September 14, 2012

The quality of autumn sunlight

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The quality of the light is different as summer fades into fall. The humidity haze burns away and is replaced by a golden glow at dusk.

I couldn’t wait to get out to the barn on Tuesday. It was perfect riding weather. I would only have enough time to do a little with Kasane besides treating the scratches (rain-rot like scabs) on her legs. Not enough time to ride, but enough time to have some fun. We walked around the perimeter of the farm with one of my friends who was working with her four year old gelding. He was perfectly behaved. Kasane was up and snorting when her pasture mates trotted by. She ignored where I was. We walked, whoa-ed, turned around, repeated. Brought her back to focus on me. And we continued. When we got back to the barn, she walked all over me when I asked her to whoa.

Underneath all of it, I was frustrated. I felt like my relationship with her wasn’t as strong, wasn’t as focused as it has been in the past. I was frustrated at feeling like she wasn’t paying attention and that she was being stupid and doing things she knew better than to do. When she stepped into my space and ignored my usual queue to move away from me (raising my hand next to her neck), I tapped her neck with the back of my hand. No effect. So I had to use some force with my hand and she moved over but still didn’t pay attention to me. She was more interested in the horses in the other pasture. I had an impulse to really get after her, and didn’t.

I stopped myself and asked what am I doing that is causing this? Was it that my focus wasn’t with her? Why was I feeling frustrated with her and why did it seem like she’d rather not be there with me? (Later on, I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to be there with me.)

We went into the round pen and worked on getting her to focus on me. I focused myself, tried to let go of the frustration, and focus on her. To be there with her instead of scattered some place else. After a few minutes, she did, and we followed each other around the round pen. Relationship repaired for the evening, but not back to where we should be. That will take more work. More back to basics and giving her fun things to do instead of boring stuff. (That’s a topic for another post.)

I cleaned her legs off and treated the scratches with ointment. We walked back out to the field and I stayed with her while she started to graze. A few times she walked away from me and my heart sank. (Yes, I know, applying human emotions onto a situation that didn’t warrant it since other horses higher in the herd order came over to see if the human had treats.)

Kasane used to canter up to me when I came out to the field. She used to yell for me. She doesn’t now. She doesn’t greet me at the gate. Some times she lifts her head when I walk out to the pasture to get her. She at least doesn’t walk away. Still. It speaks to me of things to work on so she is interested in what we are doing. It’s work, but good work, to be aware of and to correct.

I stood out with her until the sun set and I was the only one left at the barn. The light was so different than it had been even a few weeks ago. I kept thinking about how Kasane was with me now and how we had been together. Mulled it over, tried to figure out what had changed.

I walked back to the barn. The barn aisle was dark except for the light from the tack room. The air smelt of dust, apples, and leather plus a chill crispness. Sitting in the tack room chair, I realized the last time I had felt that chill in the air while taking off my paddock boots was almost a year prior on a night I said goodbye to Isis. I had sat in that exact chair, changing my shoes when her body was pulled by the tractor from the paddock to the front of the barn.

Some times the quality of the light triggers memories that aren’t about the time of day or the mare standing next to me. It’s the memory of the thousand-pound hole in my life left by Isis who died last year on October 11.

I am trying to remember the good times. Trying to remember how she was back to herself for her last week. Most of the time I’m okay. I get through work, but being out at the barn with Kasane is different. She senses that difference. She isn’t with me when we’re walking because I’m not really there either. Part of my mind is grieving still.

The sadness is buried underneath the joy of riding, the delight in my favorite time of year to ride… but then I walk outside and see the clear light at sunset. Light best appreciated from the back of a horse. It was the quality of the light reflecting off of a copper bay coat. The yell every time I walked into the barn and Isis poked her head out.isis_window.jpg

And I have to let her go again by letting the grief go. I have been in tears writing this. I know what I have to do to let go of the grief. It’s not something I have wanted to face again. It’s like knowing you have a pain that touches so many areas and you can only ignore it for so long. It bubbles to the surface and interfere so I can’t run. I have to work through it. And let her truly go so the grief is transformed to happy smile remembering her antics and the joy she brought to my life.

Isis out on the trail. Best view in the world.
Isis out on the trail. Best view in the world.

And the clear light this fall can shine on her memory… and on the darker brilliant bay coat of Kasane.

Kasane being ridden in the ring
Kasane being ridden in the ring
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