I was at the barn for the first time in over 6 weeks.
I had missed the smells, the sounds, the sights of the horses.
It was hot and muggy, the air stirred by huge fans in the aisle of the barn.
I greet the familiar horses, feeling the connection flow between us. Looking into those huge dark eyes, seeing a sentient being who can communicate without words is always breathtaking.
I lead out Lightning, a feisty Fjord who was feeling very "lippy". He is a large draft breed, a pale dun color whose hooves still have glitter on them from a recent fund raiser. He is mischievous in the grooming/tack bay. I find him peeking at me as I curry him. He tries to sneak a nip at my sleeve while I am combing his forelock. I stop him with a sharp "NO!". I cannot bring myself to swat him as I see others do. I rely on my vocal tone and stare to make him behave. I swear he winks as he lowers his lips.
He is led out to the arena to work with a client and I hear childish squeals as he enters...
Next up is Lincoln, my favorite and a "mud bug". He likes to roll in the dust and comes into the barn at a good clip, ready to be out of the sun and away from the biting flies. He wears anklets filled with bug repellent and twists himself into a funny stance to nibble at his itchy legs. I am the lone human with him in the barn, so I can sneak a kiss on his soft nose while no one is watching. I talk to him the entire time I comb and curry. I call him "Mr. Handsome" and feel him relax beneath my hands. He yawns and sticks his long pink tongue out, shifts his stance and leans into me as I brush his back with long firm strokes.
After he works with the client, he comes back and is untacked. I "hot sponge" him, meaning I wipe him down with cool water and a large sponge to cool him down before he goes out into the pasture. The heat rises off him, the rich horsey smell fills my nostrils and again he leans into me. He is my favorite. I cannot pinpoint what makes him different and special to me, other than he is who he is.
In between horses, I muck stalls and put them up for the night. I surprise myself at how improved I am at scooping large piles of manure and getting them into the muck bucket. I remember how to push the shavings back and look with pleasure on how even I get the rows against the stall walls. I take the muck out to the large dumpster where clouds of gnats and flies rise as I stride up the ramp. I lift the bucket and dump the contents, remember to keep my mouth closed and to squint to avoid the pesky black flying dots.
I feel my body move and stretch and my muscles work to lift and carry and shovel. It is at this moment I finally find a reason to motivate myself to get into shape and hit the gym. I want to do it for the horses. I want to be able to help them and keep working with them for a long time. I want to keep feeling this strength I am feeling. I want to get better at mucking stalls, grooming horses, carrying water and guiding a ton of warm horse flesh into a small confined space. I want to sweat because I am in the sun with Lincoln. I want to laugh at Lightning and be able to pick his hooves.
I want to keep loving the horses because they are helping me find my heart again...