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.

EQUUS - - EQ True Tale -

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.

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