New life is revealing itself between melted snow and budding green. The sun is ever warmer. Snow tires changed. Passover and Easter celebrated. Spring should be here, right?
Well, not quite yet at the barn. Mud season stands between the horses and their pastures.
The animals are stir crazy, itching to get outside to graze. The sugar content in grass is highest in the spring, nothing is sweeter. They can sense and smell it, with uplifted noses and smacking lips.
The ground is still too squishy for grass to root itself deeply enough to survive ravenous lips and heavy hooves of over eager equines. So, we must wait a few more weeks for the pastures to stabilize.
Daily rituals at the barn change with the season. Rubber mallets are no longer needed to break up frozen water in buckets, winter blankets are off to get cleaned, and spring shots are scheduled.
Curry combs remove lingering winter hair, although shedding started weeks earlier in response to the lengthening sunshine, long before temperatures warmed. Spring is already old for the horses.
With the indoor arena to train in year-round, most of us are in good condition. Riders and drivers are already venturing outside, but trails are rutted and soggy fields can be as dangerous, so trips are short and frustrating to humans and equines alike longing to be in the warm sun.
As a compromise, we hand graze our animals behind the barn as a post-workout reward. These quiet times are precious to me, with nothing to do other than just be with my pony, reveling as she takes such pleasure in nibbling the sweet spring grass. I am blessed to stand beside her.
Next month she turns ten. I’ve known her since she was two days old. Other than my husband, this is the most profound relationship I have. Instinctively intuitive, she is attuned to my every emotion. Her liquid brown eyes truly see me as I do her.
Imagine always being greeted with a whinny—what a gift this is. Other relationships at the barn commemorate 30 year bonds between animals and their caretakers, something I hope for.
As spring enters our life once again, lazy winter shortcuts in training need to be ironed out. As well, boredom with indoor routines that introduced crankiness and bad habits need to be addressed. Minor adjustments all, as the new season encourages hope and resiliency.
About the Author
John Killacky is Executive Director of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, VT.