was beside myself with frustration and annoyance at the little foal, curled up in the corner of the small stable where she had been born two nights before. The delivery had been a difficult one for the mother, and, in the end, she succumbed to heavy bleeding and died.
I felt for this little animal, so all alone in the world and without a mother to show her the ways of being a horse. But after three days, she still refused to venture outside her little nest on her own. Even the veterinarian, who found nothing physically wrong with her, could not motivate her.
Day after day the little horse, which I named Sprite in hopes that she would aspire to her name, moped about, sniffing out her mother’s scent and eating enough to sustain her, but without the usual gusto of a growing animal. Sprite seemed determined to be miserable.
There were other horses and their infants on our ranch, and Sprite sometimes watched them, on one of her forced outings into the field, with a look of longing. Then she would sigh, a long, plaintive snort, slowly turn her head away and refuse to look until we delivered her back to her stable.
Weeks passed with little change in the foal’s disposition. She ate and slept and compiled with daily walks outside but never seemed to aspire to do the things that the other horses did, neither running nor prancing about with the simple delight of being alive.
Then one day, something changed. Not in Sprite, but in me. It happened one distressingly hot, summer day when I had retreated to the relative coolness of my home. Not knowing what to do with the hours stretching out before me until the sun disappeared behind the horizon, giving relief to blistering air, I perused one book, and then another, of old and yellowing pictures.
There were many pictures of my mother in those books, given to me by my father before he died an old man just a few years ago. I had barely known the woman on those pages and only imagined that she must have loved me. She, too, had died, when I was very little, leaving me to miss the presence of a relationship that seemed so innate, so necessary.
I remembered being a small girl at school picnics, watching other children and their mothers. It was often so painful that I had to turn away. It wasn’t until a kind and understanding young teacher took it upon herself to be my friend, and became a kind of surrogate mother to me, that I began to blossom. After that I grew faster, my grades were better and I felt alive inside.
Now I understood.
With renewed determination, I headed out to the stables under the oppressive noonday sun. I didn’t care. All I knew is that I had to try.
For the next few days, I all but lived within the tiny four walls that had become Sprite’s safe haven from the world. Chores were hired out to a young boy who lived nearby, and my husband was instructed, via cellular phone, to bring me the necessities of life.
All that time, I talked to the sad animal, telling her about my life and her mother and anything I could think to say. When my throat was dry from it, I simply stroked her white muzzle, or brushed her chestnut brown coat until we both slept.
On the fourth morning, when my own odor had become indistinct from the smell of the horses, I woke to a beautiful sight. There was Sprite, standing on her own spindly legs, nudging me gently with her nose to get up.
Without a word, I opened the gate, and for the first time since her birth, she led me outside into the cool morning air, where she began to bounce and kick and just be the baby that she was.
Something in her eyes had changed, too. They were brighter and filled with the wonder of being alive. It was as though that empty place in her heart had been filled.
From then on, Sprite lived as though she was making up for the time she had missed. She ran as though she had wings and, when she was big enough, let herself be rode with a gentleness I had seldom seen. And every morning, she reminded me of our special bond. Though I no longer slept in the stables -- much to my husband’s relief -- Sprite slipped her restraints and waited by my window until I woke up to greet her.