Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why having a horse IS good for the family...

Today was not a great day.  Started out with the working  mother guilt as I sent the kids off to camp the day after school ended.  Work was one crisis after another, and no matter how many items I crossed off the to-do list, more seemed to pile on.  By the time I picked the kids up (later than I'd planned to) I felt as if my chest was constricted and I was one step away from a full blown mini-breakdown, or at least a really good crying jag.  The last thing I wanted to do was drive 45 minutes to the barn.  It was one of those nights when i questioned why I had the horse.  If I didn't, would I be working?  Would the kids be in camp?  Would we have more family time and be less over-scheduled? 

Somehow, I managed to keep it together without barking at the kids as I herded them through McDonalds, and slogged through rush hour traffic.  At some point, we started to chat about the kids' day; the new friends they'd made at camp, their counselors, the games they played.  Sophie shared a joke they'd learned, and before I knew it, we were all giggling.  That joke led to more, and we all got a case of the sillies that lasted until we pulled into the barn.  Mini-miracle #1. Long drives to the barn often result in good conversations with the kids.

When we got to the barn, we saw a fox and a young deer in the field, playing with each other, just like the scene from the movie "Milo and Otis."  We watched nature at play until both animals went back into the woods, at which point the kids raced off to play with the barn donkey and I went to get my mare.  Her nicker made me smile, and the vice around my chest began to subside.  Going into her stall, I just stood and scratched her as she licked me and checked me for treats.  The kids came in to see her and she spent a few minutes snuffling at them and licking them while they hugged her.  Mini-miracle #2.  I can feel my blood pressure dropping.

I'd already decided that today was to be an easy day; she'd been in her stall for a few days and why push things when I was not in a good frame of mind.  The ring was empty, as everyone was away at a show.  It didn't remain that way for long; about halfway through our warm up Billie Jean, the donkey, decided to join us.

Now, Sugar is not overly enamored of Billie Jean, and Billie Jean loves nothing better than to torment Sug.  The little imp decided to trot along next to us, causing Sug to snake her head and snort, but bless the mare, that's all she did.  An imp came over me, and as Billie tore off and ran away, kicking her heels as she went, I let Sugar take off after her. 

What ensued for the next 20 minutes was a series of donkey races and donkey herding.  We'd race Billie from one end of the ring to the other, both horse and donkey shaking heads, kicking up heels and squealing.  If Billie swerved, Sug would channel her inner cow pony and swerve after her, with me clinging like a burr to the saddle.  The kids came into the ring, and we all ran around like a pack of idiots, laughing and carrying on and having an absolute blast.  The donkey slalomed through the kids, the kids chased the donkey, and the horse trotted and cantered around clearly wishing she were smaller and more mobile, but enjoying herself immensely.

We stopped the games before anyone got too tired, gave the mare a bath and took both mare and donkey out for a nice long craze in the clover patch, replaying the events of the last half hour and laughing over the highlights as the sun set over our heads.  We tucked Billie and Sug in for the night, kissed both soft noses, and headed on the log ride home, exhausted and exhilarated, and still chatting. 

Mini-miracle #3: Maybe I would be working and would not be stressed and would be able to relax and enjoy my children despite excessive stress levels if I did not have the horse, but quite frankly, I'm not 100% sure I would.  She's my therapy; my friend and confidant.  She's a wonderful teacher for me and my kids, and our time together with each other and with her is irreplaceable.  It's hard to feel guilty about having her when having her brings so much to our lives.

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