Mf ort and Co jo y

EQUUS - - EQ True Tale -

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

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