The Old Gray Mare
The sun came out today. It spilled warmth across the snow still cast like a discarded bridal veil over the curves and valleys of my farm. The icy crust softened, no longer knifelike on equine legs. Its perfection begged to be broken.
I wasted no time on breeches, belt, or chaps. Old sweatpants and two layers of fleece would do, a hat beneath my helmet, gloves. Consolation wore only her Indian bosal, more halter than bridle. Is there any way but bareback to ride o’er deep and drifted snow?
Consolation has never carried a rider in such environs. The peculiar quiet, broken only by trains of geese that clattered across the sky, made her jump at every turn. A flurry of game birds set her heart to pounding beneath my knee. She snorted and bounced, all wild eye and fun, until the knee-deep effort set her mind to task.
Her tension ebbed, and I rocked astride her like a boat at anchor. Both hands on the reins, fingers extending lightly to keep time with her bobbing head. Both heels pressed into air beneath her ribs. Both scanning the snow for safest passage. Both inhaling chill and passing warmth between us.
To ride bareback is to play in duet. It is sex that happens because it is supposed to, not because someone planned it. It is naked dressage, riding stripped to essentials. Balance. Contact. Depth. Feel. Dare I say Love?
No. For all the storybooks, the anecdotes, I still cannot believe that horses love. Not in the way of dogs and men. That which a horse offers, to one deserving, is a finer treasure still: it is Trust.
Consolation has not been an easy horse. As recently as last April, I remained unsure that I would keep her, after all. Our relationship had been a struggle between wills, two alpha mares unwilling to bow. And yet, today, we traveled with nothing between us, partners adrift in an icy meadow crisscrossed with tracks of pheasant and quail, of rabbits and dual coyotes that bounded after.
We will ride like this again, someday. Someday, when she is thirty and I am fifty-four, Consolation and I will chase another winter sunset, together, as far as we can go.
Photo by Michael Ensch
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