I’ve got a horsesitting gig this weekend, which rearranges my morning routine somewhat. Usually I get up, feed Trav, boot up Hekate the laptop, go downstairs (where my bathroom is) to brush teeth and splash water on face, and come back upstairs to find Travvy slumped against the front door wondering why his breakfast is so meager. Then I get dressed, zap some tea if there’s any left over from yesterday, and sit down with Hekate.
At this point Travvy thinks, Here we go again, and if it isn’t raining he scratches the door to go continue his snoozing out on the deck. I then spend a ridiculous amount of time checking e-mail, catching up with my Facebook Scrabble games, and responding to any e-mail or FB posts that interest me. Then my resigned-to-waiting (not quite the same as “patient”) dog and I go for a longish walk. When we get home, 45 minutes to an hour later, I put on the kettle for a fresh pot of tea and a saucepan for my daily dose of Irish oatmeal. At that point the workday begins.
When I’m horsesitting, morning chores have to be worked into the schedule. Since daylight savings time ended a week ago, it gets light early enough for Trav and I to get a abbreviated walk in before I head off to feed the hosses. There’s a dog involved in this particular gig, Bleu the excitable Briard, so Trav doesn’t come along. The late Rhodry accompanied me to whatever barn I was working at and could generally be trusted to stick around and play with the other dogs. Trav can’t be trusted loose if there are free-range chickens within about five miles, which is to say he can’t be trusted loose on Martha’s Vineyard. If I make the front page of the newspapers, it’s not going to be because my dog went fowling without a license.
The residents of this particular barn are Coltrane, “Cole,” a Dales pony gelding, and Contessa, a feisty mini (miniature horse) who will slip through any cracked-open gate or stall door that you’re foolish enough to turn your back on. Rhodry and Contessa had a game going: When she wasn’t looking, he’d slip between the rails into the paddock, and when she spotted him she’d make a beeline in his direction, whereupon he’d exit through the fence faster than you thought a big dog could. When Rhodry blogged, he called Contessa “the puppyhorse.” So do I.
Home, I like to say, is where you can find the light switches in the dark — the same goes for all the barns I’ve worked in (the ones with electricity, that is). This is good because it was pitch-dark when I arrived last night to do evening chores and no lights were on in the barn. I do have a tiny LED flashlight clipped to the zipper of my fleece vest: very handy. Feeding instructions had multiplied and complexified since I was last there two months ago. I managed to read them in dim light without my glasses on. Whew.
This morning light was plentiful. I left Trav on the deck gnawing at a marrow bone slathered on the inside with peanut butter and headed off to the barn. Since I sold Allie almost a year and a half ago, I haven’t missed the horse world at all; still it’s cool to be whickered at by equines even before you open the barn door, and to know exactly what you’re doing, even in someone else’s barn. Feed: check. Hay: check. Water: check. Gates secure, electric fence on: check, check.
Contessa and Cole have the ideal horse set-up: a big hilly paddock with room to run, and access to shelter — two box stalls with the wall between them removed — whenever they want it. This morning I cleaned the stall, picked out the paddock, and thought (not for the first time) that piles of manure on a bed of fallen brown leaves would make a great jigsaw puzzle.