I just came back up to the house after putting my horses to bed, and I lingered a few extra minutes to feed a few carrots and take in the night air.
For some reason, my thoughts took me back to a night some years ago, when I had just finished building my barn and paddocks, but they were still empty. I had worked in the barn all day. Later, back up at the house, I noticed that I had forgotten my wallet or phone or something, and walked back down just before bedtime to retrieve whatever it was.
I remember on that occasion, I was just slightly uncomfortable walking into the empty barn and looking around for my forgotten item. The remoteness, the darkness, the emptiness, and the quiet all teamed up to create the hint of the memory of the monster that lived in my basement when I was a kid.
But I’m a big boy now and I know there are no monsters here. Still, it was a little eerie, and I couldn’t wait to take care of my business and get back up to the house.
Tonight, I went down to that same barn, on a cool evening similar to that one years ago, and I had to pull myself away when it came time to come back up to the house. One more carrot. Okay, two. Okay, let me just brush you for a second. And scratch your back. Maybe you need a little more bedding. And another carrot.
I turned the light out and held your neck and watched the moonlight filter through the cedar tree and down past your forelock through your ears and spill onto your blaze. It’s almost chilling that I have the privilege of being in your company tonight and I don’t want it to end.
This is the same building that stood here those years ago, save a few cobwebs. I walked the same hundred steps from the house on that evening as I did tonight. But now there are these three magnificent creatures here who have made that foreboding structure in the back corner of the property into a barn.
They look forward to me coming and make no attempt to hide it. They want to stay with me until I have to leave and when I do, that’s okay too. We have made memories here. We have laughed and cried in this aisle and these stalls. Acquaintances have become friends here. We have turned normal kids into horse crazed fanatics here. We have learned much and maybe taught a little here.
I guess that’s the real difference between tonight and that night. On that night, this barn was just a blank canvas. By now, the canvas has seen quite a few brush strokes, some bold, some subtle, and by all means still a work in progress. Tonight, this place is alive with the smells, the sounds, the awe, the wonder and spirit of horse.
That night, I had apprehension. I didn’t know if, in deciding to keep horses at home, I had made the right decision, or if I was getting in over my head.
Tonight, I have only gratitude. I am in over my head, and I have no idea how I got so lucky as to be able to live here.
About the Author
Thomas Gumbrecht began riding at age 45 and eventually was a competitor in lower level eventing and jumpers. Now a small farm owner, he spends his time working with his APHA eventer DannyBoy, his OTTB mare Lola, training her for a second career, and teaching his grandson about the joy of horses. He enjoys writing to share some of life’s breakthroughs toward which his horses have guided him.