At the barn, there’s a little fellow with a crooked back and a withered leg. His name is Little Bit, and it seems like one thing after another happened as soon as he was born. He was the living one of a twins, then something went wrong with his leg, then he got better, then something happened to his other leg, then his dam died before he was weaned (he was close, I think). At his worst, he stayed on the floor and wouldn’t eat. But something kicked in, and he started eating, so he’s still part of the barn today. One leg is thin and delicate and fragile, the other looks healthy enough. One hip is much higher than the other. But he goes out with the two healthy colts — who pick on him. Nip, quick, bite, block him from the water. The kind of thing that makes you want to step in and fix it.
Enter Gene the adult quarter horse. Gene is, I think, between jobs. I don’t know how old he is or which students ride him or what his speciality is (quarter-horsing!), but when the little guys are in turn-out, Leah puts Gene in there with them and Gene protects Little Bit. When the evil colts pick on the weak one, the adult runs them off, takes care of the little fellow.
It’s a three-hanky kind of thing, makes you well up and wonder about stuff, about the emotional complexity of non-human animals. What goes off in Gene’s mind when he sees the stronger ones pick on the weaker ones? It’s not maternal because Gene’s a he, not a she. I used to say that I wish they could talk, but horses talk all the time. It’s knowing how to listen, I think.