Mf ort and Co jo y
An obsession starts innocently enough. I was 5 when I fell in love with a Paint named Navajo at an uncle’s ranch in Arizona. Horses became my raison d’être. You know the story: A young girl in love waits for her Lancelot to arrive---except it is the steed and not the knight she is longing for. I lived for riding and spentent hours reading Pony Club books and dreaming of owning a horse, at leastt until high school, when the lure of dances and hanging out with my friends caused horses to fade from my life.
My redemption came when I was 49. Feeling lost, I spent the summer on a retreat where I could take part in equineassisted therapy. I like to say I “came to” in a barn surrounded by horses.
When I returned, to my new home in Virginia, I found that I was the happy neighbor of a small herd that grazed in fields adjacent to our woods. I could hear them at night through an open bedroom window, their soft, velvet noises my lullaby, and I sensed their slow shapes moving gently through the lush night air. At morning light they were often my first sight of the day.
I tried for weeks to befriend the group, standing quietly at the edge of the woods, but to no avail. Once, the chestnut separated from the herd and made a slow walk over. We stood, looking at one another, too much space between us. It was a solitary occurrence; nothing happened for a long while after that.
Then something changed. As I walked through the woods I saw the little herd in the lower pasture and approached the fence just to watch. One horse looked up and they all walked over. Out of the blue it was as if I was covered in molasses, irresistible, and I reveled in the moment.
A wise woman I met during my retreat had told me that we should be not of horses, but with them. I took her literally and contented myself with just their proximity. My days were fulfilled with their sounds. They snorted, whinnied, nickered and neighed. Their hooves clopped as they headed down the road toward trails, and in the fields they thudded and thundered. The sound of grgrass being pulled seemed a funddamental, sustaining sound, and tthe soft way they had of drawing water was so surprising, but elemental. I liked their thunder tthe best. I would almost seem to ssense it before I heard it, and ththen the little herd would rush byby, suddenly primal. This is the sound I connect with the spirit of the horshorse, which is ancient, large and giving. FFor a year, living next to them was enouenough.
Eventually I started volunteering at a local therapeutic riding barn. I relearned the art of grooming horses. The smells of leather, horse and hay were a balm to me, and I found quiet pleasure in just walking side by side with the horses through the lessons. Their generosity was revealing and seemingly infinite. The crew was gloriously assorted. There were giant draft crosses, a Norwegian Fjord, and a tapestry of color. I felt at home.
A year later I stumbled upon an ad: “Help wanted picking fields.”
I thought the solitude and physical work would be a good fit for me. So now I make my way to a small private barn three times a week. My commute is about four minutes, and my hours are dictated by the weather. My wardrobe is slim. Jeans, rubber boots and a rain suit when it’s needed.
I have no idea what to call myself. A muckraker? Maybe not in the sense that it’s usually meant nowadays, but that’s what I do. I laughed at myself when I