Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer nights and long warm days

This is a photo of me riding Pie with no tack at all on Memorial Day a few years ago. I was holding his mane and I didn't ride him outside of the fence. I think if I could safely get away with it, I would never use tack. In fact, if I have a "goal" with horses that would be it - to ride everyday without any tack at all! I do ride bareback most days and bitless always, but if I could ride without anything everyday - well, that would be it for me. Recent events on our farm has sent me into a philosophical tailspin about how less is more - especially with horses.

The tenants in our farmhouse decamped abruptly leaving us with a huge junk hauling/cleaning project. They also abandoned their three cats. To say that I am stressed is putting it mildly. Sorting through the leftover remnants of other people's lives is more uncomfortable to me than the obvious amount of work. It is depressing to see how other people live. I don't mean that in an elitist way. I am sure my life and household items would seem weird to someone else. It is just that many people wade through so much STUFF in their homes that I don't understand how they can enjoy life. I am reminded of my twenty-something petsitting business when I used to visit cats and dogs when their owners were on vacation. I would arrive to walk or feed an animal, but some people were honestly so messy that I had trouble entering the house and finding the pet.

I admit, I am a minimalist when it comes to horsekeeping and housekeeping, though, not artistically or architecturally. I adore quaint cottages and messy perennial flower gardens. So to me, less is more, but not Mies van der Rohe less. Rather, less is more in that I would like to see the quaint cottage, not all the Dollar Store plastic items junking it up. 

On Tuesday, after my first interior view of the farmhouse for two years, my head was swimming with the sight I had discovered inside of forgotten clothes strewn on the floor in a sea of Happy Meal toys and trash. I walked to the barn and as I entered the cool, empty space I felt like I had just taken a shower! I had put the horses in earlier and they were quietly munching in their uncluttered sanctuary. I got Pie out and then Foggy, grooming each of them with just a soft brush and my fingers. My tack box is not full to overflowing with anything. I don't need much. The tack room is orderly with very little equipment. 

Our barn is old and not restored, so it isn't like this "cleansing" feeling was the result of being in a space that had money thrown at it. In fact, I think it was just the opposite. The farmhouse was "dirty" because of all the money spent on all the "must have" things clogging it up inside. The people who had lived there couldn't even clean it well because there was so much stuff. The cats, who I will feed and care for until I can find them suitable homes, are surrounded by the human rubbish that their people thought was necessary. 

I slipped on Sovereign's bitless bridle and hopped on him bareback and we rode out through the fields. I could feel the weight of our consumer culture lift off my shoulders. We investigated the clover out in the far pasture to make sure it was the right kind after Sydney's clover warning from the day before. (It was red clover with the "v" shape and is safe - hooray!) and then we made our way to the barstool. I dismounted and fed Sovey the apple and then used the barstool to get back on. He is the best of all my horses for mounting out on the trail. Pie and Foggy are always wiggling around. Sovey stands perfectly. We made our way back and I groomed him under a shade tree. I only used a soft brush. When I came to dirt on his hocks, I used my fingernails to "curry" it off. I thought of a friend I used to know who was an avid gardener. She always said that the best tools to use in the garden were the shortest ones because they put you closest to the earth. She said the best "hand rake" was your fingers. 

While Sovereign grazed, I thought about all of this and how uncluttered my horse life is. I don't have tons of gear or brushes or lotions or potions or many saddles. Just like the beauty of the bare bones of the quaint cottage, I like to see my horses, not all the gear on top of them. I do think the best curry comb is my own hand and fingers. Someday I hope the best bridle when I ride will be no bridle at all. 


  1. I know what you mean about "stuff".... earlier this year I became really convicted about the way I was accumulating piles of "things" in my house. I realized that most of it meant nothing to me; it was just pointless stuff. I donated piles of things, sold things, gave things away... it is so liberating and I feel like I am truly living when I don't have that weight of meaningless clutter on me.
    I only want what is important to me, what means something, what I love.
    I need to do this in my barn, too; because I have useless stuff I never use there, as well. I struggle with this fear, though, that someday I might need it for something. Then I might regret not having it anymore. I need to work on that. I mean, if I haven't used it in 20 years, what makes me thing I am going to need it ever again?! (Like my harness and cart. I haven't touched it in ages.... I don't even have a horse trained for pulling.)

