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.
I 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.