There is no sound more soothing that that of a horse chewing its hay. A slow, rhythmic sound that implies an absence of stress, a freedom from concerns. It is a relaxing sound, so much that I have actually seen ‘hay chewing meditation’ advertised for city people who need to de-stress.
To me, it’s a way to recharge my mental batteries. My writing sessions are 4-8 hours long. They are often nocturnal, all depending on my husband’s rotating work shifts. I usually have a lot going on my head, with anxieties, occasional bouts of depression, poor health, and chronic pain to keep me busy. I need that time-out.
I like to sit next to Emilie as she chews her hay and watch her. There is so much going on in those dark brown and blue eyes. Her long lashes are two-coloured — red in the inner end of the eye and white in the other, a gradual change of colour.
Horses live in the present. While horses have formidable memory and rarely forget something once learned, they don’t have a lot of cognitive processes going on. They look to their immediate needs. Emilie wants sunshine on her big red butt, hay to chew on, and she enjoys human company. She likes people. I am okay company. She doesn’t think I’m another horse, but she does think I’m okay to hang out with.
When I sit with her, I forget everything else that’s taking up bandwidth in my head. Sunshine. Hay. Company. All that matters. It’s a bit like hitting the big reset button on one’s mind. Wiping the mental hard drive of clutter and corrupted bits. Washing the plate clean before filling it anew.
I come home, sleep like a rock, and next morning I am set to get right into writing because of the peace and quiet in my head that Emilie gave me the day before.
Two days ago Emilie finally aced her vet checkup. As of today, she is officially insured (thank all the powers that be!). Today marked the end of her long recovery period after surgery, and we got ready for a saddle and rider test!
Today was a really hot day. It was also Emilie’s third time being bathed, and as it turns out, she loves, loves, loves it. Sure, the hose can be cold but being scrubbed down with water and a brush? Getting rid of all the dust, sweat, and lingering winter fur? Priceless. She even forgets her hay just to express her delight with this treatment.
While Emilie dried off from her bath I sat and watched albino Connemara pony Charming and grey Welsh Mountain pony Cassie. They’ve been sharing a paddock for a few days now. They seem to be hitting it off well — to put it mildly.
And then, finally, time to start the test. We saddled her, looking carefully for indications of soreness or pain from the surgery scar. Nothing. Then Cecilie lounged her for ten minutes at a walking pace. No soreness, no complaints except of boredom. Walking on a lounge is dull.
Cecilie lead Emilie to the mounting block and carefully plopped herself into the saddle. Not a single ear was batted. Emilie is very clearly not dealing with any residue pain or soreness from her surgery.
The husband strolled along with the ten minutes’ ride, to make sure Emilie stayed calm and relaxed. He didn’t need to. Emilie confidently told us that she was happy to be doing something more challenging than eating hay, but she also got tired very quickly. That’s as it should be. We’re only allowed to ride her at a walk for 20 minutes at a time at this point.
Afterwards, we took the saddle off and let Emilie have the arena and its sand to herself for a bit.
So here’s a recap: Vet check aced, farrier aced, insurance in place, and now ready to start getting back in shape after surgery. I have one tough and cool little red horse.
24 hours. That’s what’s in a day. Not nearly enough to be a productive writer and enjoy life with my beautiful horse! How to cope? Do both at once.
Spending time at the barn is mental downtime. I let my brain relax and exist in the very present, just as horses do. What happened yesterday and what’s going to happen tomorrow, neither of those matter. There is only the horse mental state of an ever-present Right Now. I recharge my mental batteries, and in the meantime, my subconscious mulls on my work — just as it does when I sleep, working over what takes up space in my life at the moment.
After a day like today, a beautiful, warm May day, I can write anything.
That is, if health lets me. I suffer from chronic pain and sometimes, I can barely fall out of bed for it. I’m currently trying out a new acupuncture treatment and so far, it seems to be working very, very well. A body that’s wracked by pain or stoned on pain killers is not a healthy environment for creativity. To have the energy surplus to keep yourself writing even during low inspiration periods, you owe it to yourself to do what you can, to be healthy and feel at home in your body.
I need light to thrive. I’m one of those sunlight-dependent people who pretty much hibernate through winter and emerge like a sun-starved crazy person at the first sight of spring. May is one of my best months. Everything in Denmark is exploding out of the ground. Every field is bright emerald and sun yellow with dandelions. The weather goes from cold and unpredictable to warm (and unpredictable, it’s always unpredictable in a coastal climate). I feel like life begins anew. I need the hours out doors to recharge my solar batteries. It pays off, the more bright light I’ve soaked up the stronger my ability to express myself creatively.
Another thing that I sometimes struggle with, is getting enough sleep. I have sleep apnea, which doesn’t make it any easier. Left to my own devices I will gradually stay up longer and longer in the evenings, then be utterly comatose the day after. I have to exercise a fairly strict sleep schedule in order to not place undue stress on my mind and consequently, on my creativity. If I am not rested, I can stare at a computer all day, the words won’t happen.
We all find mental peace and clarity in different things. To me, the best source is the sound of my best friend quietly chewing her hay. The sound of horses relaxing and eating hay is so calming that in fact, there are professionals selling ‘hay meditation’ courses nowadays. And that’s exactly what you think: It’s sitting down on your butt, turning off your cellphone, closing your eyes, and listening to peaceful chewing for an hour.