The stress factor

Before I started working these extra hours, I had plenty of time in the mornings to look after my horses. Minnie and Cassie would be waiting for me and they would walk into their stables in eager anticipation of food to come while I got their buckets. I had time to go around the yard with the wheelbarrow to do the poo picking. When Minnie and Cassie had finished their breakfast I would open the fence to give them access to the back fields for the day, but they usually stayed in the yard until I left to get ready for work. Then they would head off to the fields. I loved those mornings. I even had time to watch the sun rise.

Now, I have to get up earlier than my body likes and I leave for work before the alarm goes off for my husband and children. I arrive in the yard while it is still dark. All I have time for is to prepare the feeds. I need Minnie and Cassie to cooperate, but they don’t. The first time they didn’t come I thought it was just too early for them. They were in the field and it took them a while to come up to the stables. I didn’t think much of it, our morning routine had changed and we all needed to re-adjust. However, I soon realised that a new pattern was emerging. When I arrive in the yard Minnie and Cassie take one look at me and then they turn away. Even when their feed is in their stables, they won’t go in. The first time that this happened, I got annoyed. I was in a rush and I had no time to wait for them. I considered going to get them with head collars, but it felt wrong, so I just left the buckets in the stables and went to work. No doubt Cassie enjoyed half of Minnie’s breakfast that morning. 

When they turned away from me again the next morning, I felt rejected. Minnie is a very vocal mare and she always welcomed me with continuous nickering, a deep rumbling sound from the back of her throat that I could almost feel vibrating through me. Her silence while she stomped off was hard to take, as was Cassie’s disdainful toss of her head. I was used to being welcomed by my horses and now they shut me out.  

I tried getting up even earlier, so that I wouldn’t be in such a rush, but it made no difference. My horses were making it very clear that they didn’t want to be near me.

My new life doesn’t suit me. I prefer to be outside and now I spend most of my days in an office. The long hours and the driving are mentally draining. If I see the sun rise at all, it is while I sit in traffic, in a long line of cars and buses slowly crawling into the city. I know I am very lucky to still have a job in a country where so many people are now unemployed, but the pressure on me is enormous. It’s no joke to try and do somebody else’s full-time job in the morning hours and then drive to the other office to do my own job in the afternoons.

When I come home I feel empty, but I can’t show it. My husband is doing his very best to help by doing more of the household chores, while trying to cope with the loss of his job, and my children want attention and to tell me their stories. So I put on my happy face and pull on my reserves. I don’t want to show how stressed I am.

You can’t fool horses though. When I arrive in the yard in the morning, with my mind on the long drive and the day ahead, Minnie and Cassie are picking up the stress that is emanating from me. Instead of calm and flowing I must feel all spiky to them, red instead of blue or green. They leave because it is too much for them, it is the wrong kind of energy. They are not really rejecting me, that is my human interpretation when I am already feeling vulnerable.

The situation I have put myself in is so contrary to my personality and the way I want to live that stress is inevitable. However, I don’t want to approach my horses in a cloud of early morning misery, so when I go to the yard in the mornings I try to empty my mind of negative thoughts as much as I can and just focus on preparing the feeds. I ignore the horses. I don’t talk to them or try to touch them and I don’t look at them directly, instead I use my peripheral vision to watch them. I try not to feel hurt when they walk away. I accept whatever they do. If they go into the stables, well and good, but if they don’t, I just put their feeds in and leave.

When I come home in the evening, I give myself a long time to unwind. Then, when I feel I am relaxed enough to go see my horses, I run from the house to the back fields as fast as I can. It’s only 100 meters, but it gets my blood flowing and it helps. I open the gate and then I sprint into the yard. The first couple of days I did this, Minnie and Cassie would approach the yard slowly, almost reluctantly, but today when I started my sprint, they both came cantering behind me. We ran a couple of circles around the yard together. When I stopped, they stopped too. Minnie nickered. It was beautiful.

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2 thoughts on “The stress factor

  1. That must have felt wonderful!

    I’m so sorry you’re having to go through all that stress. I hope things get better soon. I think it’s almost a good thing the horses react so strongly to you in the mornings. They’re not being Pollyanna-ish – they’re saying: “You’re right! This sucks!”

  2. Yes, horses tell the truth. They know my stress levels better than I do myself! Times are hard, but I’m looking forward to the longer evenings when I’ll be able to spend more time with them and start Minnie’s rehabilitation process.

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