The Flight of Spring
This morning, before sunrise, my farm floats in a pocket of air between two seas. The clouds above roll wavelike and dark, the valley below is gray with mist. Up close, I can see the buds on my apricot tree, bright against a backdrop of emerald pasture. The horses have buried their muzzles deep in piled hay. Consolation’s coat is splotched pinto with mud.
Yesterday saw Idaho’s first endurance ride of the season. I didn’t go. Consolation isn’t quite ready, her conditioning having been delayed by my injury in January. But we did ride. We rode in the morning in a floodlight of sunshine that poured through the horizon ringed with clouds. The day was tank-top warm, dotted red with robins and tulips. We trotted 17 miles at a medium pace, the kind that features a looped rein and stops to graze and a happily wandering mind.
Not so last week! One day we set out early under leaden skis, goaded by the scent of an oncoming storm. The wind had crept into our bones, and when we hit the perfect footing of the irrigation road, I leaned in the saddle and Consolation flew.
To ride this mare at speed is to ride a bird. She is so smooth, so quick, that I marvel at the vast, slick network of muscle and bone that bounds beneath her coat in perfect, mindless effort. Our canter shifts upward into hand gallop, The thrust of her quarters races up her back, along the reins, through my seat, down to her flashing hooves again. The oxygen in our nostrils, our lungs, our blood, feels endless. We lean on the curves, change leads on a shy, watch a harried pair of ducks fly up from the canal again, sure we’ve come to hunt them down.
It is the kind of ride that cannot be partaken alone. Both partners must be there, fully present in body and mind, in spirit and soul. Each becomes less that the other might make her more.
And then we are home, and the rain arrives, and I bring hay and blankets and rub the sweat from her hide. She leans into the brush, content, transformed from raptor back to mare, almost pony, a little treasure in my care. I rub her crest and stretch my other hand to catch the rain. In a few weeks, it will pass. Summer will be upon us. And we will ride to meet it.