The holidays are a big deal in my house. Lots of family and gifts. This year we were unusually social and were delighted to have been invited to multiple holiday gatherings. I hosted a long involved Christmas dinner for 14 people. Almost all of whom I'm related to, resulting in the usual snarky loving encounters you would expect.
It was exhausting.
I went almost two weeks without seeing the barn, mostly due to the fact that my kids were out of school as of the third week of December and they are Not Horsey. It was pissing rain most of the time. By the time the weather got Beautiful for December (high 40's and into the 50's) I was full time Momming and Christmassing and my husband was still working. Getting to the barn was not happening.
I went a little bit nuts.
Between the lack of exercise (all kids all the time means no yoga either) and the extra sugar I began to resemble a smudged doughy version of my former self. My general positive attitude was filtered through a lens of general despair and groggy fatigue. I've been here before. It's what Winston Churchill described as his "Black Dog."
Friday night after a Boxing Day visit to the town of Barn Stable (that's what the Google maps calls Barnstable on the Cape) to see my in laws, I announced to my sleeping husband that I was going to see Cassel the next morning. He grouched about it, not because he didn't want me to go, but because he was sleeping. I could have announced that I was going to the Pizza, Craft Beer and Football factory to bring home Mike Vrable and Teddy Bruschi to watch the Superbowl with us an it would probably have been met with some skepticism in his unconscious state. (Note: current Patriots excluded from my little fantasy for obvious reasons. Enough Football. Shut up Margaret, this is a horse blog, that's your OTHER hobby).
So around ten on Saturday morning I jumped in my car and actually made it to the barn where I found cookies and cards that had been left for me by my barn mates. My horse was shockingly clean. I just putzed around the barn for a good half hour and watched him and his pasture mate eat from the same hay bag before I moseyed into the paddock to get him. He strolled up to me breathing his sweet breath into my lungs and I slipped the halter over his ears. His pasture mate, Plosh, who is suddenly easy going in the pasture thanks to some ulcer meds and having Cassel to himself gently stepped out of the way of the gate and we clip clopped to the cross tie, Cassel, leaving a thick trail of manure all the way across the driveway in case we got lost on the way back.
Other than his feet that I hosed there was not a speck of mud anywhere on that horse. Weird. I groomed and scritched him in all his favorite places, popped on his dressage saddle and headed towards the arena and hopped on and all the holiday stress and emotion just fell off me in big sheets. Cassel made these great relaxing snorts, the sound horses make when they are blowing off tension. I dropped the reins and let him amble around the arena at the walk releasing his tension while I took deep breaths, circling my arms backwards to open my shoulders.
One of my favorite things about this horse is that you can give him two weeks off, and hop back on and he just goes right back to work. My last two horses needed to be ridden EVERY day or they would be NUTS. In retrospect, a lot of that has to do with their turnout situation. They didn't get nearly enough of it. Most of the time, they lived in a stall. Cassel lives outside, so I know if I can't get there for a couple of weeks he's never stuck in a box. He's always out moving, walking around with things to stimulate him and look at. He plays with his pasture mate when he feels like it. And when I get back on him after a long hiatus, other than him blowing through a couple of half halts because it takes us a couple of days to get completely back on the same page. He's never spooky or nutty. I can just drop my reins and think about my body alignment for a few minutes before going to work while we both breathe out our tension.
Because "The Most Wondeful Time of the Year" takes a lot of work and stress to create. But with a few minutes on the back of a good horse equilibrium is restored. This is my Bliss.