A howling gale is driving hailstones horizontally before it. The force of them painful as they sting my face when I turn into the wind to open the gate. My mares are standing side by side on the opposite side of the field, heads low and tails tucked, sheltering in the lee of the forestry. The squeak of the gate brings their heads up and they start towards me, carefully picking their way across the sodden field and the mud. When they reach the gate I turn and we run along the track and into the yard, where the evening feed is ready in the stables. Cassie is hungry and she goes straight in, but Minnie is gripped by a wild energy and the cacophony of sounds in her stable, the creaking of timbers and the drumming of hailstones on the roof, is fuel to her fire. She comes straight back out again, to pirouette in the yard. I follow her out and walk a small counter spiral inside her bigger, wilder spiral until she turns and follows me and I walk into her stable and then she drops her head and starts to munch her food. I sit with her while she eats and in stillness tell Minnie that she doesn’t need to worry about the noise. Later, when I come into the house, my hair plastered against my face, peeling of wellies caked in mud and straw, my husband says: “Are you mad, couldn’t they have waited a bit”, but it’s not a question, they are my horses and he knows I can’t wait.
2011 has not been a great year for us. Loss of jobs and income, some health problems and lots of equine injuries. Minnie injured the suspensory ligament in her right fore after recovering from a tendon injury in the same leg and to top it off she also developed an abscess in her right fore foot, leaving a hole in the hoofwall that subsequently broke off. Her recovery was slow and went with ups and downs. She has now been at rest for more than 2 years. Cassie got kicked and developed a bone spur on her cannon bone which interfered with her suspensory ligament. She developed a sarcoid. She got stung in a hind leg which caused massive swelling and needed veterinary treatment and she inexplicably managed to cut her face. Cassie has been out of work for nearly 7 months. Riding is a distant memory.
Now the horses have both reached a point where I can slowly start to bring them back into work again. They have been off so long that I’ll have to go back to the beginning, so I’m thinking of training plans for both them. Minnie has a lot of muscle wastage and will need careful building up. Cassie was still green and I will have to see how much she has retained.
Before bed every night I go out to check on my mares. Tonight the sky has cleared a bit; there are lots of stars and the ragged clouds are silvered in the moonlight. Minnie and Cassie are in their stables. I give them some hay for the night. I listen to their sounds in the darkness for a while. My beautiful horses. I look forward to being able to spend more time with them.