So my pony has always had…issues…getting along with other horses. He can be a bit of a bully, and truth be told I have seen him be scary aggressive with other horses at times. He is better with horses that are smaller than him and fine with horses who are happy to surrender control, but he is just the kind of horse that is in charge of his herd. Add that to the fact that I have to be very careful what kind of field I put him in because of his leg, and when Gen moved in to his current barn 6 years ago it was decided that he would be turned out alone.
Horses are herd animals, they really should be going out with friends. Gen has his horsey buddy Round who has lived at the barn longer than he has. He is the owners older gelding who was the only horse at the barn when I first moved in. They share a fence line where they can often be seen chatting and grooming, and they live across from each other in the barn. Round is obsessed with Gen, Gen just uses him for companionship because no one else is around. Gen will play with some of the other boarders horses who have come and gone over the years, but he has not really had a best buddy in the equine realm. He just likes people more than horses.
What Gen really loves are cats and dogs. He is fascinated by them. When the dogs come down to the barn you can find my big grey gelding totally enamored. He is very gentle with them and loves nothing more than to shove his face in to the side of a Collie and just chill. Dogs are not around all the time though, but barn cats are. When Gen first moved in to the barn there were 2 tiny kittens in a cage at the front of the barn. They were only one month old and couldn’t even eat real cat food yet. Gen was thrilled to be able to watch the little squeaking kittens and they quickly became the best of friends.
It started off with Gen loving the female, Gretel, first. Or more accurately, her loving him. As the kittens got older and gained their freedoms Gretel would stay by Gen’s field or take a nap above Gen’s stall. When the weather turned cold she even started taking naps on his back. Yes, the cat would curl up and snuggle on top of my pony. Something happened that first spring though and Gretel started to feel more secure and venture out, leaving Gen without a four legged friend to play with during the day. I am not sure what happened, but after a month of the cats adventuring all day, the male cat, Hansel, started to fill the void that his sister had left.
His favorite napping spot in the barn was in Gen’s stall on top of his hay. He loved to sit on top of the fence post in Gen’s field. He would even go “hunting” in the creek that runs parallel to Gen’s turnout. They had a very odd game they would play where Hansel would sit on the outside of Gen’s water trough and Gen would knock him over with his nose on to the float above the water. Hansel would slowly start to sink and then gracefully jump back to safety on the side of the trough before his paws got wet. They would play that game over and over again.
Gen and Hansel became the best of friends. I cannot even count the number of mice Hansel left in front of Gen over the years, or the number of time I would come to see the barn to see Hansel sitting on the ground with Gen grazing right next to him. I regret now not videoing their water game or taking a picture of the hundreds of time I saw them just being buds. I know Hansel made many appearances here on the blog, but there were just so many more times he should have.
About a month ago Hansel got sick. Very sick. Very suddenly. I was at the barn on a weekend and the barn owner just looked over at him and said he needed to get to the vet right away. I scooped up the orange cat and put him in the cat carrier while she got the car. I regret now not bringing that cat carrier over to see Gen. Hansel left the farm that day and didn’t come back. We lost him. No one knows what he got into or where he got in to it, the hard thing about barn cats is that they explore. It doesn’t really matter now anyway. Regardless of how it happened, the outcome was the same. We lost the sweetest, friendliest barn cat I have ever known. And Gen lost his best friend.
I know it is unusual for cats and horses to have such a bond, but Gen and Hansel really did love each other. For the first two weeks after we lost Hansel Gen would stand at the back fence of his turnout, looking in to the neighbors field behind where Hansel would often come from after a hunting trip. He was looking for a little orange tail to be coming up through the grass. He just did it again this weekend which broke my heart. How do you tell a horse that his friends is never coming back? I know time will heal all wounds, but I miss Hansel myself. He was such a great barn cat! I feel even worse for Gen. Best friends are not always so easy to come by.