Friday, December 27, 2013

postcards from the holidays

The week of winter solstice I was grooming Keil Bay in the barnyard, so the caked-on mud dust would fly off into the air instead of swirling around us in the barn aisle. He was happy to graze a bit as I worked. He tends to move around, slowly, while we do this barnyard free grooming, which is fine with me. We have our routine down to a fine art. 

Keil made his way toward Salina's gravesite. When we got to the mound itself, he walked up between the mound and a tree, carefully fitting his huge body in that fairly narrow space. I worried momentarily that he was going to step onto her grave, but that's not what he was doing. He got himself into position and then he craned his neck toward where her head rests and lowered his muzzle to hers. He was sharing breath with Salina, if not literally, then figuratively. It was absolutely amazing. I stood there and watched, and smiled, and got teary-eyed, even more so when he lifted his head high and stood looking out over the cleared field behind her, gazing intently at something, that I think was Salina doing a perimeter gallop back to spirit land, back to where she lives now, a happy place and a safe place. If we're lucky it's a waiting place, where all of us might meet up in years to come.

Our ride that day was special too. Nothing spectacular, but fueled by Salina's presence. I'm aware with each ride that Keil Bay is nearing 25 years of age. I don't know why 25 seems so much more important than 24 was. It feels very much like he has been 19 for a long time and suddenly skipped up to 25. He joined me at 15, and in this decade it feels like the time with Keil Bay has been forever. With Salina here, always older than he is, I focused on her aging. Now he's the oldest here. And I am so intensely aware of it.

My daughter's riding teacher has lost 4 horses this year. One got loose on a trail ride and simply disappeared. Many many people searched high and low for her for months and it appears that someone probably caught her in the half-hour after she bolted and loaded her onto a trailer and took her away. The other 3 lived long, happy lives and their deaths were hard but not totally unexpected. Between losing Salina and witnessing the loss of these 4 horses, I've become hyper-sensitive to the possibility. But this is not only a sad feeling - it makes me know that even more so than usual I have to focus on the present, enjoy each day, and hope that Keil Bay is one of those horses who defies the average and lives a long, long life. This makes every ride more precious. It has forced me to look at the rides differently. Suddenly I do not care how good our circles are, if we're on the bit or off it, whether we are first level or fourth, nor do I care much about the quality of the gaits. I want healthy movement, good positions that keep us sound. I want the rides to stretch our muscles, to gently work our joints, to keep us healthy, and to make both of us feel satisfied by the end. We're on a different kind of riding journey now.


On Christmas Eve we went for a hike on some land nearby that quietly went from private to state-owned in the last year or so. It's apparently now state park land, as there are signs at entrances and indications that someone is keeping the old roads, now trails, cleared, and we've seen a couple of benches appear hither and yonder. But no one goes there, and it feels like it's our own property. 

We recently discovered that at least one trail leads to the river, and this is the trail we took on Christmas Eve, late in the day, where we stood and listened to the river rushing, high and fast after all the rain we'd had. The sun was setting almost directly across the water, and just as it dipped below the horizon we turned to head back home.

We walked faster going back, racing with dusk, and it was perfectly quiet, as if we were in the middle of nowhere, outside time. As we walked past a small pond that sits in the middle of the forest, two gaggles of geese circled and honked as they came in to roost for the night. I've never been so close to geese coming in that way, and it was magical, like an image from an old Christmas card that I somehow stepped inside. 

The only way it would have been more perfect is if we had been on horseback and snow had started falling.


On a lighter note, we have gone through two horse blankets thus far this winter. The pony's is old but had stood up well - it finally just ripped into shreds across the rump; the outer fabric just wore out.  Cody has been getting out of his blanket between bedtime and morning, mysteriously, and this morning it was found in a heap, belly strap ripped completely out of the blanket. Fortunately both have extras. I'm looking at getting Schneider's for each of them - Keil Bay got a Schneider about 5 years ago and it has fit the best and held up the best of any horse blanket I've ever bought. The blanket repair person told me not to buy Rambo or Rhinos new, as the quality has fallen off severely, and that she sees the Schneiders holding up quite well. It's a bit of a shock to go to bed with horses in blankets and wake up to one without. What is he doing to get that thing off? It must be quite a show.


It's also the time of year when a glimpse out my window falls on sleeping horses and pony and donkeys. Often all but one will lie down and it always takes my breath away to see them resting in the sun. One day Cody was standing guard and when the pony got up, Cody went directly to the spot he'd been sleeping and peed on it. That's about the only way to get one over on the pony! The dynamics of this herd full of personalities makes me laugh on a regular basis.


As you can see I have finally gotten Fiona and the Water Horse published, so if you like reading about horses and ponies and magic, it's a fun story and I think appeals to all ages. If you like Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, and look at stories as fables and windows into self, it offers a lot for women looking at the girl-maiden-mother-crone process.

Happy New Year to all - for many of us it has been a rough year and my wish is that we all get to relax and rest and thrive and grow in 2014. With perhaps some lighter lessons than those we faced this year! 

1 comment:

Grey Horse Matters said...

Sounds like you've been having some very nice times with your herd and family.

My wish for the New Year is that we get to relax and thrive and grow in 2014 too.

I think this past year wasn't a great one for a lot of us. And I'm glad to see 2013 go.