There is wind and weather, art and science, and the endless tick-tock of biology. There is silence and solitude. And of course there are the horses.
filled out the parent profile for my son’s freshman year at college. Occupation? I wrote “Stable Hand,” glorifying myself, but I didn’t want to leave it at Housewife. It’s a conversation stopper on the cocktail party circuit---but still, there is the friend who has a lesson barn, the couple whose teenage daughter winters in Wellington, and the acquaintance who used to be a jockey. They get it. We’d all do anything for horses.
I love my work. This simple job has brought me profound healing and happiness. I will tell you why.
There is wind and weather, art and science, and the endless tick-tock of biology. There is silence and solitude. And of course there are the horses. The little herd I work for has fluctuated over time and offered an assortment of breeds and colors. I met my first cremello there and now enjoy a palette of bay, chestnut and palomino. The Shetland pony is gone, moved to California. I often think of his stoic little face. Today there are three horses, a Quarter Horse, an off-the-track Thoroughbred, and Red, who is in his late 20s. They are so different from one another. I love nurturing a relationship with each of them in ways that respect who they are.
The scent of hay greets me as I approach the barn, and the fields change almost daily. As the seasons pass I see the bright flit of bluebirds, the fields awash in buttercups, and the imperceptible return of trees in leaf. There is purple clover in June, a favorite. By July wild strawberries peek through the grass in random patches and the mint is knee-high, releasing its perfume as I brush by. Iridescent dragonflies go about their hovering business.
There is much to decipher. Flattened grass reveals equine wanderings, and there are the large patches where joyful rolling occurred. I turn around and see my own flattened path, leaving a brief record of my work for the day. I have an intimate relationship with mud.
I have my own logic for accomplishing a thorough job. My attention remains focused on my task. I am amused when it reminds me of an Easter egg hunt and disappointed when my carelessness results in uprooted grass, mouthfuls of nourishment disappearing into my wheelbarrow. Sometimes I am brought out of my intensity by the dazzling flash of a fox or the brief confusion when I momentarily mistake a group of grazing deer for the horses, who I know are in the barn.
I work along the contours of the land, its gentle rise and fall dictating my path. A bandana pulled out of my pocket with the brand of my uncle’s ranch in Arizona reminds me of Navajo. I remember that I believed I would bring him home with me one day.
Last year on Christmas Eve, it was hard to leave home and hearth, and I put off going to work until late in the day. As I was moving through the paddock by the barn it started to snow. Fat, heavy flakes fell, and I felt such astonished joy as I worked in the swirling whiteness surrounding me. I turned toward the barn, decorated with beribboned wreaths, and there was Sugar, head over his half-door, looking out upon his changing world. It reminded me that once long ago, on that very evening, a woman heavy with child made her way to the comfort and shelter of just such a barn.
What I do may not be the heart of the horse world, but to me it is the soul. Following their lead, I walk. I make my way, joyfully, in the company of horses.