Horse Sense

Me and my backyard Belgian, and yes, he was as big as he looks!

A neighbor asked me to horse-sit for her earlier this week. Because I know the horse who needed tending is a gentleman of impeccable manners, I agreed. When my daughter was in middle and high school, I had a couple horses in the back yard, pensioners who had earned a peaceful sunset, and who had no fancy requirements. I know the horse care drill from long acquaintance.

From time to time, I’ll see an old photo and think, “Sweetie and Pasha were the best. They were family and I miss them.” When Pasha trotted over the rainbow bridge, I found a Belgian draft gelding to keep Sweetie company, and when Sweetie also went to her reward, I returned the Belgian to the rescue from whence he’d come, per my agreement with them.

At the time, I was tempted to simply find another pensioner, and keep the backyard pony phase going, but… one fine day, I was doing the barn chores when only the Belgian was in residence, and with no malicious intent whatsoever, he kicked me in the thigh. Six inches lower, and he could have wrecked my knee, but he got me where I was sturdiest, and so my souvenir was simply a huge bruise.

And yet, that bruise made up my mind. In the lower part of my barn, the stone walls are two feet think. I have no cell reception there, and if that horse had been aiming to do me a mischief…

So no more backyard horses, though I’ve been so, so tempted. Trail rides around the neighborhood would be lovely, and I do love the beasts.

Fast forward to this week, and I’m looking after one well-mannered horse for a very short time. What came back to me was how much I missed the horse girl life–though we knew that–and also, how much dang work it is. Feed comes in fifty pound bags, period, and a trip to Southern States generally meant picking up a ton of feed, all of which I wrangled from loading dock to feed room to grain buckets. Hay bales are at least fifty pounds, and horses eat a lot of hay.

All that eating means wielding the muck fork and the honey wagon, every day, and then there’s the joy of frozen water pipes, frozen meadow muffins, de-worming, annual shots, the occasional boo-boo or sore hoof, the not so occasional bills, and and and. Add to this the idea that even modestly conscientious horsekeeping means three visits to the barn every day, without fail, and finding horse sitters for vacations or emergencies is mighty hard.

I look back on what had been a passion for me, and all I can think is, “Who was that woman with all that energy and focus? Do I know her?” Maybe I squandered my fire on manure and bran mashes, though I don’t regret any of it. Having horses kept me fit without trips to the gym, gave me wonderful company here at home, and modeled to my daughter that we stay loyal to our friends for the long haul, not just when they are winning ribbons in the show ring.

A Gentleman in Challenging Circumstances by Grace BurrowesI am grateful for a chance to revisit my memories, to know again the sound of a horse enjoying breakfast on a crisp fall morning, to turn at the gate and see that himself is already nose down in the grass… but I will also be relieved to end my temporary shift, wash the eau du barn from my Hokas, and turn the chores back over to somebody else.

Do you look back on any phase of life with bewildered admiration? With puzzlement? Are you maybe due some admiration right now? (Looking at you, Susan G….)

I’ve given away some ARC’s of A Gentleman in Challenging Circumstances (starts downloading from the web store on Tuesday, print is already available), but if you’d like one, I’m happy to send out a few more.


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18 comments on “Horse Sense

  1. Evening Grace
    I have just come from a scratch supper with my son,daughter-in-law and two grandsons ages 3.5 and almost 1. They are almost exactly the same age separation as my two sons, 36 years ago. I have NO idea how I did it and my admiration for the patience of these two parents is unbounded. And these parents are the same age, late 30’s, as I and my husband were.
    It has been a difficult day with a funeral of one friend and a hospice visit to another and somehow , on top of the young ones carrying on, energy was found to invite me to supper on the spur of the moment in case I was feeling down.

  2. I am resting on the couch with Gregory as I read your words!
    Jenny and I were talking last night about our old friends: Irish, Molly and Celeste and how much fun we had with them! I sometimes wonder how did it-I walked 6 corgis, fed them , groomed them and worked full time. I guess I had more energy and passion!
    I miss Irish- she was a good natured imp, Molly was a smart but kind pack leader and my Celeste- I miss her bark, her willingness to try any event we entered and that she waited for me to come home from work. I am glad Greg is still with us – he is good natured and kind and kept me warm after chemo.
    I am taking Gregory and Laci to nose work class. He is enjoying it and it keeps him interested in the game. Laci is figuring it out – she still things the hides are in boxes.I miss my friends from class and this is a good way for all of us to get together.
    Have entered Laci in a few shows next month to try and grab the elusive three point major she needs to finish her championship. Fingers crossed!
    I feel that my life has been on hold this year and by taking the corgis to nosework that I am getting a little piece of it back.
    Have a great week!

