by Laura Crum
Horses can be frustrating. I’ve only ridden two or three times in the last month. It rained most of December, and promptly on New Year’s Day, I got sick with the flu and felt really lousy for a week—when, of course, it was sunny. So, if you think of horses as being about riding, it was pretty much a wasted month. The thing is, I didn’t find it so.
We’ve had a few blogs here about not riding and writing as much as we used to, and being more ample than we used to be, and all these things can be said of me, too. And I will admit to those moments of wishing I didn’t have any horses when the corrals are full of mud and its raining once again. I think we all have moments like that. But for me, the big answer has come in the little things.
If I evaluated the joy I get out of horses solely on how much I ride, this last month would have been pretty joyless. But, in fact, there were lots and lots of moments when I felt tremendous joy and happiness with my horses and they were all about very small things.
Horses are, as I think Kel pointed out, far more about doing chores than about riding—at least for most of us. But what exactly is a chore and what is a pleasure? Take feeding the horses, which I do every day. (When I was the sickest, my husband fed for two days, and let me tell you, it was very hard for me to admit that I felt too sick to go down to the barn.) During one of the rainy spells (before I got sick), I fed everyone their flake one evening and then sat in my chair under the haybarn roof, watching the horses munch their hay as dusk gathered in the stormy sky. The horses munched rythmically, the rain rattled on the metal roof, the breeze made the oak trees creak. I sat and watched the leaves flutter down while the horses chomped contentedly and I felt perfectly happy. What could be nicer than such a moment?
I guess you could argue that I’m having more fun during those times when I’m trail riding a lot, and maybe I am. But I’m really not sure. Depends how you define fun. These quieter moments can be every bit as lovely and joyful. Chores can be as much fun as fun.
Another example: during the winter storms I blanket my thirty-one year old gelding, Gunner, who lives in a pasture about ten/fifteen minutes from my house. Since it stormed so much in December, I was out there all the time, blanketing Gunner and then taking the blanket off so he could enjoy the sunshine. Some would call this tedious—and yes, in the midst of an already busy day, its one more chore. But once I had made time to do it, I inevitably took much joy in rubbing on my old friend, either tucking him into his “blankie” so he’d be cozy, or getting him out of it and watching him roll in the green grass. Gunner really seemed to enjoy all the attention I was giving him, and the pleasure we both felt in connecting like that means just as much to me as the trophies I won competing on him.
I think it all depends on how you look at it. If you think you OUGHT to be riding four days a week, and turning out a published book a year and weighing less than a certain amount, then you’re going to be unhappy if its not happening. But what if you just look at what is without judgement? Maybe its pretty good.
As for me, I don’t so much mind being ample, and I’ve written plenty of books for one lifetime, even if the upcoming one is the last. I love to ride, but I love to do the chores, too. And I love wandering around the garden and the barnyard just watching things. Perhaps I love this best of all. Seeing what flowers are blooming, spotting a buck or a bobcat, just watching the light change on the opposite ridge. Watching the horses be horses. Its magical.
I am grateful every single day that I have horses living here with me. When I was a child, the perfect life that I imagined having some day was defined by one main thing. I would live in a place where I could have horses. And now I do. I can look out my window and see Sunny’s bright gold shape as I type. This, by itself, is a huge blessing. I am living my dream. In a way, this is not a little thing—it’s an enormous thing. When I think of it this way, riding/not riding, writing/not writing pales in comparison.
When I was sick with the flu and did not feel up to even handgrazing the horses, I still walked down to the barnyard in the sunshine in the middle of the day just to look at them. Sunny greeted me with a nicker and went to his gate, clearly wanting me to catch him. I greeted him, but told him he wasn’t getting out today. I know horses don’t speak English, but he looked me right in the eye and tossed his head and snorted. My little boy was with me and we both laughed at this. And then Sunny began trotting and loping around his big corral, spinning and crowhopping, snorting and even hitting the dead run for a few laps. My kid and I laughed and laughed as Sunny put on a show for several minutes. When he was done, he came back to the gate and snorted again, as if saying, “OK, how was that? I exercised myself.”
In the end, for me, all this is great fun, and though I like to ride and will continue riding, it ain’t the be all and end all. For me the joy is in the many, many little moments I share with my horses, including moments on their backs and moments doing the “chores”. And perhaps, most of all, moments just being with them and watching them.
So today I want to ask if others feel this way. And, also, if there are those who feel they wouldn’t have horses if they couldn’t ride. I’m interested in how you guys evaluate your life with horses.