The horse honeymoon is officially over.
The new plateau in the equine-human relationship came more than a month ago when a funny thing happened - actually not a very funny thing.
It was a very scary thing for me as a horse owner newbie but longtime Flicka fanatic sort, the kid who rode beanpoles and always wanted a pony of her own.
Well, I got one and a dose of reality to boot in recent weeks.
My horse Coffee bit me, catching me completely off guard and reminding me that being alert and being safe are two priorities I always need to bear in mind.
A horse is a thousand-pound-or-so creature, give or take, and odds are that it will come out the victor in physical man vs. animal situations.
In retrospect I know where I erred, perhaps why it happened, but still it surprised me, startled me.
After all, as the giver of carrots, I thought we were best buds.
As I began to groom her, around whipped her head to take a chomp out of my left side faster than you can say giddyup.
Fortunately, it was a cold day and I was wearing a heavy fur-lined suede coat overtop a bulky sweatshirt and a long-sleeved shirt.
Had it been summer, though, and I'd have been wearing a tank top, I'd have been seeing red for sure.
So I guess I'm lucky in that respect.
Even so, I felt the fast bite and saw and felt the results of it in the days to follow - a heck of a big colorful bruise and a sore spot lingering more than a week or two.
My confidence, though, suffered the greater injury. The bruise subsided but not this new fear factor, especially when she pinned her ears back the next couple of times I saw her after that.
Bummer. What's up with that, I wondered as I searched the Internet for insight and info on why horses bite or why horses pin their ears back.
Since this turn of events, I've crossed paths with other horse owners who've shared with me a combination of their advice and their personal not-so-good horse experiences that for some have left them afraid to get back in the saddle again.
Not me, although I had angst, believe me.
I took advantage of the springlike temperature the other day and visited my moody mare, and things went OK, though the situation rang familiar, kind of like a post-argument atmosphere where both sides haven't entirely forgiven each other and wiped the slate clean.
The honeymoon might be over, but Coffee and I aren't getting a divorce, and there's no separation in place save a schedule that keeps me away from the barn more than I'd probably prefer it to.
My happy trails just hit a speed bump on the highway of horse ownership, and this, too, shall pass, I hope.
I defer to a quote on one of my John Wayne coasters on the living room coffee table.
"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway."
Giddyup - with caution.
(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist and features writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at email@example.com.)