Friday, August 12, 2005

We have three horses. I seldom ride. I know my neighbors (and even my family) wonder why not. One of the horses is an old lady (mother to the other two) and a little lame, so she gets a pass. But still, there are the other two, fed, watered, groomed, feet cared for, stalls cleaned, turned out every night, the whole thing.

But I don't ride. I really don't understand why.

Partly, it's because I'm a little afraid. I've had horses for 30 years now, and I've seen every kind of accident with them--minor things, like broken arms and collarbones, major things like knocked unconscious, and I myself was thrown 30 years ago and fractured two lumbar vertebrae (think body cast, braces). That didn't stop me then, but it did teach me that contrary to popular belief, young people are not invincible. I was breakable. As I have gotten older, and feel my body beginning to let me down, that has become more pertinent, I guess you could say. I can't afford an injury like the back injury, not now.

Partly it's because the neighborhood we live in is now one big housing development. Where we used to be the last house on the road, with woods and fields and little dirt roads going hither and yon, now it's paved and house-lined. The cars drive on it 35 miles an hour, and it's only a lane-and-a-half wide. Sometimes people slow up and pass quietly when they see a rider; sometimes they race by, cackling, and throw cans out the window. You never know which it will be. My horses are pretty phlegmatic, all in all, but horses are not machines, and you can't always predict how they will behave in any given situation.

And partly it's because I get so much pleasure out of just watching them. Cold days, when there's a spring under each foot, tails cocked high, snorting. Warm days, when they stand nose-to-tail, gently swishing at flies, head drooping and hip-shot. Feeding time when they whinny and call and race back to their stalls, plunge their noses into the grain tub. Drinking water out of the trough by submerging their entire face and blowing bubbles while they drink; then holding a mouthful of water to come drip over your shoulder. Springtime, when they all three act like young colts, jumping and kicking and racing across the pasture playing tag. Leaning over the fence to graciously accept tribute from the neighborhood children, one carrot at a time. Watching them make the goofiest faces when I scratch that one itchy spot.

My husband kids me that they're the world's largest yard ornaments, and guess there is truth to that. All the same, I think of them as companion animals, giving and receiving pleasure just by the fact they we are together.

And really, saddle sores are pretty mean things too.

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