A New Friend

Pilgrimage lay in her favorite napping spot, a gently-sloping hollow lined with grass and clover near one of the large oak trees. It was not as big as it had once been – at least, that was her perception of it, though it was really she who was outgrowing its dimensions. Now three months old, her body was growing into its long, shapely legs, and developing sturdier dimensions, a hint of the musculature that would exist when she would be fully grown. Her coat was a warm chestnut in color, and when she was groomed, she seemed to glow, like a freshly-minted copper coin. For this reason, her handlers called her Penny, commenting on her beauty while saving themselves the trouble of uttering an extra syllable. At this moment, however, there were no humans about to examine or fuss over her, and so Penny lay, curled up and contented in a hollow that was still pretty perfectly foal-shaped, her only movement the flicking of an ear or her wooly tail if a clover-drunk bumblebee came tottering too closely by.

She was roused from this blissful state by the sound of a whinny. The sound came from her dam, All Night Long, who was known as Midnight for her sleek black coloring. Penny opened her eyes and looked across the meadow to see the cause of it. People were opening the gate to the meadow. They had come a few days ago to fetch Freckles and lead her down toward the barns, and they came every day to check on the little band of mares…but this was not that regularly-scheduled time. They had a horse with them, and they were leading her into the meadow, instead. As she blinked the sleep from her eyes with long, delicate lashes, Penny recognized this arrival as Awesome Love, who was called, for simplicity’s sake as well as for her own sweet nature, Love. She and Midnight had grown quite close as companions, and so it was only proper that the normally-silent Midnight should greet her again. Love nickered softly in response, and waited patiently for the lead to be detached from her halter. She took a last look behind her, and as the gate swung closed again, she approached Midnight with a slow, plodding walk.

There was a flurry of movement behind the mare. Penny yawned and got to her feet, pricking her ears as she realized what the source of this movement was. There was a foal following Love, her spindly legs marching in double time to keep up with the careful pace that Love was setting. Well, that was new!

This new baby wore a downy coat of dark grey. Her delicate hooves moved with a deerlike grace, and her dark eyes looked large and wide in her head. She seemed marvellously fragile. Penny could not remember being so small and thin, as if her body had been carefully rationed out with the legs getting most of the development first – but, of course, she had been, and not too long ago, either. Midnight whickered again, a soft and gentle sound, as Love drew nigh, and the two mares took in each other’s scent before dropping their heads to graze. Likewise, Penny approached the baby.

The baby stared at Penny with the same rapt attention she had given every detail of this wide green world she’d been thrust into, her little nostrils drinking in Penny’s scent as she became acquainted. Penny champed her jaws in a friendly gesture, and then, nosing her way closer, latched her mouth onto a portion of the short thatch of fluff that comprised the baby’s mane, and gave a little tug.

The baby bleated and reared halfway; Penny of course let go promptly, and watched her new pasture-mate bounce up and down a couple of times before drawing to a halt again just a foot away. The mares watched all of it, even as they grazed. They’d had foals before these, and knew how young ones could test each other’s patience. Penny snorted softly in amusement as the baby tossed her head up and down, as if to make sure that everything was still attached. Silly thing.

The baby was not entirely timid, though. She recovered quickly from this surprise, and this time it was she who approached Penny. She sniffled gently at Penny’s face, and for a moment the two young ones just regarded each other, as if pondering what to do next. The baby was the one who made the decision. Bouncing in a half-rear again, she gave a little bleat and wheeled, cantering forward a couple of feet before coming to a stop, just as abruptly as before, and looking over her shoulder. Hmmm. It seemed as though she wanted to run.

Penny was game for that! She broke into a fluid trot that quickly turned into an easy lope, whizzing past the baby like a breeze before a thunderstorm. Soon enough, she was in a full-born gallop, heading across the open expanse of meadow toward the gate. She gloried in the sharp, crisp way the air flowed into her as she flared her nostrils, and in the way she seemed to fly across the clover. She was faster than the baby. She was even faster than any bumblebee! And she loved it.

Or…was she truly faster? The baby was making good on her little challenge! Her long thin legs looked as if they could barely support her tiny frame even at a standstill, but their spidery build was just a ruse. Already sturdy and strong, her limbs seemed to realize that they were doing the very thing they’d been designed for, and in joyful bounds the baby bore down on Penny, closing in on the older filly. The two raced side by side until they were mere feet from the fence, and then simultaneously wheeled to make their way back toward their mothers. Their pace slowed to an easy lope. Penny had won her first race, but only by a nose.

They entertained themselves that way several more times throughout the course of the afternoon, until the baby broke off midway through a race and trotted back to Love to nurse. Penny snorted, and stamped a little victory dance into a patch of grass. What a time to suddenly get hungry! But…well…it did seem like a good idea, come to think of it. Head and tail held high, she cantered back to Midnight for her own midafternoon snack. The mothers coaxed their children into the shade of the oak tree, and stood over the young ones as they each fell into a relaxing nap. There was no better way to pass a summer day.