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A chronology of the little moments that make everything worth it

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Sometimes, when it seems like you’re just going to be trudging along as usual, something happens that makes the daily drudgery worthwhile. These moments are few and far between, but when they happen, it’s like maybe, just maybe, it’s true what they say about time stopping.

Of course, something usually happens to bring reality crashing back down. But these moments are still valuable. Maybe it is their reality, the sense of utter physicality, that makes them so magical.

Yesterday, I was putting some elbow grease into grooming my horse, as usual, since he seems determined to go from a brown and white paint horse to an all-brown one. One of these days I’m just going to let him. But I was gearing up for my first ride of the season, which I fully expected to end with me getting bucked off because a deer scared my horse. Alibi’s not really afraid of them, but he considers it a good excuse to show off his athleticism. Playful youngsters, and all that.

For some reason, though, I decided to just take a break from going at the stain on his side with some Cowboy Magic Green Spot Remover and just hug him. I love to throw my arms around his neck and inhale his warm, earthy smell that is uniquely equine. Usually, he will tolerate this for about three seconds, and then he’ll back away and probe my pockets for treats. Finding none, he will nip at a stray button or zipper. I let him pull back so he doesn’t feel crowded. Prey animals hate to feel constrained, and I want him to find me comforting, not scary.

So I hugged him, expecting him to pull back. He didn’t pull away after his customary allowance of time, so I started stroking his neck in small circles and whispering praise to him for being so calm. After a few moments that seemed like an hour, he let out a small sigh and started to lean his head on my shoulder. This was it. Something I’d only heard of horses that really trusted their owners doing. I froze, surprised, not wanting to breathe and mess it up. I didn’t want him to sense my tension, though, and react, so I relaxed my body as much as possible while supporting his weight. Gradually, he rested more and more weight on me. Although it was starting to become uncomfortable, I was so touched that I determined to remain still until he decided to move. Finally, the reality of this sublime moment made him move. The flies still buzzed, the hose still dripped, and the humidity still oppressed us. And yet that moment was untouched by any of it. It still happened, but it couldn’t sully a moment like that. When he did finally stir to shake a fly from his head, I moved to kiss him on the nose, which is another thing he rarely tolerates as well as he does being fed treats. But this time, he blew softly into my nostrils as horses do to show affection to each other.

I was ecstatic. I stayed there, uncomfortably leaned over, sharing a warm breath with my horse, and recognizing that moment as one of the defining ones of our relationship. The kind that sets apart a real horse person from someone who rides and treats their horse like a machine. The bond that people like me view as the true goal of riding, rather than pure skill building. I was already appreciating how perfect the day had become when Alibi nickered softly at me. Startled, thinking I had mistaken some other noise for the throaty affectionate call, I stayed perfectly still, continuing to share a breath with Alibi, when he repeated the noise. It was definitely a nicker. I knew then that despite the obstacles, the difficulties of training a young horse, all the falls and regressions, that me and this horse can make it. Even though it will be hard, and that wonderful moment wouldn’t make everything better, even knowing that I would fall again, and that he would balk at perfectly harmless stationary objects again, I knew. Because There was starting to be trust there. It was building, and all those months where I wasn’t sure all my effort was, it was working.

As weird and silly as it sounds, I actually saw a little into our future together, I have already decided to be his forever home. I care about him too much to resign him to an uncertain fate in the hands of another owner, or, God forbid, a kill pen at an auction. I saw us, working together, and having trouble, but making it. I wouldn’t be troubled by small doubts, or worried by people looking for signs of progress that weren’t there yet. I saw that it would happen eventually, and knowing that, I don’t mind waiting. I don’t care if it’s another year before I can start him on some low jumps, or take him on the trails. I’d like those things to happen soon, but it doesn’t trouble me if it has to take more time. It’s not going to be real if it’s forced.

So bring on the bruises, the exhaustion, and the bad days. Because under the surface lies a growing understanding between the two of us. Now I know that he returns my affection for him. I know it isn’t all about the carrots- under the desire for food lies some level of horsey affection for me. So I’ll spend hours getting him to approach the terrifying mounting block. I’ll clean the cuts he gets by stubbornly sticking his head through the fence because the grass is better there. It’s ok. If he had thumbs, he’d do it for me.

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Horsewriterlol This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 22, 2010 at 7:42 pm
Aint this the truth about horse back riding and horses all togather. Great article! :)
remym This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 2, 2010 at 2:03 am
thanks! I appreciate it
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