I no longer own horses. I came across this essay I wrote twelve years ago when I did own and care for horses. It brought back sweet memories of the old days when most of my waking hours revolved around the barn and its equine residents. My old bones and joints rebel at the thought of the physical work that owning horses required, but I do miss how it connected me spiritually and naturally.. I have re-written it as a memoir of sorts.
I think there is something deeply satisfying about cleaning stalls. I don’t only mean the satisfaction of seeing a job well done after the hard work, although that is good. But, it is more than that. It is a soul enriching task.
My favorite time to do the stalls was early morning, right after feeding the horses. As I worked I listened to the munch and crunch concerto of the horses eating their breakfast. In the background the birds sang their good mornings to the world. The summer air was cool, bringing in the honeysuckle laden breezes. In winter the body heat from the horses kept me warm, that and my long-johns.
Often on the trip to the manure pile behind the barn I’d catch glimpses of the wildlife residing in the woods that edged my little acreage. Most commonly were the squirrels showing off their acrobatic skills in the treetops. Sometimes a deer will bounce across the way, startled by my unexpected appearance. And, once in a while I was the startled one when a black snake slithered from the bushes next to the wheelbarrow path.
There was plenty of time in this solitude to meditate on the meaning of life, plan the rest of my day, or just let my imagination run wild. I dreamed big dreams, relived good memories, and sometimes cried over disappointments.
With the job finished I watched the sun filter through the windows, casting golden sunbeams on the occupants of the stalls. The warmth of the rays enhanced the sweet smell of fresh bedding. The morning had started well with my soul refreshed and ready to deal with the rest of the day. Yes, a part of me does miss those mornings.