There is a sheep farm just outside of Mudgee. The owner is a family friend. He’s also vegetarian; he leaves the carcasses of dead sheep to do the “natural” thing. When I was younger I used to collect the various skulls and bones I found while wandering around his land.
My favourite thing about the farm was Arabus, though. He was a giant white horse with that perfect slow horse gaze. I was fascinated by how he could let flies wander around his big brown eyes, waiting long minutes before blinking them away.
He dispelled many horse myths, for his favourite food was bread and occasionally apples, definitely not carrots. In a torrential downpour I would still pull on my mother’s Gore-Tex coat (more a dress on me), apples in the zippered pocket because no one likes soggy bread, and traipse down to the dam where Arabus was grazing that day.
Arabus was a part of my life even when I wasn’t visiting the farm. If I had trouble falling asleep, which was often, my mother would come into my room and kneel by my bed, stroking my skin until it tingled while she told me stories of Arabus’s adventures on the farm.
He was the great protector of the sheep.