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.