One of the things I respect most about farming is the discipline required every day to ensure the health and well being of the animals. Daily activities range depending on the breeds you keep and the terrain you inhabit, but at the least you have to ensure they have feed, water and safe shelter.
On our farm, these tasks go hand in hand with the movement of the sun. Morning and evening, the rays of dawn and dusk are like connective tissue that quietly remind you there’s an infinite, rhythmic universe orbiting all around. That’s a gift. Some days the work is small and other days exhausting – but regardless someone has to rise and shine in the morning and loop back again with the setting sun to ensure everyone’s safely down for the night. It’s conscious awareness in action – a daily meditation.
Last Saturday afternoon following a walk in the woods, I wandered up to the barn for evening chores. The horses come out to greet me and tell me stories about how they need more affection, food and games to play. Sky, a pretty mare was hanging back, not unusual, but as the light was diminishing in the west, I happened to notice that she had just a bit of a limp. It was subtle and could have been easily missed, but one of the gifts that comes from years of daily trudging to the barn and back is that even in the twilight you notice that little something that’s off. Our neighbors who have been farming their whole lives and who watch our farm when we’re gone are Jedi’s in this maneuver. After 15 years, I consider myself adept.
An hour later, after gently coaxing her across the icy path, through the dark into the barn, I had examined her pastern for cuts, heat, pain and any other signs that might unravel the dark mystery. Luckily, she only exhibited swelling and after putting on a pressure wrap, was returned to her herd and the midnight sky with Jupiter ascending.
The next two days included a call to the vet, as well as on-going treatments of sweat wraps and ‘bute’ but she improved each day. The key was catching it right away – a core part of animal husbandry and another reason why the daily ‘routine’ of chores is so important. I can only imagine that she was ‘horsing around’ that afternoon and lost her footing on an icy patch. But she was a good and willing patient. And the dialogue between man and horse is one to cherish. I ask to be trusted and try to earn it. Ten times my weight, she shows me her vulnerability and gratitude.