It’s lunchtime at the ranch and I am taking a break. In the barn. The rest of the staff are elsewhere, but not I. I just can’t stay away from these animals. I am starved for their company. This is therapy.
Two rows of standing stalls are occupied by twenty horses having lunch. The barn is not quiet, but it is very peaceful. After a busy morning of trail riding, everyone is happy for a breather. My ears – and soul – are massaged by the rhythmic sounds of munching, swishing, a little bit of stomping. The smell of fresh hay mixes with horse and manure and I love it. This is therapy.
I have developed a habit of keeping a mane and tail comb in my pocket, and with twenty bums to choose from, it’s little wonder why. I pick a tail and lean against the powerful rear quarters of an appaloosa. If I had an appaloosa, I think to myself, I might call him Captain Underpants. Just for fun. But this one is Pongo, and he munches while I lean against him just enough to let him know I’m there and go to work on the knots and clumps of mud that have built up in his tail. This is dirty work. Hair in handfuls, dirt falling to the ground if it makes it past my hands and arms and jeans. When I am finished, he swishes his tail and it flows freely, rather than flailing around a bunch of knobs on a string like a cat o’ nine tails. I am satisfied. This is therapy.
I move to another: a deep chestnut mare named Dixie. I repeat the ritual: lean in, comb out, feel the power that allows me to approach it, and enjoy. I marvel at how much I don’t hate this. Perhaps it is because I am a volunteer, and I am here only because I want to be. This is not a chore. This is therapy.
All too soon, the staff are back from lunch and everyone is run out to the corral to wind up for the afternoon. But I am refreshed. And ready. I almost feel naughty for stealing some time with these equine companions. Naughty, but not sorry. This is therapy.