Summer horses.

I miss my summer horses. I miss the way their coats lather up under the saddle after an evening ride to the east pasture.

I miss the way that smells and the way it feels to see them grazing on the green grass of the season–admiration and beauty and peace and home all wrapped up in their breathing and munching, snorting and fly swatting.

I even miss those damn burs I pull out of their mangled manes every evening.

I miss my summer horses because they have turned into winter horses, wild and free in the big pastures chewing on hay bales and hiding from the wind in the coulees at night.

We don’t ride much in the winters, the ground’s too hard, the wind too bitter, the hills too slick, so we give our working animals a much needed break during the coldest months and in no time they turn into a sort of wild and wooly that always amazes me.

On the coldest days they find their way to the barnyard and I bury my face in their thick coats where they keep the summer,

feed them grain from the buckets in the tack room and watch as they argue over the first and last bites.

You have to have respect for the animals that bear the burden of this extreme weather on their backs. I know the white tale deer that bed down on frozen hillsides or in a bull berry patch, the grouse roosting in tree tops and the wild elk competing for the same domestic feed as our horses are built for endurance with instincts that save them, but I still wonder if their noses get cold.

On frozen days like this I go looking for them, as if catching a glimpse of how they’re surviving this season might help shed some light on how I might do the same.

There are bison that live on the land next ours. I catch a glimpse of them when I’m on the highway, stopping to watch as the young ones run and the old ones nuzzle the ground for grass. Frost forms on their muzzles where they breathe in the cold air and on days the ice settles in on our world those creatures wear it, unassuming, as just one more layer of their being.

I wear my sweaters like the bison wear the weather. I cannot grow a wooly coat, so I wrap a scarf around my neck and lean into the cold.

I wonder if those bison miss the summer grass.

I wonder if those deer bedded down in the oaks behind this house notice the lights in the bedroom and dream of coming in from the cold.

I wonder if they know I would let them if I could. I would let them all in to warm by the fire if animals were meant for houses.

But I’ve said it before. Houses are for people and this big wide world is meant for deer in the bull berry brush, grouse in the tree tops, elk in the hay bales and horses in their wool coats waiting for a girl who’s waiting on summer to come and drop them some grain.

6 thoughts on “Summer horses.

  1. When I had my own horse, winter was never fun, especially since my Thoroughbred liked trying to roll in the snow while I was riding her! And you’re right: that gorgeous smell of horse after a ride just isn’t the same in winter as it is in summer.
    Beautiful photos, as always.

  2. Does it sound odd that I like getting manure for my garden because I just love that scent ?

    Your words and images convey a lovely story. How many horses do you have Jessie ?

  3. Below 0 here in Maine too, I’ve been looking at seed catalogs, dreaming of digging my hands in the dirt, riding splashing into the pond, listening to the horses swish their tails and tear the tall grass… Nothing like a super cold snap to get the mind daydreaming…

  4. i love “their thick coats where they keep the summer.” i’m in the middle of summer and dreaming of a chill in the air

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