Sunday, January 21, 2007

Horse Beauty, Opus 1.

def. beau-ty (noun): the combination of qualities that make something pleasing and impressive to listen to or touch, or especially to look at.

As a kid I used to ride with my friends on their pony. His name was River Boy--and, with him, we played out many great games of escape and intrigue. Maybe it was while racing bareback through the fields near their house that my love for horses began. In my late 20's I biked halfway across the United States in search of wild horses (...and when I found them I nearly peed my pants with joy!). Let's just say that my love for horses runs deep. But, despite this love, in my adult life I've only ridden or handled them a half dozen times (if that). So when my aunt called to ask if I would take care of her horses and dog for the weekend I jumped at the opportunity. It wasn't until after I hung up and told my worry-wart husband, that the reality started to sink in. The dog, an Irish Setter, was no big deal. But horses? My adventurous, self-confident, horse-loving side had spoken before I even had a chance to stop myself. Ummm, yeah...I know pretty much nothing about horses. So how the hell did I all of a sudden become responsible for the care and feeding of these FIVE magnificent 3/4 ton animals??

Last night Vinny and I hardly slept. Vinny was worried we'd get trampled. Without an alarm clock, I was worried we'd sleep in and upset the horses' usual routine. We were both a little cranky with each other because driving all the way out to my aunt's house also meant that we ended up having to give up our tickets to the orchestra. Not to mention, we had to figure out how we were going to take care of our own animals without spending our entire weekend driving back and forth. This, of course, is a classic example of how I over-schedule myself.

Lately, I've been spending all of my time either sitting in front of the computer trying to write my thesis or working at the bookstore. I was looking forward to another orchestra experience--especially after the last time. I was more than ready to give my thoughts a break and hand myself over to an evening of music. But then we realized how much time it would take to drive there and back and that it meant we wouldn't have time to get ready or eat dinner and so...we didn't go to the orchestra.

Instead we ate chicken pot pies and watched TV (although this was also a luxury considering we don't have one!). We snuggled with KC (the dog) and then headed to bed. Ho-hum. Hard bed and worried thoughts--morning came too quickly.

When I got up it was still dark outside. I made a pot of coffee, put on my aunt's horse-smelly jacket, and took a few deep gulps of my black brew before heading out into the cold snowy morning towards the barn. Vinny followed, not far behind.

When we got there I leaned my body into the barn door and slid it open.

Complete darkness.

And the deep rumbling of those five massive animals. Huffing and breathing. Stomping and stamping. One kicked at his stall door. I felt their hungry, low-pitched neighing travel up my legs and through my body. From the ground up--the sheer vibration traveled the lengths of my bones--and the first thing that registered in my mind was absolute, saucer-eyed fear.

The next thing that registered was AWE.

In the cavernous shadows of the barn, I couldn't see anything except white puffs of breath. I stood there. Motionless. And in that moment...I couldn't have cared less that I had given up my chance to go to the orchestra. My god--those horses were an orchestra.

We entered. Reluctantly.

I walked back and forth past the stalls trying to find a light switch while the horses continued their low-cello-whispers. Such sound. Such darkness. They didn't know me and I didn't know them... It took awhile to find the lights. Heart pounding. Everything unfamiliar.

As I opened the door to the first stall, it felt a lot like the moment before jumping into a cold lake. And it wasn't until I stepped past that threshold that my fear fell away. Instinctively, I reached out and ran my hand down the lengths of his neck, then cleaned out old hay and gave him his feed. One at a time--I stepped into one stall and then the next and then the next... They brushed against me gently, nuzzling for their food and to see who I was. They softened with my touch...and I softened with theirs.

After they were finished eating, we needed to get them all out into the pasture. Again--one at a time--Vinny opened the doors and I put the rope loosely around their necks and led them out. I couldn't help but be nervous to be in charge of such incredibly big, powerful creatures. But the horses showed me what to do. They showed me that I could trust them and in turn, they trusted me. Bo, the biggest, was also the most gentle. Stepping into his stall took my breath away.

Vinny and I didn't really talk much until we were all done. Standing out in the pasture with all five horses, I turned to him and lamely exclaimed: "That was cool!" Yes, I'm a dork (but you should know that by now).

All I can say is that this has been one helluva morning.

...definately worth missing an orchestra for.


Kristine said...

You crack me up!
I have been feeding Franny now everyday for a few weeks now and each time I get that same scary sense of hesitancy. I am afraid of large animals. This whole horse caretaking thing is so out of character and out of my comfort zone and yet she lets me pet her and as she softens to my touch I soften to hers. Sometimes I stand and talk to her as she eats. I usually think I'm alone when I do this only to catch Derek a few feet away spying on me with a smirk on his face. I guess I'm a dork too!

