, I was in the kitchen washing up when Dad came in for lunch.

“Copper is kind of skittish, isn’t he?” Dad asked, rubbing some soap onto his hands. I thought for a second before answering.

“Yeah, he is a little. Granted, I think the more we work with him the better he will get. He hasn’t been touched by a human for five years.” I walked to the fridge and pulled out some orange juice. “Why do you ask?”

Dad began to dry his hands. “Well I tried giving him some of my apple and he wouldn’t get close to me.” I poured two glasses of juice and handed one to him as he continued his story. “I reached my hand out and he started walking toward me, but then he stopped, so I took a few steps in his direction, which startled him, and he trotted away.”

I nodded my head.

“So I thought, ‘Well, Aggie will eat this.’” Aggie was our orphan cow that we had bottle-raised. “But Aggie just slobbered on the slice and dropped it on the ground.”

I was beginning to wonder if the story was about Copper’s social awkwardness or my dad’s gift of being rejected by bovine and equine alike.

“So I took it back to Copper and stretched my arm out real far then turned my head away so I wasn’t looking at him when he walked up.”

This tactic sounded mildly like something from The Call of the Wild. I tried not to giggle at his horse whispering abilities.

“I felt Copper get close, then his lips tickled my palm as he took the apple, but he let it drop to the ground.”

Dad looked a little hurt that none of the animals had accepted his apple. It was like listening to a fourth grader talk about having a bad day on the playground and getting picked last for kickball.

I was afraid that this interaction would dampen my dad’s appreciation for our new horse. He’d never care for Copper like I would, but it was nice to have his approval.

Dad glanced out at the cow field and we both watched as the red gelding ambled over to the water trough. His long mane and chestnut coat seemed to glisten like a penny in the noonday light. Dad’s voice broke the silence.

“But that horse sure can run.”

A slight smile spread across my lips.