Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fine Equines

Some days are so hard.
I look at my son sprawled out on the floor wearing a toy bucket on his head like a hat as he jibber jabbers and laughs at... who knows what.
I wonder if I ever felt that safe and carefree about life?
I am sure I had to have felt it on some level at some point. Maybe I just desperately hope that is case.
If I ever felt safe and carefree about life, it was with my horses.

Nothing beats the smell of horse sweat, leather, and fresh prairie hay.
I have not felt more at peace than when I was working out the tangles of a horses tail with oil. Or polishing my saddle. I was not one to paint my nails much as a kid but, I took pride in trimming and painting my horses hooves. I took great care washing, drying, braiding and wrapping my horses mane and tail. I gently used a curry comb in the spring to remove the ever shedding winter coats and any mud and debris. I used only a little more pressure when removing heavy, stuck on muck from a good roll in the mud after a spring shower. I was in love with the smell of afterbirth when a new foal was born. I spent hours imprint training each new arrival with noises, smells and constant touch to desensitize my babies and yet not overwhelm them. I had great skill at snatching up a hen or rooster roaming loose in the yard and holding them so they could flap their wings and fuss around the new foals to help them get used to this sound and not run from it. If my latest addition to the herd was born on a particularly cool night I put my jacket on them.
I spent many spring and summer nights outside laying out under the stars with a foal head on my lap, a pile of dogs, cats, a goat or two, and sometimes a hen all seeking a warm place to burrow on top of me.  Moments like these were where I felt safe and carefree. Nothing could make me happier.
During the day light hours, I spent mornings milking the cow, straightening up the tack room, and taking inventory of supplies to restock. My list often consisted of bag balm, fly spray, mineral oil, hoof paint and rubber bands. I kept an ammo box in a cool dark spot in the barn with emergency drugs for animals. The barns were my kingdom. I never second guessed myself here. I knew how to follow my heart and gut with barn life. My confidence, peace, and sanity resided in the barn.
I kept things in order. All of my animals got along. I let the rabbits out to eat grass and roam free in the yard. My pet pig followed me like a dog. The goats could be found tormenting one of the horses or standing on top of any random pile of anything their little split hooves allowed them to climb.
Often I had an orphan calf in the milk barn. She'd be needing my nursing skills and mothering. I was the resident vet. People brought their sick pets or called me for advice on treating their pets and livestock. If my nose was in a book it was a Merck Veterinary book from the late 70's or some literature piece on equines.

My passion was animals and more specifically the horse.
It shattered my heart to see a 1200-1400 lb beast taken and broken by men. Watching the destruction of the horses spirit bound by ropes and hobbles filled me with silent resentment. I hated spurs, I resented any bits more harsh than simple snaffle or solid D-ring.  My horses wore hackamors... the bit-less bridles, or snaffle bits, the lightest weight of all bits. If a horse needed more than the pressure of a shoe lace to respond to a command he simply needed more time on ground training in my mind.
I was an early adopter of the natural horsemanship training methods. Horse whisperers had nothing on me. I rode partially blind horses at times and trusted them with my life.
Nothing made me feel more powerful and humble than the willing submission of a creature who could crush me in one swift kick with a hind leg.
I have been around hundreds of horses and ridden almost as many, and unlike many riders, I can count on one hand how many times I have been bucked off a horse.
I was equine savvy and there was no disputing that my horses were family friendly.
People came out to ride my horses. I was given horses to keep and train. I gave horses away for others to have a safe wonderful pet of their own.

I don't miss much about my life before my husband. However, I do miss equines.
Sadly, my husband has never even seen me ride.  After a bad accident when I was just 19 years old, I had to step back from a lot of riding and training. From there I jumped into busying myself with things that were failing substitutes to feed my passion. I was not as confident without my horses. I left confidence in the corral and it showed. Then, I ended up at my abusive cousin's house and everything in me that was clinging to life by the strand of horse hair was cut off.
My horse I had raised from first breath... Cheetoh, was allegedly struck by lightening and killed. I say allegedly because another horse I had been given... Maggie was put down by one of my brothers for no reason except that everyone seemed tired of caring for her in my absence. That was enough to merit putting her down with several bullets. One bullet in the head and several in her chest.
When I got the call Cheetoh had died it was like some part of me had expired with him.
The next time I made it to the ranch, I saw that no one had the decency to bury him. My father ran over what was left his decaying body with the truck. He laughed. Then acted put out by my being upset. Sure, you only desecrated the last thing that kept me coming back to your wretched house! I thought to myself.
I have no more horses, they all died or were sold at auctions after I left.

Someday I will ride again. Someday I will blow my breath in the big velvet nostrils of a horse that will embrace me with a kindred spirit and knowing nudge. Someday my nails will carry the dirt of a horses mane and I will reek of that unmistakable scent of horse sweat and leather. 

Some day.