Sunday, April 25, 2010

a couple of birthdays and the gift of connection

This morning I was awakened by Kyra Corgi, who I believe thought I was rudely sleeping in when clearly it was breakfast time. Six a.m. I got up, fed her and the felines, and decided to repeat my lazy woman's way of feeding early morning hay - open the gates and let the equines have at the round bale.

It was still covered by the tarp I put over it last night in advance of the rain that came through, but I figured (correctly) that the horses and donkeys would nibble around the edges and get plenty.

Since they spent at least part of the night in their stalls due to the rain, there was some mucking to do. I did most of it and then came back in for coffee and a break before feeding breakfast tubs.

When I went back out, the sun had burst through the clouds, and as I finished up the last of the mucking, down at the far end of the dirt paddock, I thought: I should probably take the tarp off and let the bale air out since it's going to rain again tonight and it will have to be covered again.

But I needed to finish mucking, and let go of the thought. Then I heard a loud crackling noise and looked back to the barnyard. Keil Bay was dragging the tarp completely off the round bale. It was a big tarp, and it required him to take it in his teeth and walk away to pull it, which is exactly what he did. And then he looked at me, and it was clear he was saying: there you go. 

A few moments later a big wind blew through the barnyard, but up high, so that suddenly, in the morning sunshine, all the big trees did a shimmy, like horses shaking after a roll, loosing raindrops that looked like twenty little rain showers all around the barn.

We're celebrating two birthdays this weekend. Keil Bay is 21 and Apache Moon, also known fondly as the Little Man and The Pony, is 10.

They got an entire bag of baby carrots yesterday, and will get more in the way of shared treats for the herd today and probably again tomorrow. But it occurs to me. How do you say happy birthday to a horse that means the world to you?

Anyone who reads here regularly knows we have a special herd of equines. And I love them all dearly. But Keil Bay is very special to me. He's the horse I found late one night when I typed my ideal criteria into and he's the one horse that popped up when I hit "search."

There was little doubt when I met him that he was the horse for me. Ever since he came to live with me, first at a boarding barn and then to November Hill, he has showered me with gifts.

When I needed to overcome a slight fear of his huge trot, he did a very elegant spook at the gait to show me I was secure in the saddle. When I worried some over his huge canter, he did a spook and spin that was so balanced and elegant all I knew was that one moment we'd been cantering one way, and the next, we were going in the opposite direction. There was nothing anyone could have said or done that made me more secure than those two elegantly executed spooks. In a matter of a few moments, Keil Bay proved to me that I could ride anything he might offer.

One afternoon he took me over a few baby jumps in the arena and reminded me what it felt like to ride as a girl, many years back, with no fear and the pure joy of going fast and going airborne.

He twirls lead ropes and tosses halters to entertain me while he waits for his breakfast. He does yoga stretches that make me smile. He turns radio dials from classical to rock and bobs his head when the chiropractor hasn't yet found the spot that needs adjusting.

Keil Bay is often referred to as The King around here. And I often say he's The King of All Horses. But what Keil Bay is really the King of is Bringing Me Great Joy, and sometimes I wish I knew what I could do to thank him for that.

A riding teacher told me when I first brought Keil Bay home that he didn't need constant rewards from me. That the reward for him, just as it was for me, was the connection we shared. That as much as it meant to me when we read one another's minds, and found moments of pure harmony during a ride, and shared humor and fun, it meant equally as much to him. And that was the reward for both of us.

She was right.

Thank you, Keil Bay, for being my dream horse. And a very happy birthday to you and to the Little Man.


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday to both your wonderful horses!

Kyle said...

Happy birthday to Keil Bay and Apache Moon!

I look forward to sitting down to read Camera-Obscura, Billie, because I don't know anyone online with a better focus on life's gentle gifts.

ponymaid said...

Billie, a very happy birthday to your two special men. You have given Keil Bay the very best present - a home with you as his soul mate. Long may you share your special bond.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Happy Birthday to Little Man and Keil Bay, two of the very special equines at November Hill!

A lovely tribute to a wonderful horse. I'm sure The King doesn't need anything special for his birthday because he already has all he could ever have wished for: his special person - you and the best care far and wide in the kingdom. And fun donkey boys and the rest of the herd to play with and a whole family that loves him.

The tarp story is funny, he sounds like quite a smart character. If you really wanted to do something special for him you could take him for a hand walk around the farm, just the two of you while you fed him some treats, but I don't think he needs more than he has already.

billie said...

