|A misty late summer morning. Cockle burrs in her mane.|
|Also cockle burrs in Walai Lama's mane.|
When I was too young and physically too small to manage anything about my desire to spend time with the horses it led me toddle all the way from the house to the barn unnoticed by my mother. Our house was located by a county black top road with high speed traffic. There was a creek and a river within sight of the house. There was a deep stock tank full of water. My mother found me in the barn with three horses, two of which were dominant mares that had been feuding for days to determine who was boss. If you have never witnessed this, it is an ugly, powerful dispute with punishing kicks and crushing bites and sudden, violent lunges to avoid getting pounded whenever possible. My mother found me standing with my arms around the back legs of my father's mare, Lady. She was the boss. It was her barn but the other mare had not yet conceded. I am sure my mother could have fainted with fear.
Mom did not dare to enter the barn, afraid that would set the mares in motion - either to kick or to step on me. She stood outside and persuaded me to come away from the horses on my own. As soon as I was out of danger, Lady took a cheap shot at the other mare with a viscous broadside kick to the belly. The horses could have easily inadvertently killed me that day. I believe horses recognize human children as babies to be protected the way they protect their own babies. I would not bet the lives of my children on that belief, though. Nevertheless, I loved that big red mare and she loved me. She would never have done anything to hurt me. I loved her before I could even speak and she understood that. Every horse on the planet should have the good fortune to be loved, heart and soul, by a little girl.
My horses now deal with me as an adult human, an entirely different level. It is more like a superior species tolerating a sub-par race of beings with only two legs. My horses know I love them but it is not the same soul connection I had with Lady. To be fair, there are a few other things in life I love more than my horses if it were ever to come down to a choice. There are things my horses love far more than they love me! Generally, they know I am not going to hurt them and I know they will not hurt me on purpose. This is our agreement.
The older I become, and the more life experience I have, the easier it is to express the why of things - the what of things. The simple routine task of throwing hay to the horses affords the daily opportunity to see their fluid physical movements as they manage long legs and long necks. I admire the shape of horses, the evolution of their physical bodies, their physical grace. Ginger is not a photogenic horse. She never looks beautiful in photographs but she is a beautiful horse in person. Wally is the opposite. He photographs well but in person he is a bit lumpy and his conformation is not the best. Their personalities are different. Wally is expressive in both his movements and vocally. He loves any excuse to gallop with head and tail high. I loved him immediately but I was always lacking in his estimation. For a long time he missed his former humans and he did not care much for me. That seems to be changing.
Ginger is too serious, too much of a supreme being to be anything but demanding and bossy. Ginger is an American Quarter horse with apparently a lot of the old stock in her genes so she doesn't have the gait or the spring in her legs of the newer AQH lineages. She is also a bit lazy. Galloping requires too much effort, except on certain occasions. Sometimes I worry that maybe she is in some pain because she once loved to race the barn. Wally still thunders to the barn full steam but Ginger often walks when called. Wally entirely, if not enthusiastically, agrees that she is the Supreme Being, so maybe she simply does not need to run. Wally easily moves out of her way whether it is food, treats, water, or grooming. Sometimes he pins his ears back in irritation at her demands. I do not blame him. She really is the boss and no one likes the boss that much. Except me.
This week Ginger developed a swelling beneath her eye. The vet prescribed an anti-inflammatory that apparently tastes like warmed over hell to her. The medicine is in a very large "syringe", to be administered by sticking it into her mouth as far as possible then squeezing a predetermined dosage far back on her tongue. First of all, there were no instructions on the box how to set the syringe for a predetermined dosage. I spent 10 minutes twisting and pulling on the only movable part in a two-part apparatus, to no avail. Then I spent 30 minutes looking for a You Tube video to show me how to do this. Even the pharmaceutical site had nothing so I knew that meant it was soooooo simple even a dumb-ass would be able to figure it out. As it turns out, a very cleverly disguised ring twists down the plunger to create an automatic stop. Then, in addition to everything else that has gone to hell in my body, my hand was not strong enough to squeeze the plunger. I would need to use both hands and Ginger would have to willingly hold the syringe in her mouth. Yeah, that was going to happen. So, I was hiding the medicine in oats and in apples and in maple syrup - all wasted effort. I have never seen a horse react so badly. It was a sight to behold. I had never witnessed a horse spit food out of its mouth and it is an amazing dance of head tossing and curling the upper lip and pacing! Luckily, the swelling was subsiding so the Vet said to continue the antibiotics alone. That consisted of mixing powder into feed she finds irresistible and yes, I "wuz smart enuff to figger it out". The swelling is entirely gone now, but if it comes back after the antibiotics, it is going to get a lot more complicated and expensive.
I wish, sometimes with all my heart, that I could ride my horses. I could ride them - after reconstructive knee surgery, physical therapy, someone else riding the horses for a solid year to make them trustworthy, and a huge effort in several other areas. It is not important that I ride them. It is important that they are here for me to tend to, to brush, and feed. It is good to put my hands on the graceful arc of a horse neck, or stroke a velvet nose. Though I do not do it as often as I once did, I sometimes need to lean against a big warm body and rest my head in the curve of a mighty shoulder, my arms loosely around a neck. They suffer this for a not even a full minute but they know it is part of their job description.
Perhaps the best, the most important is to sit in the bales in the barn in silence and enter into the calm, contented sphere of horse energy as they carefully pick through their share of hay. Their simple happiness in that moment is palpable and contagious. Sometimes in Wall's liquid black eye, I catch a glimpse of a great gentle Spirit. Sometimes in the dark golden depth of Ginger's eyes, the generous heart of the horse nation shines clearly. Horses are a nation of beautiful wild beings that generously came in from the wild steppes to help us evolve, to teach us to be as loving beings as they themselves are.