I appreciate many aspects of keeping my horses at home. One thing that has caught my attention as of late is how their presence encourages me to keep a routine. I don’t usually need much prompting in this department as I seem naturally drawn to structure and organization. But during times in my life when the chips are down, knowing that my horses still need me serves as an important reminder that life continues. Any chaos in life is mitigated by the regular rhythms of horse care.
While I have seen some varied opinions on the topics, most horse people think that maintaining a routine in feeding times contributes to their horse’s well-being. In reading about horses living in the wild, the descriptions of their lives sound quite organized to me. Preferring to live in communal herds, they seem to naturally appreciate structure. While some contend that horse herds in the wild are very hierarchical, others think that an observed pecking order among equines is only seen in domestic horses where being housed in close quarters creates competition for resources.
Still, whether more rigidly organized or not, horses naturally seem drawn to predictability in many forms. Any time I have welcomed a new horse into my backyard, it is my observation that they calm down once they catch on that I am coming out to feed and otherwise care for them on a set time schedule.
Nature in general seems to share this innate sense of structure and organization that I find so appealing. In spending time these last few days out in the pasture and in the barn, I am everywhere seeing signs of Spring. My horses are shedding their Winter coats. The grass is starting to grow and get green. It prompts me to wait for the ground to dry out so I can start the first mow of the season. The avian activity is increasing. I see some birds flying with pieces of horse hay in their mouths. Fathers and mothers building nests in anticipation of egg laying.
The rhythms of the Spring season and of nature itself gives me quiet comfort when other events in my life seem out of control. In my own faith tradition, nature is God’s handiwork. Nature reminds me to look to Him for inspiration and guidance, both in times of plenty and in times of want. It is a beautiful thing to appreciate His creation. It is in many ways an act of worship that calms and centers me.
So as I prepare to head out into the darkness for early morning feed, I will be thankful to have this opportunity to care for these awesome creatures called horses (and my barn cats, too!). For the thousandth time I will stuff the hay bags full of forage, check the water trough, dole out portions of cat food and gather the muck tools to start cleaning the run-in-shed and remove manure from around the paddock.
It is hard work, not always completely welcome to my ever-aging body, but yet the process never gets old. Performing this routine and related ones means that I have horses in my backyard for one more day. No matter what else is going on in my world, for this I am ever so grateful.