  3. Even at the time, I was bewildered, or at least I bewildered others. In my early 40s, I decided to go to graduate school since I finally figured out what I wanted to do. I had to take some undergraduate classes (mostly math-related) first since I was a liberal arts major originally but I took care of those and then started grad school part-time. However, at the same time, I was working full-time as a computer programmer and teaching computer classes part-time at the local community college. When my co-workers remarked on this, my only comment was “Well, I don’t have children (though I did have a partner which also takes some time) and I’m willing to use my vacation time to work on special projects.” Thinking about it now makes me feel a bit tired!
    (I sent an email requesting a copy of “A Gentleman” but thought I’d hedge my bets and mention it here also. Thank you.)

  4. I did love my years of having pets, but I am oh so thankful to no longer have the responsibilities of pet ownership!! So I totally get where you are coming from, Grace.

  5. I understand and share your love of horses and agree wholeheartedly with your description of horse care. Mine is a retired 28 year old thoroughbred who is arthritic, losing teeth, requiring a special diet and, I think, was a poodle in his first life! I’m 63, he’s my last horse and when he’s gone to horsey heaven, I’ll be devastated but will look back on our memories with great love and joy. Once they get into your heart there’s no removing them. Not looking to win anything and I didn’t really answer your question, just felt compelled to respond to your post as a fellow horse lover.

  6. Pingback: Horse Sense and WhoDunnits!!! | Grace Burrowes | I believe in love.

  7. Yes, definitely kids who start out as dependent infants… I had them. Unfathomable.

    There are many, many things I do differently now, but probably the most bewildering at this point is the sheer number of miles I used to cover by “trains, planes and automobiles,” on foot, by bus and bicycle.

  8. Something that I used to do (and absolutely love!) was teach graphic design. For six years I taught Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark Xpress and Desktop Publishing in MS Word to adults in the Continuing Ed program of a neighboring town. I initially fell into it because I had a tiny design business and had made contact with the head of the Continuing Ed program through the local Chamber of Commerce and pushed myself to ask if I could teach there. That was a very unusual stance for me to take as someone who is very shy and is socially inept, but I surprised myself. And that unusual bravery, self assurance, whatever you call it, led to one of the most fun, fulfilling experience of my life that I was surprisingly (to me at least) very good at! I sadly gave it up when I took on a full time job and teaching an additional 4 hours after my day job just became too much. Though I still miss the experience. I was very proud of myself for taking that first, uncomfortable, step. Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  9. I’m glad you’re the one feeding, mucking, currying, brushing, picking, combing & dealing for even a short time. I physically couldn’t handle the sacks anymore.

    I look back at putting in a full time active duty day at an overseas base, then trotting down to the flightline to take a rental prop job aloft to cruise foreign skies & wonder how the Hades I had that kind of energy. Aeroclub planes, like horsies, require intensive regular tending to avoid painful encounters with the ground & I look back on the hours I spent preflighting, post flight checking, fueling & all the paperwork attendant thereto with disbelief that I did all that for FUN!

    I wish there was a way to bottle all that endurance for later in life. Sigh…

  10. I think special needs parenting has been like that for me. Those sleepless years of medical needs and developmental delays necessitating many specialists and exhausting care have shifted to more focus on teaching and supporting the skills for my child to take over their own physical care and slowly building life skills for greater independence. Now that they are 15 I sometimes can’t believe I made it through thus far, and that there are so many good memories woven in with the challenges.

    What a gorgeous and huge Belgian! When I imagine Nick’s Buttercup, I picture a similar behemoth.

  11. My daughter is a high school visual arts teacher. She has an 18-month old son and is pregnant with her second son. Her first trimester was miserable, including 3 weeks bed rest the first weeks of her school year. I was sharing with her my school years from hell when I first started teaching. My daughter was a baby, and her brothers were 4 and 6. I was working full-time and going school to get my master’s degree. My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. My sons were going to therapy bimonthly so they could resume a relationship with their father(from whom I was divorced). Then my dad died. My position was cut because of funding. My daughter had tubes in her ears, my middle son had his tonsils out, and my oldest developed asthma. (The list goes on…) Thankfully my husband, her dad, was a rock through all of the turmoil. In retrospect, I honestly don’t know how I managed it all. My kids have grown up to be solid citizens. My ex-husband is a friend. My mom has joined my dad and all of her dogs across the rainbow bridge. And my husband and I are enjoying our well-earned retirement.

