CHAPTER THREE

Growing Up

Soon my mother's milk could not provide enough for my growing body. It was then that my master began to introduce me to the food my mother and father ate.

Such was my master's love for me that he fed me only the very best of foods. First he gave me the sweetest of dates and raisins, and I came to enjoy these, especially directly from his hand.

Then he introduced me to alfalfa and barley. Later, he mixed these with mutton fat, and added shredded broiled chicken to my feed. As I was later to find out, this is something that only the Turkoman horse is fed, no other horses eat meat nor animal fat.

I grew stronger, larger and faster on this new diet, and soon I came to prefer it over my mother's milk.

I continued to sleep beside my mother in my master's yurt until I was as tall as she was. Then, my master came to a decision. That decision would change my life forever.

My master approached me with a simple leather bridle with no mouthpiece. At first, the idea of putting my head into the strange contraption was terrifying. I snorted at it, but I did not run from it, though my instincts told me to. I knew my mother and father wore one, and though I thought myself still a colt, I knew they would not want me to ruin their good names by misbehaving, and so I stood still and allowed my master to place it on my head.

My mother and father stood and watched as the master fiddled with the straps until they fit me perfectly. A bridle is a strange contraption to wear, and feels very peculiar. There are straps over your nose, around the back of your head, under your chin, against your throat, everywhere! My least favorite is the one that goes beneath the jaw, near the throat. It presses into your throat if you crush a fly on your chest with your muzzle.

After the bridle came a collar about my neck. Among the Turks, this is believed to keep the bad spirits away. This was woven from wool, in many beautiful colors.

Next, my master threw a sheepskin over my back, and tied it in place with straps over my neck and around my girth.

I became very hot wearing my fleece during the day, but my father had never complained of it, so I tried to push the thought far from my mind.

That evening, I was tethered outside, on the other side of the yurt from my father. I had never been tied to anything before, I had always been free to wander as I pleased. When tied, you may only go so far before the line stops you. Many times, I forgot that I was tethered, and would be pulled up short.

When night fell, my master retreated to his yurt with my mother, leaving me outside with my father and the sheep. This upset me greatly, and I made quite a fuss. Despite this, my master did not come outside, and soon I quietened down, resigned to my fate.

That night was a long and lonely one, even though my father was outside with me. I had never been separated from my mother for so long, and it felt like an eternity.

It was very cold outside the yurt, and I am sure, had I not been tethered, that I would have stuck my nose under the door flaps of the yurt and pushed my way inside. As the night went on, I became very thankful for my master's thoughtfulness at providing me with a fleece blanket.

The next morning, after my master had fed me, he untied me from the tether, but he did not set me loose. Instead, he took hold of my bridle, and walked me. When I slowed, he would cluck his tongue and tug on my bridle. When I walked too fast, he would pull down on my nose and press on my chest with his elbow. Soon, I understood that he wished for me to walk at the same speed as he did, with my head beside him. When I did this many times without error, we stopped, and he allowed me to snaffle a handful of raisins.

Next my master pushed on my side, behind my shoulder. He kept pressing harder and harder until the pressure became so uncomfortable that I tried to step away from it. As soon as I stepped away, my master lavished praise upon me.

Now, he pressed on my other side, and again, he praised me when I did as he wished.

What came next was very confusing. My master pressed against my hip, but as I tried to step away, he held my head and would not free it, and so I could move only my back legs. This caused me great confusion, and for some time I stood, clacking my jaws as a foal does to an adult horse. He pressed harder, and growled at me. I whirled my hindquarters away from him, for he had never growled at me and it startled me terribly. Immediately, my master praised me again. Now I understood that if he held my head still and pressed against my side, I should step sideways with my hindquarters, and I thought myself quite clever for understanding this.

My master continued to teach me these things every day, until the lightest of touches would make me move as he wished.