by Laura Crum
That’s what I am these days. Most of my “horse life” is spent here on our property (where I cannot see another house from my front porch), enjoying my horses with my family. We ride in our ring, trail ride in the hills near our home, turn the horses loose to graze, feed them night and morning…etc. In some ways, it is almost like my horses are part of my garden, or part of my family. They are not an “event” that I do. They are just part of my life. I do not dress up in special clothes to interact with them. This weekend I rode Sunny bareback with a halter, in my cargo pants and sandals, after weedwhacking our home trails in the same outfit. I climbed on Sunny mostly in order to ride him up the hill from the front gate, where he had been doing his share of weedwhacking along the driveway. Once I was on him I was having fun, so I rode him in the ring for awhile.
Though I still enjoy trail riding farther afield and gathering cattle with my team roper friends, I have to say that it is these regular daily interactions with my horses that are my greatest pleasure. Watching them graze below my house with their just getting slick coats shiny in the spring sun—it doesn’t get any better than that for me. Unless its sitting in my chair in the barnyard, just after five o’clock in the evening, a glass of wine in my hand, listening to them munch their hay. What a great thing that is—listening to horses munch hay. And then there’s watching the smile on my kid’s face as he lopes his lazy, red gelding, Henry, around the ring. That is maybe the best of all. Unless its sitting on Sunny in the spring sunshine, marveling at the silver and gold light sparks on his palomino neck. I could go on and on.
Once upon a time I valued my horses mostly for what I could do with them. Cutting, team roping, horse packing in the mountains…this was what I had them for. I still loved them, but I sure placed a priority on what they did for me. I spent over twenty years training, competing, progressing as a horseman. Many good times were had, and I remember that period of my life very fondly.
Now I value my horses more for who they are, for what its like to be with them. For what our life is like together. I have enough skill to “read” them fairly easily and know how to get along with them, but certainly I am not training or competing…or progressing as a horseman (at least, in any obvious way). In fact, some might say I’m stagnating. I tend to view it as contemplating. I’m more into “being” than “doing”.
In a way, this is very tame—perhaps its an old lady’s way of having horses. My progress with my much loved garden has been similar. Once upon a time I agressively planted and weeded and tended, let alone all the planning I did of new garden features. I must have planted over a hundred different old rose varieties out here, during the many years that I obsessed on acquiring these plants. And then there was the pond I dug, and my collection of California native plants and Mediteranean plants. Oh, and the bulbs. The list of things I created and developed in the garden is endless. And now?
Now I watch the garden grow. Oh, I’ll weed and water a bit, mostly I just observe the wild garden. I love to see what survives and how it combines with the native flora—I delight in each new bloom I find. I don’t feel much like “messing” with it any more. I just like to see how it evolves. (My husband still “farms” the vegetable garden, so there is one area that’s agressively tended, still.)
I don’t in the least regret my more active periods with horses and garden. This active work is what taught me to be a horseman, so that my horses are a pleasure to me, and to understand my garden, so I appreciate what I see. I could not, I think, as a beginner at either thing, have moved right into the contemplative phase I’m in now. No, I needed the active phase, where I learned and did so much, to be able to be contemplative in any deep way. It is hard to truly love something that you are mostly ignorant about.
Because I live a fairly solitary life here with my family, animals and garden (not to mention writing my books), I find that I really enjoy the connections I’ve made here on the blog with other horse people. I can remain in my little horse hermit mode, and still share insights with others very much like myself. Its been great fun. I know that many of you that write in here lead pretty active horse lives, showing and training and interacting with many other horse people (and I, too, lived that life for many years). I’m curious if there are other horse hermits out there, who, like me now, are mostly enjoying their horses in a quiet one-on-one way. Or maybe I’m just really aberrant?
I do sometimes get into “guilt mode”. I’ll read about what someone is doing with their horse, or get talking to one of my team roper friends who’s still actively competing, and I’ll suddenly wonder what’s wrong with me, why don’t I feel any draw to do that any more? Where did it go, that urge to actively train, compete, progress? Why am I now content with such a quiet horse life?
I don’t usually get much answer to this sort of questioning—just the clarity that that’s where I’m at now. And I’m content with it.
Anyway, someone once wrote to me that we go through different phases in our lives with horses, and I was wondering if any one else had hit this particular phase or had any insights to offer on this subject. Any other horse hermits out there?
And, now that I’ve admitted to being a hermit, if anyone actually wants to meet me (not that I am all so exciting to meet in “real life”), and you happen to be in central California, I am doing a book talk/signing with my friend, author Laurie R. King, on Thurs, May 6th at 7:30 at Capitola Bookcafe in Capitola. Also one at M is for Mystery in San Mateo on May 15th at 2:00. Both of these stores have websites, if you want more info. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org