  12. Such a timely blog, Grace! We were just talking with neighbors about the days of being owned by a horse. When our daughter, the rider, was home the horse did not lack companionship since she spent all of her time outside with him. She would even read and play guitar (not at the same time) bareback while he grazed. A couple neighbors had horses as well so they would hang out with each other along the fence line. Once college days arrived, daughter couldn’t come home very often. When she was home, she would spend time with him, but he missed her as much as she missed him.

    We eventually sent him to a riding therapy group where he had a great deal of people and horse companionship. I do not miss those nights of sinking calf-deep into half frozen mud that sucked my boots off my feet as I tried to convince our horse that he needed to wear his blanket because the weather would be rainy and around (or below) freezing for a few days. Let’s not even go into the evening skunk encounters our dog had while we were out in the field taking care of the horse.

  13. We had a cabin in Northern Arizona for 35 years. It was a primitive cabin (no electricity, telephone) the last 9 miles on dirt roads. We had propane for our refrigerator and stove, and ran the generator for lights. It was glorious! My husband was always working, so I would load up the 5 kids and usually a couple of friends, the dog, the bunny and the cockatiel ( who traveled on my shoulder). After 2 hours, we would pile our of the suburban, carrying up all the groceries and supplies (town was a brutal 45 minutes, so you couldn’t forget anything). It was a wonderful time, we walked, fished, hiked, played games and cards, learned how to can the apples and pears that grew there. We had wonderful neighbors, everyone helped everyone, and looked out for everyone’s kids. It was a lot of work! We built a deck, paneled the loft and stairs in tongue and groove (great math lessons for the kiddos), sawed down trees and brush and split logs. We learned how to install a solar electric system 35 years before they became fashionable. The very best part? No television! No telephone! Instead we developed a love of nature, learned all about eccentric and usually kind neighbors and how many modern conveniences we really could happily do without.
    We just sold it a few years ago. The children are all grown and living in other states and my husband and I decided that cutting down trees and cleaning gutters on a 30 foot extension ladder is not for folks in their 70’s. When I think of all the cooking, cleaning, wrangling children and pets and just hard work I honestly don’t know how I did it, only to return home to work, school, and home chores.
    They were good days, and I don’t regret any of it.
    Life has its seasons, and how sweet to look back and have so many lovely memories.
    Thanks for asking. It’s nice to reflect, isn’t it?
    If you have an extra copy of Gentleman in Challenging Circumstances,I would appreciate it very much. I certainly enjoyed the first book.

    Thank you for such wonderful stories.

  14. I envy you your horsey years. When I was a child I had a powerful desire for a horse. I’ve been on one exactly once, and then the saddle wasn’t secured and I started sliding to the side. I think you are smart to recognize your vulnerability if you got hurt where no one could hear or see you and there is no cell phone reception.

    Not bewildered admiration for my younger self – quite the opposite. I wish I had gotten knee replacements 20 years ago, and I could kick my younger self for not doing that. It sure hasn’t gotten any better. I was chicken.

  15. Back in the 1970s, I was a very full time Mom. I had three daughters in 23 months. Twins when I had an almost 2 year old. How I did it, I have no idea. They were all breast fed. I wouldn’t have had time to deal with bottles. To make life more challenging, they got rashes when I used disposable diapers, so I had a lot of laundry, too.
    They all grew up healthy and strong. I have 5 grandchildren. One of them got married the first of October and I was able to go. But I do understand the feeling you’re talking about.

  16. Horsekeeping makes me think of kid keeping. Neighbors recently adopted a newborn- with only 7 days notice- and are dealing with sleep deprivation, worrying about health, charting milk in -and out. The babe is beautiful, but I am glad to be at the admire-then-give-back stage of life. You may be there with your Impeccable Gentleman as well!

    And I’d love an ARC. Am quite fond of Lord Julian.

  17. I’d love to buy directly from you, but you don’t take American Express or offer PayPal. Which means I have to wait for your books to come online at the e-stores. You are my favorite author. I love your style, your humor and your only slightly jaundiced views. Please consider taking on the above e-tail conveniences. I can’t possibly be the only potential customer/fan who’d want this.