A few days ago, it was another beautiful autumn day. Nazir dozed in his mini-paddock when I arrived at the stable. The air was warm and the smell of dried leaves and earth made you suck in every sun ray with the knowledge that the cold and rain can set in any day now. It was very quiet. Our swallows, which make the place so alive during the summer months with their constant chirping, were long gone to their winter grounds.
I strolled over to Nazir and scratched him a bit. It was hard to ignore the lose hair on his coat everywhere. He is growing his winter fur and sheds like hell. I resisted the urge to go to the barn to get a brush. I saw a small cut on his forhead and immediately wanted to go and get some salve to put on. I can do that later. But his joint looks a bit swollen today, I should really get his arnica lotion! And his hooves look too dry, I should probably also get the hoof oil while I’m at it. And his mane really needs detangling! Instead, I shoved the image of my poor, neglected horse out of my mind and got his fleece blanket to sit on. I sat down beside him with my tea and a book. He licked my hand while I read One Hundred Years of Solitude. I sank deeply into the world of the book with its truly fantastic characters, while Nazir gazed at the sun down and snoozed. He does that every time the sunset is nice and red. I seem to have a little romantic of a horse.
I became aware of how I always need to do something when I’m with my horse. Before Nazir had his operations, we had our daily schedule. I would come to the stable around the same time, bring him in from the paddock, get my equipment ready, brush him, tack him up, walk with him the few hundred meters to the outdoor dressage arena, get on, start training. After ‘work’, I would often take off his tack and let him into the field. I would use the time to sit on the grass close to him and check my email or make some phone calls. When it was feeding time, I brought him back to the stable, gave him his evening meal, tidied up my tack, maybe cleaned boots and bridle, said goodbye, and drove home with the satisfaction of having done something.
After his operations all of that changed of course. There was no more training, no more tacking up, no more letting him on the field. Now the only thing to do at the stable was grooming him and feeding him carrots. I had this idea of making him feel that not so much changed, that we still keep a part of the schedule, that he is being loved despite not being useful. When I look at that now, I realize that all of these points were important to me and probably irrelevant to him. He was confined to his stall and a little paddock and keeping a little routine of cleaning him probably didn’t do much to make that any better.
It did something, however, that I had not expected. I was happy to drive to the stable just to see him and for no other reason. Not because of what I could do with him, but because of him being there at all. Three weeks ago, when the weather was all sunny and warm, my husband came out to the stable with me. Upon seeing Nazir, he said something that made me think: “Nazir never looked happier.” Happier? Being totally useless, not able to work? When I looked at Nazir in his little paddock, his kind eyes, the relaxed ears and chin, his friendly look when he saw us coming, I had to admit my husband was right. I hadn’t seen Nazir this happy. How was that possible? In fact, Nazir got a lot more attention than before. The stable groom walked him in the indoor arena every morning for half an hour, and I also saw how he was cuddling with Nazir whenever he came by his box. I guess the two became very good friends. Then I came in the afternoon, sat with him, brought him apples, scratched him, walked around with him for a bit, maybe groomed him. All that attention and not having to do anything. If horses do have a notion of being loved, then I guess he had it.
I had to admit that I was the one who needed a schedule and a task to feel useful.
Before I left the stable, I gave Nazir a ripe pear, his favourite. He closed his eyes while munching it and I could swear that I could see the memory of the old pear tree that stood at his previous stable. After our training sessions we used to look for pears that had fallen to the ground. They were small and very sweet. But it was just a flash, and then the image was gone.