When I look out at the muddy paddocks and mud-covered horses and slog around in that nasty, sucking mud to feed and break ice in troughs (my outdoor electrical hookup is on the fritz, grrrr), I wonder why the hell I continue to put myself through this every winter.
When nearly every other person in the world (sane, non-horse people) wakes up in the morning, they get ready for work, maybe have time for a hot cup of coffee and a quick read of the morning paper then off they go. I get up, make my horses their warm breakfast and go out into the cold and the mud and the ice and snow to take care of them before the sun even comes up. I get dressed twice in the morning: Once in my nasty barn clothes to feed, then again in my clean work clothes. Sometimes, I am jealous of those who board their horses, or those who don't have them at all. Especially on those extra cold, icy, windy, nasty mornings when I long for just another half an hour snuggled warm in my bed.
For three long cold months I'm lucky if I get to ride once a week. And that's only if the planets align and my world isn't a sucking bog of muddy nastiness. The cold I can dress for and ride in, the mud and ice are unforgiving. For three long, dark, cold months I worry about the hay. Will I run out? Do I have enough? Where can I get more? Will my checking account bear the burden of yet another load of hay? This year that stress is extra high because there is a hay shortage in our area. Everyone seems to have shipped their hay out of state to ranchers in states hit by drought. I look at my shrinking pile of hay and wonder why I continue to do this to myself every year. I look at my feed bill that grows every year and even more this year because I'm having to supplement hay with other sources of fiber (beet pulp and hay cubes). That stuff's not cheap, but it keeps my horses healthy and happy.
I wonder why I continue to do this when I have to go spend money I really don't have to repair a run-in shed so they'll have a warm, dry place to hide during the winter or buy a new water tank heater because the old one finally bit it.
It's usually at the times when I feel that I have gone completely over the edge into insanity for continuing to do this for a bunch of dumb animals that they somehow remind me why I do it. They remind me why I sacrifice for them, why we sometimes have to eat Ramen noodles and spaghetti or sandwiches so I can pay the farrier or buy the wormer or put another load of hay into the shed.
And they do it by just being who they are. Gabe does it when he nickers at me when I open the door spots me coming to the pasture. He does it when he follows me around just to keep tabs on what I'm doing and offer his sage advice when he doesn't think I'm fixing fence or repairing the run-in quite right. When Chief curls his neck up, flags his tail and pulls those knees high to prance around the pasture for no apparent reason, I am reminded. When I bury my nose in Gabe's neck and just breath him in or lean against Calypso to listen to her slurp up her breakfast while I think about the things weighing on me, I am reminded.
When I can spend an hour sitting outside to watch them graze quietly on a summer day or laugh at their early spring antics as they rip-snort and race around the fields, I am reminded.
Sure, life would be easier and my checking account significantly fatter if I didn't have them around. I might even be able to get away for an occasional weekend vacation if I didn't have to worry about finding someone (that I trust!) to take care of them.
But I know, even if things would be easier, I wouldn't be happier. There would be something integral and healing and necessary, missing in my life if I didn't have horses. They make my life so much better in so many big, and little, ways, and for that, I am beyond grateful.
Yeah, I'm a crazy horse lady.
And I'm okay with that.