There is something so relaxing about watching horses while they eat. There’s a calm in the corral that can’t be found in the everyday hustle of the workaday world. Have you ever stopped to listen? Listen to the sound of horses methodically chewing, with an occasional swish of a tail? Listened to the soft rustle of hay as the horses toss it about, finding all the good bits? Horses deeply contented, broken only by the occasional posturing of the mares… a pinned ear, a sour glance; are but fleeting as the sweet smell of hay beckons. There is a feeling of well being and abundance.
My step father grew up on a small cattle ranch in New Mexico. As a child, he rode his horse to the one room school house like so many of his classmates did. It was during the time of the Great Depression. Compared to a lot of other families in the area, his was considered to be fairly well off. His family had enough money to buy him one new pair of Levi’s a year. He only got one, so they had to last all year. His Mother would buy them several inches too long and roll them up. She would unroll them as her son grew taller. Lots of kids didn’t get a new pair of jeans. They got hand-me-downs.
For lunch, the children would bring a biscuit or a raw potato to school. The potatoes were placed in the old pot bellied stove first thing in the morning. By lunch time they were cooked enough to eat. That was lunch. Just a biscuit or a potato with nothing on it. No salt, no pepper, no butter, no jam. They were lucky to get it, and they knew it too. It was known that some kids would save the biscuit that Mother had given them for breakfast and bring it to school for lunch, trying to hide how poor they were.
Once a month the school teacher would wash the children’s hair with kerosene to keep the head lice population down. Head lice ran rampant, especially with the Indian kids from the reservation. Harsh by today’s standards, people had to make do with what little they had. It was a pretty rough time back then. My father often told me how grateful he was to have food on the table. So much of his family’s wealth depended on the horses that made cattle ranching in the arid New Mexico territory possible.
He always felt a deep connection to the horses in the corral. I have fond memories of him with our horses in the evening. He would often step out at dusk with his cigarettes and spend a little quiet time alone, talking with the mares…. watching, listening….soaking it all in.
My husband, who does not ride, is drawn to the corral as if pulled by a giant magnet. Nearly every evening, after a 10-12 hour work day behind the wheel of a semi truck, he heads to the corral to spend a little quiet time with the horses. I know why he’s there. Horses show us what it is, to have no worries about tomorrow, no regrets about yesterday…only a pure contentment...in the right now moment. What a powerful message! We long to share it, if only for a moment, that beautiful sense of peace and serenity that satisfies the soul.
I look forward to feeding the horses, especially in the evening. The morning feed is a rushed event, with the all of the days chores looming ahead. The evening feed is different. I find myself slowing down, even lingering over the task. The calm of the horses feeding puts a sort of grounding perspective on the events of the day. They encourage peaceful contemplation. Just like my step father, the horses remind me of what’s really important in my life. They remind me of the need to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures… like the horses do. The horses have no worries, no complaints. They’re just big beautiful reminders that the elixir of life is in the finding of the calm within.
Written by Cathy Cleveland © 2013