It's been two weeks since I was last in the barn and I am giddy about seeing the horses again.
It's a light afternoon, only 4 lessons with Astrid, Lightning and Lincoln as the therapy horses. The Fjords are in stalls but Lincoln is still out in the paddock. I help tack Astrid who is slightly damp from an early morning bath. She is one of the smaller Fjords and the quietest. She is positively dainty!
We get her tacked and out to the arena. I walk down the aisle to see Lightning and his brother T Ball. They are side by side and nicker at one another. I go in to pet T Ball and Lightning instantly comes over to stare at me. He snorts and paws at the wall. I go to him sensing he is a bit jealous. When I get to his stall I see this:
Try as I might I cannot get him to move his hoof. He butts his head into my arm and rubs it up and down. He nibbles at my shirt sleeve. He seems as glad to see me as I am to see him.
After Astrid is finished with her lesson, she is allowed to go to the pasture with the other female Fjords. Once she is untacked, I clip a lead line onto her halter and lead her out. Into the gently falling Autumn rain. We walk at a good clip, crossing the paved drive into the field. Walking under the trees, leaves dance about our heads as the ground softens the noise of our footfalls. The grass is turning brown, black walnuts in their thick green husks are scattered across our path, releasing a sharp scent when crushed under Astrid's hooves, reminding me of Autumns long ago.
Once I have gotten her into the dry lot, I return to the barn to get Lincoln's halter. I head out to his paddock to bring him in. The rain continues to fall gently, and I walk beneath the gray clouds humming quietly to myself. The tuxedo cat who lives in the hay barn meows loudly at me, reluctant to venture into the damp day.
I get to Paddock 3 and I don't see Lincoln. I see two black and white horses, but no bay in a fly mask. I glance over into Paddock 2 where there are 4 horses wearing fly masks at the far end. I go into the field, walk to the horses and realize none are Lincoln. Back to Paddock 3. I go into the field and as I walk to the far end, I see a fly masked face peek out of the run in shed. There! There is my Lincoln.
"Hey Buddy! Hey Mr. Handsome!" At my voice, he ambles out and heads to meet me. My heart does a tiny flip knowing that he recognizes me. He walks up and gently I scratch his cheek before I clip on the lead rope. Together we head toward the barn.
In the barn I peel off his fly mask, shin guards and fly suit. He is not too muddy today, but still needs a good brushing. I brush him really well talking to him softly. At one point, as I gently clean his "eye boogers" he begins to lick me. His huge pink tongue gently slides up my arm, again and again. I stand there in amusement. He is acting like a huge 800 pound dog today. Next he twitches his upper lip and snorts at me. He bobs his head as if to say "It's about time you showed up!".
I tack him and the side walkers come to get him. I give him a pat on the rump and remind him to behave.
Lincoln completes one lesson and then rests for a half hour in the stall. After his rest period has ended, I lead him out for the final lesson. Again I tack him and get him ready. This kiddo has allergies so Lincoln must wear a sheet over his withers and neck. I have taken the sheet home to wash and while there, I sewed on ribbon ties to use instead of diaper pins used to hold it in place. I tie the jaunty bows and give him a quick kiss on his cheek before handing him over.
While he is in the ring, the barn cats come out, meowing and circling. Jewel, a tortoiseshell tabby, rolls onto her back, begging for a belly rub. Lee a shiny black shorthair, jumps into my lap and curls up as I scratch her head. I sit for a moment savoring the sound of rain on the metal roof, the distant squeals and laughter of a child, the quiet purring of a warm cat. All around me is peace and calm. And I, rain soaked and muddy, am deliriously happy.