Last week, I took care of my neighbor’s horses while she was out of town. I woke wondering if they were ready for breakfast. I wrote in my office with one eye on the weather darting over the coast range. I watched for sun breaks and the chance to ride. For a week, I smelled like hay and stalls and horse sweat. I pulled the rhythm of my days into that of snuffling breath and eager hooves.
My reading choice: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry.
Whenever the horseboys raced their horses beyond the city gates, Sham outran them all. He outran the colts his own age and the seasoned running horses as well. He seemed not to know that he was an earthy creature with four legs, like other horses. He acted as if he were an airy thing, traveling on the wings of the wind.
Then I thought of this lovely poem by Allen Braden, which appears in his book A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood.
Detail of the Four Chambers to the Horse’s Heart (excerpt)
Listen. The last time I saw my father
alive, he spoke of horses, the brute geometry
of a broken team in motion. He tallied
the bushels of oats, gallons of water
down to the drop each task would cost.
How Belgians loved hardwood hames the most.
Give them the timber sled at logging camp
any day, the workable meadows in need
of leveling, tilling, harrowing, new seeding.
We could’ve been in our dark loafing shed,
cooling off between loads of chopping hay,
the way he carried on that last good day.
With the proper encouragement, he said,
they would work themselves to death.