Horse Breathing

Summer thunderstorms fit this week.
Summer thunderstorms fit this week.

It has been a rough week.  I’ve been sick for most of it – just the common cold, but when you live with asthma you take it seriously.  Even nine days from the onset, I’m still trying to get my lungs clear.  It makes even the simplest activities exhausting.  It was particularly frustrating, because I took last Monday off with the explicit intent of getting three straight days of riding in.

Needless to say, there was no riding.  After a few days of doing basically nothing at home, I returned to the chaos at work.  We recently moved our office, and my team became the de facto coordinators.  Since I only tend to get sick after periods of stress, this was probably the reason my immune system put out the welcome mat. Anyone who has had to coordinate an entire department or business move will know just what I mean.  It is always a test of “best laid plans”.  This move went about as well as could be expected – but the first week is always filled with some chaos.  Then there is catching up on all of the work that was set aside in favor of packing.

Each evening I had only enough energy left to make the walk out to the barn for a visit.  Within that large metal structure I found warmth, relaxation and the opportunity to forget all the things that might not be “right” at the moment.

It is a sad thing to me that even many people who ride horses miss the truly therapeutic value found in just quietly standing in their presence.  Standing with my head leaning against Tally’s massive shoulder, eyes closed, while she gently reached around to snuffle me, I could feel my blood pressure numbers dropping rapidly.  Everything at the office was instantly forgotten.  There was only warmth, strength, and scratchy whiskers tickling my arm.  I would repay her “therapy” with a good stiff scratch at the base of her neck, smiling as her upper lip wiggled in pleasure.

Then it was on to the appy’s.  Nash is not a snuggler, but he allows kisses to his freckled muzzle.  A cranky old soul, he nonetheless seems happy to see me at night.  Coffee then pokes his nose around, always wanting to be the center of attention.  He’s a bit more of a snuggler, liking a good face or neck rub.  He’ll bring his muzzle up to your face, allowing you a good whiff of that sweet smell that is “horse”.  Have you smelled a horse’s muzzle, lately?  It’s one of my favorite things – pressing my face against the soft spot between nostril and lips, and just breathing in.

Give us a kiss!
Give us a kiss!

I’ve always heard about the wonderful baby smell … which mostly seems to be baby powder.  Then there’s the famous “puppy smell” my friends talk about … mostly the smell of milk.  But the smell of horses is a wonderful blend of grain fields warmed by the sun, freshly cut grass on a summer day and a warm bowl of oatmeal sweetened with molasses.  In that moment, I am once again the horse crazy kid who would do anything just to be near an equine.

I’m reminded of a statement my veterinarian said, many years ago – “I love absolutely everything about horses – the smells, the sounds … even picking out the stalls!”  It was the first conversation I ever had in which someone articulated exactly what I felt!  Everything about a horse is magical to me.  As much as I love riding, my favorite thing is still just being in their presence – leaning against a sturdy warm shoulder as its owner rhythmically munches on some fresh green grass.

My circuit of the barn is completed with a visit to young “prince” Noble.  This once frightened boy now patiently lets his “mommy” hug his neck and kiss his nose.  Of course, being the carrot monster he is, he’s always searching for those tidbits.  But he’s also taken to just “checking me out” – running his nose from face to waist, just like a dog trying to figure out what his person did that day.  He sometimes wraps his neck around me, feeling all the world like a hug.  He has a particularly slick hide this year, and stroking it feels just like running my hands over fine silk.  More kisses on his soft pink nose, and by now my brain is pumping all kinds of happy chemicals.

Recovery has been slow, so riding was not meant to be this weekend either.  But, this morning we decided to take the two spotted boys for a walk up the road.  With crazy drivers and loose dogs, it’s not safe to ride – but it gives the horses some fresh scenery.  It felt good to finally take a long walk (broken foot finally mended).  Nash, although twenty one, was prancy and high-headed.  It’s all show, as he’s shown no tendency to be spooky.  Coffee, on the other hand, is Mr. Cool.  He walks along alert and interested, but completely calm and flat-footed.  Every once in a while he alerts my mother to a compelling patch of green that simply must be eaten – she does not always agree with his assessment.  It was a fun and relaxing outing for all.

As usual, the horses were my therapy this week.  It can be hard to go to work in the morning, but I look forward to what I come home to.  We had a conversation, earlier this week, about money and how we’re doing with what we have.  There is no doubt that we would be doing much “better” on the money that’s coming in, if we didn’t spend so much of it on those four-legged therapists.  On the other hand, if I wasn’t working to pay their bills, I would have to wonder why I even bother going to work everyday.  Just knowing that when I’m feeling sick and rundown I have a massive warm shoulder I can lean on, and a heavenly smell I can breathe in, is priceless!

Be good to your horses!


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