This is not just a story about a horse. It is about the commute from what we know to what we do not know. What we fear.
For a long time this picture shows the only way that I could touch Nelson on his left side. He would not let anyone stand on his that side. That was where he had been freeze-branded by the BLM after his capture. Who knows what else had happened there. It is like the dark side of the moon – the part we can’t see. Unexplored, alien.
Over time, I got him to let me move to that side. Usually by walking around his tail and walking calmly toward his head. But every time I would do it, he was nervous. As if it were the first time, and someone showing up on that side was a nasty surprise.
Today was that way. I haven’t seen Nelson for a couple weeks, and when I walked around and stood on his left and went to touch him on that side, his skin jumped, and he spooked off. Like a boogeyman had popped out of the ground there. I did it again, and he was still nervous, but let me touch him. I clicked and gave him a treat (he is moderately Clicker Trained).
As I went to touch him again, a curious thing happened. I felt myself drop into what felt like a warm lake of calm, as if I had stepped into my avatar, who possessed transformational powers. "What’s this?” I thought. Nelson dropped his head, and relaxed. Immediately.
Because their vision is not binocular in the way that ours is, horses experience the two sides of their bodies differently. When you introduce something on one side, you have to do the same thing on the other side, because that side has not processed the information.
I often imagine that I am like Nelson in this way. One side that is pretty mellow and can handle what comes along. The other side that is spooky and weird. Not exactly Jekyll and Hyde, but disconcerting to those who live with me nonetheless. It is almost like falling out of being a predator and into being prey. Back and forth. Actually, I think most of us do this all the time. "I’m safe.” "I’m going to die.” Back and forth.
After my calm warm lake moment I could touch him all over. We were both breathing. I felt these huge blooms of love for him. That is, in fact, the glue – the tether – the thing that smooths the journey from one side of the moon to the other.