I have a friend who spends HOURS with the horse she will be riding. Everything she does is methodical and deliberate, and she is fully present in every interaction between herself and her horse. Her idea of being "rushed" means she only has 45 minutes to groom before she rides and an hour to bathe, brush, and clean tack when she is done. She has a very demanding full-time job, but she somehow manages to dedicate herself to this purposeful self-care — and she does so on an extraordinary level. Her joy in spending this time is palpable, and the consequent relationship she's built with her horse enviable. I admire her dedication to herself and her relationship with all things "riding."
I, too, love being at the barn. I love everything about it. I love driving up the drive and seeing the pastures full of happy horses peacefully grazing. When I arrive during chores, I am always greeted with a smile and/or a hug. The scent of cedar shavings, hay, and horses is like getting a whiff of heaven, and I can't wait to bury my nose in the neck of Milo, the little Morgan gelding I am privileged to ride. He smells almost as good as my daughter's mare, Paloma. The barn is one place where the clock almost always ceases to matter, and I find that I am mindful.
I know when I walk into the tack room, that I will get three Spirulina biscuits for Milo. As I walk to retrieve his halter from his stall door, I realize that I am already looking forward to hearing him whinny or nicker when he hears me call his name. I'm pretty sure this has more to do with the biscuits than it does with me, but I'm going to choose to believe that he is excited to see me and the biscuits are an added bonus. I will reach to the side of his face/neck to say hello and give him a few rubs before I put his halter on; it's non-threatening and polite. I want to be polite, respectful. I know he is going to want to graze while I shut his gate. We all know the grass is greener on the other side, and I'm happy to let him snatch a few mouthfuls before he goes in to work. I should probably apologize to the barn staff, as I'm sure he tries to do this with them when they are busy bringing horses in at the end of the day, but I hope they forgive me/him this little indulgence.
Feeding our StableFeed biscuits has made Milo's coat soft and glossy, and the spirulina and manuka honey in the Spirulina Chia keep his allergies and aural plaques at bay. And then I inevitably realize I have only ten minutes to get him tacked up before my lesson, so we begin the process of getting him "dressed." What can I say? I love to groom horses, so time flies. It's just fun!
The next time you go to the barn take note of your routine and how your horse responds to it. Are you rushed or relaxed, and what effect does this have on your horse? How do you greet them? What effect does this have on your horse? If every interaction has meaning beyond the obvious - the greeting is a focused and deliberate "hello!", grooming is a show of affection and not simply cleaning a dirty horse.... what difference does it make in you and your horse?
Time: a most precious commodity that is in high demand and short in supply. If only we could hit the "pause" button or simply slow things down so we could live every day, the entire day as if we were in our favorite place: slow, deliberate and joyful.
Photo by Elle Pollock