Imagine a hundred acres on a rise southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, with views that stretch to a far horizon. Grassy fields dip to gallery forests dominated by oaks of many species. Limestone underlies these fields on an ancient ocean floor. A breeze soothes the air, not so warm in late October. I had forgotten how beautiful this part of can be.
This is John Graves country, as we saw crossing his famous upper Brazos on our way to the retired horse farm. Might I actually canoe most of the route he took even today? Not now, for we were headed to Claudia’s retired horse farm where Fiel lives tightly bonded in a tiny group of three, made up of Fiel, another mare, and a very possessive gelding.
Horse barns have a special magic, a peacefulness that comes from the horses, edgy or placid, or from the girls and women that tend them. Maybe it comes from the high barn ceilings, with fans creaking up high. Or the perpetual radio set to a country music station.Or it comes from the timeless memories of barns gone by and their girls.
I remember my daughter impatiently bossing a massive horse when she was only eight, getting the monster to lift her foot, to turn, or even to do the careful movements of dressage. Anna learned many things from her early horse days. She learned that there is no advantage to impatience around horses. She learned that even very large beings can be taught to obey with the right mix of discipline and reward. She learned to get her homework done early so she could have free time at the barn. She learned a lot about adults and their inconsistencies.
Today we were here to see Fiel. Anna brought her out of her stall and brushed her, slow circular motions with first one kind of brush and then another. How much dust she carries in that sleek coat! My aunt Angie came too, reliving her earlier love of horses, something she gets few chances to do now that she is at the age where the healthy, like her, help their infirm friends with life and medicine.
These horses have large pastures and small. They have south-facing shelters in the pastures and even blankets for the occasional Texas cold. Might they just be all in one horsey group, thundering around the entire pasture? No, anyone who has studied horses, zebras, and the like will know how many injuries that would cause as dominance and control get asserted and reasserted in ways as aggressive as animals get, or nearly so. Just check out Dan Rubenstein’s work. It is better to rotate the smaller groups.
Horses too old to ride that get to retire here are the lucky ones. They earned their place in our daughter’s hearts many years ago. Horses recognize their owners, just as Fiel remembered Anna and nuzzled her. If you are at an earlier stage of horse ownership, learning to teach your horse can best be done with this book, by Richard Alexander, Teaching yourself to train your horse. It is a bargain at Amazon.
I could stay forever, watching Fiel nose carrots out of my daughter’s pocket, listening to Hank Williams, or one of his more modern descendants, on the radio, and feeling the Texas breeze. But it was time to go, first stopping at the barbeque place on the road home, where the sauce was not sweet and the smoked brisket was perfect.