Jessie said...

Kristine, ha! I thought of you while writing this post. I was wondering how you felt around Franny...and now you've answered my question! :) They are such amazing creatures. I think I'm still feeling a little awe-struck...

Anonymous said...

i love horses! actually, i love all animals, even pigs. but i loved your description here -- so vivid!!! i love being humbled by our animal-friends.

Anonymous said...

p.s. that was me. ruby.

Anonymous said...

one of another of the things we share, my dear, is a love of horses...but i don't want to talk about me right now....

what you just wrote here, jessie, is incredible. i had no idea where the post was going to go when i started reading and your prose just sucked me in and hypnotized me...i loved thinking about you charging into the situation dragging worry-wart vinny along behind you, and the darkness of the barn....

i need to hear your voice again, sweetie. soon!!!

Jamie said...

Oh, Jessie, I am sitting here crying. What a magical, beautiful experience. And you wrote it so beautifully that I felt like I got to be there with you, hearing, touching, experiencing this magnificent horses. And I love the story of your search for wild horses. Now I know why I put 'go horseback riding' on my 101 list. Thank you.

kj said...

i LOVED reading this. i love horses too, although i haven't been on one since i was a teenager.

jessie, your writing is getting richer and richer. i was held to every word in this piece. really, i just loved it. i felt it. it was so vivid i was there with you and vinnie.

i sure am glad i discovered your blog. i am still one of your guardian angels.....


Anonymous said...

truly gorgeous post, jessie. horses are magnificent creature. i can understand your awe. it felt like i was right there with you, frosty breath and all while reading your words.

Anonymous said...

"In the cavernous shadows of the barn, I couldn't see anything except white puffs of breath. I stood there. Motionless. And in that moment...I couldn't have cared less that I had given up my chance to go to the orchestra. My god--those horses were an orchestra."

I don't know you but all I can imagine of you is a beautiful person!

Loralee Choate said...

I love horses, even though I was trampled as a teenager. I think that they are spectacular creatures.

megg said...

These pictures and your words were so powerful - sigh. It made me want to go find some horses... tricky in south devon. I don't think sheep give the same feelings of awe somehow :)

Anonymous said...

My heart was leaping with each successive sentence.... your words brought this scene to life so vividly. Like I was there with you. Wow, I love this post so much. It made me peaceful inside and I might just go back right now and read it again.

And my personal phrases that often escape my mouth before I've had time to think.... "Isn't this fun?!" or "How cool is this?" And eyes typically roll.

deirdre said...

This is one of the beautifully written pieces about horses I've read. Now, I have to confess that horses scare the bejesus out of me. I'm happy to stand (far) back and watch, but you make me want to get closer and lean in.

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous piece on felt that sense of majesty and excitement and awe.

AMAZING...both you and the horsies. ;)

Anonymous said...

i can smell that wonderful
horse - brisk air - hay-

smell as i read this and i am
right there toooo!


Anonymous said...

Oh this was a wonderful experience-reading this-feeling as though I was there almost.

I have a deep fascination for horses, and would have loved to experience that one morning.

I love the orchestra too but I would take that over a show anyday.

Terrific writing too my sweet.

Love to you

Anonymous said...

O! Look at those beauty full faces! This story took me back in the day when I used to feed my dad's cattle! and the time I got thrown off not once but twice of Blue, my best friend's horse! He was such a rascal! I think of him every so often! Beautiful animals! Lucky YOU!!! xo, Cinda

Anonymous said...

What an incredible glad you wrote about this. I can't exactly explain why...but your words and this experience touched me on a deep level. Maybe it's my own love of animals and nature and just the serenity of darkness and snow and the barn in those early morning hours. Whatever the reason...thank you for writing this. Love it!
Miss you and love you dear friend!!!

Sharon said...

Oh, how absolutely evocative! I can see, feel, even smell the barn and the horses!
Oh yes, you can write, girl! You took me there, let me see, hear, smell and touch the horses. Thank you!

silverlight said...

just prooves the saying: the outside of a horse is always good for the inside of a person.
wasn't it glorious.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story!

Our family had two horses when I was in my teens. A copper quarterhorse with a white patch called, big surprise, Penny Patch, and a huge 1/2 quarter/1/2 Arab named Big Red. Penny was sweet; Big Red was amazing.

You reminded me that my favorite part wasn't even riding them, but taking care of them. There's something so amazing about taking care of those huge awesome animals!