Thanks, Kate. They had a nice weekend all around.

billie said...

Kyle, thank you and I so appreciate your words about the blog. It's a wonderful outlet for me and offers a place I can sit down each day or so, dash off a post, and hardly skip a beat in the day.

And for those of us who have to write or combust, it's a valuable tool.

billie said...

Sheaffer, thank you. They all have strings tied directly to my heart, but Keil's is double-knotted at both ends. :)

billie said...

Arlene, what a good idea. What he ended up getting was the privilege of standing at the feed room door as I mixed tubs.

Because of how I usually do it, the donkeys usually get that privilege, but yesterday Keil was in the barnyard (along with everyone else) and when he realized I was mixing tubs he came and stood by the door, no banging, and gave me just enough room to open the door to get water as needed and a very sweet and gentle nudge from him each time I opened it.

If the feed room was bigger I'd have let him come inside. (he's done that once with me and it was a bit too crowded!) He had the entire barn aisle clear, as though he were guarding me inside the feed room - LOL!

Matthew said...

Amazing how he knew exactly what you were thinking. . . The King indeed!

billie said...

He's telepathic. Such a handsome bay.

poniesathome said...

What a lovely connection you describe. He sounds like a very special horse indeed. And harmony is just what horses can give us.


billie said...

Maire, I knew he was special when I met him, but the longer the time we live together, the more I know just how much! Living with horses is a lifelong journey. They have so much to offer, at all the stages of their lives (and ours).

Victoria Cummings said...

Billie - Both you and KB are lucky to have each other. What a beautiful thought - that you give each other enough just being together. It's Silk's 21st birthday tomorrow. I wasn't sure what to do for her this year, but reading what you wrote helps me realize that just being together is our gift. Thanks! And Happy Birthday to both of your handsome boys!

billie said...

Thanks, Victoria. I didn't realize Silk is the same age as Keil Bay!

CharlieHorse said...

Happy Birthday to both your boys from Cookie, LadyO and myself !!
I love reading your blog, tho' I write responses in the air, that's about as far as they get. Writing takes a chunk of my day as I tend to labor over it. However, I had to add my delight for your Keil Bay story - and my delight in your beautifully expressed appreciation for your anam cara, which reads much like a prayer of gratitude, or a meditation.
I am participating in Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals class and the "home" work (if one can really justify calling it work) are the most satisfying assignments it's ever been my task to undertake. Time is under a crunch with the class, and life's usual other demands.
Constance Funk, author of "Beauty from Brokedness" is a fellow class member - she wrote a love letter to her mare, Chasta. Maybe you could write Keil Bay's story, too. You write so beautifully and the world needs to see that horses are far, far more than work animals or competitive tools.
Love to all,
Beth and Cookie,
in Virginia

billie said...

Beth, I love reading your comments, even the ones written in the air, because rest assured those come through too!

I have written Keil Bay's story here at some point, but since I have never done the tagging system that would actually enable folks to search my blog, it requires digging through the archives manually to find the posts!

When I get a chance I will go back and look for it and repost it with an update. :)

I knew he was "my" horse when I rode him the first time, and he made me look better than I had ever looked as an adult riding - and after the ride he put his nose on my shoulder and that was all that needed to be said. I knew in that moment I would move heaven and earth if that was what it took to bring him home with me.

Everyone who knew him in the barn, including his young trainer at that time, expressed sadness at seeing him go, and informed me how lucky I was to be gaining such a great friend.

His trainer actually cried when we loaded him in the trailer. His owner loved him so much she couldn't even be present for the sale/transport! But I was talking about him once in a clinic and although she did not know me and I didn't use his name, she approached me later and asked if I was the Billie who had bought Keil - and we shared a good half hour of Keil Bay stories and a big hug. She was so happy to know he's doing so well, and I was thrilled to get to hear her talk about him.

Anyway, that's a bit of his story, right there!

Glad you're enjoying the Resnick class - I have read a little bit of her work and it seems she is very much on the same path as we are.

I'm not sure why, but the title of her book (Naked Liberty), the title of her workshop/class, and the way she writes about her work puts me off a little bit - it's mostly a style of writing thing, I think - and I have not explored her work as much I might otherwise do. I hope you find some time to write of your experiences with her class, as your way of describing it might pull me in more... :)