The skies have rained and blown for weeks. Blankets have been on and off the horses. Salted mashes consumed. Saddles nestled in the tack room, waiting.
And then, yesterday!
Dawn broke still and the farm floated alone in a heavy cloak of fog. Mist froze on branches, wire, hay, and manes. I warmed a saddle pad and bit indoors, waited until afternoon to mount.
Down went the first two rides on my calendar. But I had a horse ready for the third…
…until a normal dose of bute crashed her kidneys without warning. She spent most of a week – not to mention a substantial amount of cash – in the hospital. We saved her life, but not her career. Horses with compromised kidneys shouldn’t be put at risk of dehydration. She can do lots of things now. Endurance isn't one of them.
So, I got my old campaigner out of semi-retirement. He was a rock star before headshaking syndrome put him out of the game back in 2016. But he’d been looking better for months. No reason not to give him a shot; we could always reverse course if he wasn't happy.
He was happy. So, so happy! It was all I could do to keep his inner monster from eating too much trail, too fast, at Top o’ the World. We finished our first 50 together in several years. And we really were on top of the world.
Then. At the next ride, he colicked near the finish. We treated. He’s fine. But I gave him the rest of the season off. Next year may be on the table for him, or it may not. We’ll have to take it as it comes.
Maybe I'm getting a little better at that – taking it as it comes. Not just with endurance, but with a political train wreck at work, and with the intrusion of a housing development they want to build in the field next door.
It’s easy to get angry, isn’t it? When all you want is a break? Just some clear sailing, please, for once?
But we don’t learn much on smooth seas.
When the waves are high and the fog closes in, and we are chilled to the bone just trying to find our way…that is where the answers are. A world that shrinks, also sharpens. The things that are closest, the ones we tend to ignore, come into focus. We learn to rest in uncertainty. And if we can find peace in that place, we can find it anywhere.
There’s an interesting book, if you’re struggling, called Life is in the Transitions. It tells stories of people who have suffered much more than I. The author observes out that – contrary to our cultural undercurrent of expectation that life is “supposed to” always move us onward and upward – our lived experience rarely follows that trajectory. We should expect to be in the midst of transition (often the uncomfortable variety) for a high percentage of our lives. Might as well get good at it, eh?
Trail riding can be nice, I’ve discovered. Just walking. Getting to know a new horse, without focusing on hills and heart rates and speed. Exploring new trails or visiting old ones. Quietly watching the sun soak through the freezing fog...melt the resistance..and shine not on the way things should be, but on how they actually are.
It’s bright again today. I’ll saddle two horses – the one with damaged kidneys and the one that colicked – and embrace this fleeting moment that holds them both.
The Sweaty Equestrian