Just a little guy (photo: Amber Bauman)

Just a little guy (photo: Amber Bauman)

I love July 7. It’s the day that I get to celebrate with a molasses, carrot and oats cake. I make a big deal about it because it’s my boy’s birthday! This year, Carter turns six (yes, I realize being a TB he officially turned six January 1, but I celebrate his real birthday). It’s going on three years since he entered my life, and, each day he brings more joy to me than the last. Here are some things I’ve realized about him during the last year.

His personality is blossoming. He’s a riot. He’s cute and lovable and he knows it. He takes awful selfies, but loves the camera when other people are taking pictures. He loves to snuffleupagus me with his nose. He loves to play with my hat. Tends to pull on my shirt every now and again if I’m taking too long cleaning his feet. He comes to me in the pasture. Willingly. Without treats (sometimes). He has the cutest habit of going through a great lesson, learning a ton, and when we’re finished grinds his teeth until I hop off and scratch and pat his head. He isn’t a grinder otherwise. He’s just cute. All the time.

He trusts me more each day. He isn’t spooky to begin with, but his spooks are little now compared to three years ago. It’s more of a surprise and immediate “whoops” when he does it now. Yes, there’s the occasional run across the arena, but that’s usually my fault, not his. He lets me do a lot. He seeks me out. He knows my voice. He gives me great wrap around hugs.

He’s a cuddler. Especially on Mondays or while he’s coming out of anesthesia. He sometimes puts his head on my shoulder, nuzzles my ear and just breathes. In. and out. In. And out. It’s one of my most favorite things to do. He also uses my head as his headrest. The best is when he rests his chin on my chest and we just breathe together. I’ve yet to attempt to go in when he’s laying down… he doesn’t lay down often, or I’ve not been there when he does.

He loves a good head scratch. After we ride. After he comes in from turnout. Any time I enter his stall. “Scratch my head, mom. Scratch it… yeah, right there, yeah.” This is what I imagine him saying. He even has a favorite towel used specifically for head scratching and drying off after the shower. I like to play Hide-N-Seek with him. You know, cover his head and says “where’s Carter?” OK. OK. So, I don’t have kids!

He is food motivated. Although he’s yet to nicker at me when I enter the barn – he does to anyone that typically feeds him. It’s cute. He has a deep nicker. I have to pause to think “who was that?” It makes me giggle. He loves his carrots, cookies, occasional granola bar, bananas (unless they’re hiding wormer), grain, and his hay. Give him food and he’ll be your friend forever.

The Birthday Boy & His Cake

The Birthday Boy & His Cake

He’s still a kid in the pasture. Did someone say halter tag? He is the king! He’s reminded all the other horses how to play it (well, mostly the geldings – mares don’t play halter tag). He plays as hard now as he ever has. We have a hill in the pasture that he absolutely loves galloping up and down, countless times in a row, even after an hour long lesson. I know when he’s had a great day outside – usually, he’ll want to cuddle first, then will yawn and yawn and yawn.

He’s wicked smart; kind, and patient. I remember when I first bought him, my then trainer said “you bought a three-year-old Thoroughbred?” Like I had three heads. Thank goodness the green-rider gods (or whatever “force” you believe in) has been in my favor because Carter is awesome and always has been. He learns quickly – which is both good and bad. Good – when it’s something we need to learn in dressage. Not so terribly good when it’s a bad habit or something that I’ve taught (well, more like allowed) him to do – like trot out of the canter every time we approach M. M was my nemesis. We’ve moved passed that, thank goodness! He’s kind. People tell me that he has kind and gentle eyes. I agree with them, albeit a biased opinion. He’s patient. He always has been. He puts up with my wiggling and learning, giving him confusing aids, all the while giving me his best and all.

Lastly. He has my heart. This, is not a new thing. He’s had my heart since the first moment I saw him. I knew he was my forever horse. He brings me so much joy and I’m forever grateful we found each other.

Happy Birthday, Carter, my favorite munchkin!