Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Value of Hanging Out

I was reading this blog post the other day, and it got me thinking.

Hanging out is all I've been able to do with the horses in the past five months, since my foot was crushed by Finessa's attempt to snuggle closer.

At first, I was irritated, annoyed and frustrated.  Six to twelve months before my foot heals?  You've got to be kidding.

I've progressed from a walking cast to heavy work boots; definite progress.  Going up and down stairs, or hills, is still a recipe for severe pain.  My foot his happiest if I walk less than 5,000 steps a day.  This is easy during the week, when I leave for work at dawn and return at dusk.  Brett does most, and some days all, of the chores.  I try to at least clean Lucy and Jackson's pasture after work -- about 2,000 steps.  Yes, I wear a FitBit.

On the weekend, I have to pick and choose my activities.  Even so, I routinely hit 10,000 steps on Saturdays and Sundays -- and that is without riding.  Chores, the farmers market, gardening, cooking... it adds up quickly.  I have managed to ride once or twice in the past few months, but, more often than not, I'm way over my quota of steps before even thinking about riding.

So, I've been hanging out with Tex, Lucy and Jackson.  "Just" hanging out.  At first, I was all about doing Masterson work, or liberty work; I had to be doing something.  Then that all dropped by the wayside.  Instead, I shared apples with Tex and worked my fingers through the tangles in his mane.  I leaned on the fence and watched him try to hold an entire apple in his mouth; unable to open his mouth wide enough to get a bite on it because if he did, he would drop the apple. Ultimately giving up, biting the apple, and dropping half of it on the ground (because he wouldn't let me catch it for him).
This is a typical Tex posture.  He's close, with one ear on me -- but leaning away at the same time in case danger strikes and he needs to escape.

But, actually, I've noticed the biggest change in Lucy; my hyper-sensitive, ambitious mare.  She has always met me at the gate, eager to come out and be groomed and ridden.  I haven't taken her out in over a month.  Instead, we give each other massages, she follows me around the pasture as I muck, often blocking my path and standing, expectantly, for a belly scratch, a rub on the withers, or for me to wrap my arms around her face.  When I do start riding her again, I am sure I will be more relaxed because we've learned how to do that together; how to help the other let go.

Even Jackson is different with me now.  He has always been sweet, but he's not a demonstrative horse.  He likes to know what is going on, what your are doing, and has always tried his best to do what I've asked.  But he also marches to his own drummer, doesn't care one way or the other about grooming or treats (picky is an understatement), and is often standing by himself off under the pine trees.  When I first started spending more time rubbing his neck and chest, he was perplexed.  He didn't walk away, but he didn't lean into it, or wiggle his lips, or heaven forbid, offer to massage me back.  Lately, I've noticed that when he comes up to me to say hello, and check the agenda, he stays with me a lot longer than he used to.  He turns so I can scratch his favorite spots, standing like a statue.  When I was no longer able to ride him, and he became retired, I didn't really know what to "do" with him.  Now, I know we don't have to "do" anything.  We can just have a relationship.  Its enough.
Can you see Jackson in the background?  Watching me as I take a picture of the flower bed (decimated by squirrels)?  "Whatcha doing??  He's so nosy.

Even though these months of healing have been incredibly tedious, they have also been incredibly productive.  I have a bond with Lucy that is stronger than I've ever had with a horse.  I can feel her thoughts and emotions; as she does mine.  I know it is going to transform our relationship under saddle as well.  Tex continues to increase his trust in me.  I'm willing to bet that I'm the fist person he's ever encountered who wanted relationship.  And, Jackson has gone from pasture ornament to friend.


  1. I loved this line: "Now, I know we don't have to "do" anything. We can just have a relationship. Its enough." That is so very true :)

  2. What a beautiful post- it's quite inspirational.

  3. Nice! I second the "inspirational" comment.

  4. Great post! I agree wholeheartedly that we don't need to "do" anything with our horses all the time except be there with them and enjoy our time together.

  5. An American in TokyoOctober 10, 2016 at 9:31 PM

    It's lovely to hear about all your different relationships!
    Jackson reminds me of my pet finch. My finch always watches me to see what I am doing. Sometimes he even "imitates" me, like if I am eating something, he will go grab a seed and come back and eat it while staring at me! ha ha!


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