Pretty, pretty geldings...and mares that I call friends.
Last night I finished reading my grandmother's diary from 1959. She was 39 years old. This was the fourth and final one (1955, 1956, 1957, and 1959 - she didn't keep one in '58) and one underlying theme is that my grandmother was obsessed with horses. I never really knew this about her. Of course, I knew she loved our horses. She fed them and watered them for us and gave them carrots and apples daily. But her horse routines that I witnessed seemed rather perfunctory. She loved animals so she had to care for animals which meant a daily "job" that she did willingly and punctually, but I didn't get that she did it happily. Somewhere in time she seemed to have lost the joy that her diaries convey.
My family boarded their horses in those days and my mom was in middle school. Therefore, my grandmother didn't actually have to go to the barn until after my mom was home from school, yet entry after entry tells of her cleaning the house quickly in the morning and then going to the barn to clean the horses and sometimes even ride. My grandmother was a beginning rider her entire life, never fully conquering her fear, but I can see when there are long stretches of consecutive grooming days, that she would feel close to the horses and gain confidence enough to ride, first for 10 minutes, then 20, then for a half hour. Weather or activities would stop the streak and then she was back to just grooming.
Her words tell of an insistence, an excitement that I share now in my life and I never knew she had.
Recently, I have been savoring this feeling. The silly, giddy, pure joy of horses. I don't know what to compare it to except maybe the adrenaline of a first crush. I adore cleaning tack now - something I loathed when I showed. It was a chore then, like an unrelated task that my teenage mind couldn't see as important. Now, it is a connection with them, the regal ones. I lay my tack proudly across our dining room table and put on music and assemble my saddle soap and neatsfoot oil and just wallow in the smell of horse and leather. I pray and say thank you to the poor animals (cows?) who gave their skin for my saddle and reins, purchased 30 years ago and kept all these years so as not to diminish their sacrifice.
I felt like I had a big secret when we drove down to Florida and I could smell my tack in the back of the van. The smell that meant the promise of horses when we arrived. I will feel that same surge on the way home when I smell Max's horsey smell on my tack every time we open the van tailgate. I will wonder how I can wait 1000 miles to see my three boys.
I empty my pockets at night and giggle when I discover, mixed in with the coins and hair ties, carrot stubs and horse treat crumbs.
I proudly go to the grocery store and clomp through the aisles in my wellies with the telltale signs of bareback riding on my jeans - something I would have died of embarrassment about as a kid. I don't know if my grandmother would have gone that far, but I do know that she never minded looking "horsey" in the horse sneeze on her sweater sense, not in the crisp, refined, "dress to the nines" hunt clothes sense.
I hope I never lose this thrill, the giddy "I've got a secret" feeling of being a horse owner, a rider. I know that farm chores sometimes rob me of it. Don't get me wrong, I love cleaning stalls and feeding because it is for them, my sweetie pies. It is the farm management - planning, worrying, organizing, ordering, that becomes a bit off topic to the joy for me. Leasing this year in Florida helped me revisit the bliss without the management responsibilities. Is that what happened to my grandmother? My grandparents moved the horses and themselves to our farm around 1960 and maybe some of the "horse" part was buried under all the "farm" part of my grandmother's days. I don't know. She is gone now and I can't ask, but I am going to strive this year to keep her horse joy in the fore of my mind.