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Sorry that your tenants dumped all their stuff (tempted to use a stronger word) on you. Sounds like the kitties lucked out though!

    I moved from a very small house to a tiny trailer last October, and dealing with my own excess "stuff" was kind of traumatic. I did, however, leave my old house sparkling clean, empty, and in far better shape than when I took it over.

    Val and I have worked together without any tack a few times - it's so relaxing for both of us. Love the picture of you two! :)

  3. Wow, how cluttered it must feel right now to sort through others stuff. Hopefully there are things to donate! I can't belive they left their cats! WHAT?! You know what-thank god! You will find them better homes.
    In terms of de clutter, I find I am a totally collector of horse products/ointments/thrush sprays but I use one curry, two brushes, 1 shedding blade. I'm pretty minimal when it comes to that, with some variation of collections. I try to take note of what I have and use what I have before buying something new or different.
    Re; riding brideless and bareback; ie Native American style! I had a great Parelli lesson (not that he invented this) but my sweet instructor told me to go for a passenger ride, giving Laz TOTAL choice of where we were to walk around to, and I was to just lay my hands, with a loose rein on his withers and sit back and enjoy. It was awesome and scary but guess what, he took total care of me. The goal is to ride bridle less one day too. Also, SO interesting that your Sovey stands still as a rock at the stand, but is your most sensitive for grooming. I think that says something special about him :)

  4. Sovey, just love him!
    Man, that situation sounded terrible. So sorry you had to deal with it- though , the kitties will benefit. Too bad you couldn't know when you met them how slobby they'd be later. Drat.
    Bless your heart!

    I adore your horse habbits and way of loving them Jules!
    Ya know, I was wondering why I have so much gear and tack the other comes down to my boarding needs of the past and all the situations I ride in .7 places had unique needs all. And then there is the trial and error stuffs...selling them now!
    I hope not to move my mare again until its our own property!

    Love your time travel-to-calm barn and how it does transport your mind and body!

  5. I've never been able to understand how people can live so cluttered and messy!! When we remodeled our house last fall, everything had to be moved out of the house and when we moved back in, only a quarter of it came back in. I am a total minimalist now.
    I am sure one of these days you will be out riding your boys without any tack!!

  6. People are amazing aren't they? The kitties are better off with you though. I can't be dirty and my kids have accused me of OCD but I like a clean house and barn. Everything has its own place.

    I do save lots of things that others think are silly, like all the cards from the kids, grandkids and husband. The basement is also a mess, but not my mess. When all the kids moved out they left me with their junk...drums, childhood Breyer horses etc. They've been threatened it's all going in the dumpster if they don't come and get it. They know I'll never do it though.

    I love how you went out to the barn and felt cleansed. Your horses are wonderful and so sweet. Good for the soul to go for a ride. Hope it all works out without making you crazy.

  7. Hi Juliette! I'm sorry I haven't commented in a long time. Been thinking of you and your beautiful boys, but have been sick and exhausted and still working hard and trying to get some rides in, so haven't been online much.

    Sorry your tenants left you with such a mess. I recently went into the home of an injured acquaintance who is a true blue compulsive shopper and hoarder. It was very disturbing. She doesn't see it as clutter, but is proud of all the things she has accumulated. Fortunately this woman has no pets.

  8. Juliette - Sorry that you have to deal with those people's abandoned baggage but I love the description of going to your barn and riding Sovy. My barn is my sanctuary, and my fingernails are my favorite tools for grooming and gardening. Mother Earth is smiling on you.

  9. How awful that the tenants abondoned their cats. What horrible people. Aren't there laws against that? Anyway, the cats are better off without those people.
    I agree with you that less is more. I feel calmer and happier without a lot of clutter, but I fight a losing battle with my husband who I tease would become a hoarder if I wasn't vigilant :) I keep my horse keeping supplies to a minimum as well. Some people go nuts with it!


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