Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life With Senior Horses: Our Secret Society (and a little bit of time travel)

Yesterday we had a very cool, very windy spring day. I went out to the barn in the afternoon thinking I might ride both Cody and Keil Bay, but when I got to grooming, realized I probably wouldn't get to the riding part. Keil Bay had gotten into something (probably pine sap?) that had dried in hard streaks along his back, right in the saddle area. There was no brushing it out. It was cool enough and their fur was puffy enough, that I decided a bath wasn't going to work. I put the kettle on in the feed room to heat up some water so I could spot clean him.

Meanwhile I continued grooming and found that his slightly swollen sheath was coming from a very badly placed tick that had latched on and in fact dug in pretty deep. I got out the tea tree sheath cleaner and when I had a big bucket of nice warm water I went to work. Keil Bay had by this time moved from the big barnyard over to what we call the grass paddock. The wind was whipping, Bear Corgi was barking at the Big Bay, and the rest of the herd were crashing around in the woods' edge sounding like elephants on the move.

But Keil Bay, without lead line or even halter, just stood there so I could get that tick removed and get him cleaned up. It took a few minutes to get the tick, and the contortions I had to make to actually get my fingers on that tick in that very delicate part of his body would not be fit to post here even if I had the photo. I said out loud, "Keil, there aren't many horses who would stand here and let me do this, and maybe none I would trust enough to do it to." A few moments later I got the tick, finished cleaning, and then went to make another bucket of clean warm water. Keil Bay stood right there in the grass paddock and waited for me so I could rinse him off.

By the time I finished this I decided to go ahead and groom him completely, then move on to Salina and the rest of the herd. The wind was whipping and they were all happy to stay in the barnyard - they had chosen to stay there all morning while I did barn chores, never venturing through the gates I'd left open so they could go to the pasture if they wanted to. I went through the entire grooming routine with Keil and decided to go ahead and brush his tail out. I don't do this every time, but when I do it, I really enjoy it. We walked together around the grass paddock, grazing and brushing.

And suddenly as I got to the middle of his tail and brushed out that last coiled piece I found it: one long pure silver corkscrew curl hair. I couldn't believe it. I have one of those myself, on the right side of my head, near my right ear. I found mine awhile back and named it my wild senior hair, making it something special, a sort of private metaphor for age and experience with a young-in-spirit crazy streak to boot.

Keil Bay has one too! I wasn't surprised, as he and I share a lot of chiropractic outages, we have the same homeopathic constitutional, etc. Now we both had secret wild hairs. Perfect.

I went on to groom Salina. She came and stood by the barn doors on the big barnyard side so she could keep her eye on everything the herd did. She planted herself there and rested easily - they couldn't leave the area unless they walked right by her. Salina had no ticks but an old bite that itched a bit, so I rubbed if for her. I decided to brush out her tail too. Lo and behold, in the middle of her black tail, there was a long, silver corkscrew hair. Now we have a Secret Society of Seniors on November Hill!

I laughed and said this to Salina. She didn't seem to be amused, at least not as much as I was about this revelation.

Later on I had finished grooming and decided to take a break. I made a mug of blackberry tea and dragged a chair to the barnyard. I started reading Jane Savoie's book version of her Happy Horse course and was thinking about what I might do with Cody next ride. I was juggling the mug, a pencil, a notebook, and Jane's book, and was soon joined by Rafer Johnson, who gazed at my tea and then at me, bringing his sweet donkey eye closer and closer to mine as if he were trying hard to tell me something. Well, of course he was - he wanted that tea!

Really, all he wanted was to smell it, so when it cooled enough that no one would get burned if it spilled, I let him have a long, deep whiff. Redford came over and tried to intervene but was quickly told to leave by Rafer. Salina came over, and to my surprise, she walked around behind me and hung her head over my left shoulder, just touching me with her muzzle, and stayed there. I let her have a nice whiff of the tea and then resumed my reading. Rafer's kind eye on my right, Salina's empty eye on my left (which meant her good eye was to the outside, so she could keep it open to anything that might happen along), and the rest of the herd were in front of us, eating hay and glancing over periodically.

The temperature had started to drop (we actually got down to freezing last night) and suddenly I had a glimpse into the future. Sometimes I wonder what it will be like when I'm older with all these equines, and I wonder what the days will be like without my daughter helping with chores. I didn't get to everything I wanted to do yesterday, but once I let go of trying to do it all, I had a wonderful time doing the things I managed to get done. And sitting with a cup of tea and a happy herd was something I did more as a whim than a need - but one day I'll need to take those breaks and I was very happy to realize that the breaks could be as good as - or better than - the sense of accomplishment when everything gets checked off my list, and even better than a good ride.

I thought about long days at the barn and brushing out tails and wondered if a painted pony with a white tail gets a silver senior corkscrew hair or not. How about a chestnut QH? And the donkeys? Will they get them too?

At some point my secret senior society will get new members, and although Salina might not be with us when that happens, I'll always remember the day I sat and we traveled ahead in time together, Salina at my left shoulder, Rafer Johnson at the other, reading about happy horses learning dressage, enjoying the aroma of blackberry tea, all the herd in our sight line, all safe, all happy.



Matthew said...

Lovely imagery and writing!

Máire said...

That's a great post! I have some catching up to do (computer was gone), and turned to your blog and your header photo jumped out at me. And then your post, I love that synchronicity between you and Keil Bay, that image of you with Salina and the donks, and what you say about the richness of those breaks. I have a half-formed post about taking things slowly, or slower than my western mind thinks is right and what you say about breaks expresses it very well.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

This post brought tears to my eyes - in a good way. ;)

I love, love, love that you elders share wild hairs!

Thank you for the encouraging comments and thoughtful suggestions you left today. Much appreciated. :)

Grey Horse Matters said...

Love this post. The images and thoughts are lovely. Thank you from one 'slightly' gray haired senior.

billie said...

Thank you, Matthew!

billie said...

Maire, glad you're back in cyberspace and I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on breaks!

billie said...

C, thanks and you are most welcome! You are brave and good to post videos for comments!

billie said...

A, thank you. It occurred to me that anyone reading my post might assume that I have only the one silver hair. Which is not the case. There are many silvery ones - but only one corkscrew one! :)