Foot surgery this Friday–it’s like preparing for a trip that I don’t get to take. All the stress of canceling work, stocking up on feed and supplements, prepping the barn for winter, as well as all the indoor work, so that I can keep my post-surgery foot higher than my heart for stall
rest detention. I plan on following the doctor’s directions because I don’t want to have this forced couch-vacation one day longer than necessary, but I’m fraught, frustrated, and fearful. All F-words, I notice.
And if horses have taught me one thing, it’s that ruminating on problems only makes things worse. (But there is going to be something wicked-sharp cutting into my skinny, bony foot!) And aren’t I the one always insipidly chirping about breath and focus? (But…but it hurts.) Is it too soon to breathe my way into a horse dream instead of having an angst runaway?
There’s a particular dream that’s always just on the backside of my eyelids. It’s the first dream I remember having as a kid and it recurred with alarming frequency for years; one of those dreams that was so very real that each of my senses remembered it long after I woke.
Here’s a surprise: In the dream I’m on a horse. First I notice a breeze on my face; just enough to move the hair on my shoulders. It’s because I’m moving. When I open my eyes the rest the way and look down, a thigh, much more muscular and tan than mime, rests on the shoulder of a bay and white pinto. It was like I was wearing another body. Do you ever have dreams where it’s you but you don’t recognize yourself?
Then the breeze picks up, the rhythm get smoother, and I feel the one-two-three waltz of the canter begin. And my pelvic bone begins the wave motion and the rest of my spine follows, one vertebrae at a time. I’m barefoot; no boot or stirrup. There’s no holding on or letting go, we just cover ground. My hands play in his mane.
The land is not a place I know. There are low, gradual hills and huge open valleys with tall yellow grass and patches of random shrubs. The sun is always at our backs.
On we go, through and over and around, but the landscape doesn’t alter our balance. Sometimes his hooves smash sage plants and the air filled with the rich aroma, and I felt his ribs take a deep inhale that I matched.
So that’s the dream. We aren’t on a journey. No one chases us. There are no weather disasters. We never get tired. There’s never a lather, or even a sweat, but there’s a warmth feels like the glow of embers buried deep between us.
The dream started before I began to ride. I had already broken my little-girl-nose on a Suffolk ram named Grandpa, and I had very little sense of smell. I was shy and awkward; my pasty white bird legs were never that supple. The dream wasn’t based in anything I knew in my waking life, but the ride was offered whenever I closed my eyes.
When I was nine, we packed up the station wagon and moved to Washington State. I recognized land from my dream–it was in Montana. The dream followed me though high school, and when I left home and came to Colorado. Years passed and it came less frequently.
When my Grandfather Horse was young, he got pretty tense on one of our early trail rides. While my friend waited, I trotted him in circles to help him relax. We eased into a canter, still on that huge circle in a meadow. My friend and I had joked about never raising our eyes above our horse’s ears because it was wild flower season and the ground was as ornate as a Persian carpet.
As Spirit and I cantered on, we crossed a patch of frosty-green sage and his hooves made a slightly different sound as they crushed it, and the herbal aroma from the dream seasoned the real Colorado prairie. My legs felt his inhale as deep as my own. Every second was hours long and my senses expanded. I don’t know if I was ever more sensually aware of a physical moment.
Eventually my horse and I dropped down to a walk and we rejoined my friend, who said we both looked a little weird. The dream never came again at night, but it somehow transmuted to the conscious world. The dream travels with me now. Has your horse given you peace of mind?
It’s before dawn. Surgery is scheduled for about three hours from now. At the last minute, we found out there’s some huge insurance snafu; a problem that we couldn’t resolve on the phone after closing hours. I don’t know if the surgery is a go or not, and I’m still fraught, frustrated, and fearful.
At the same time, horses are a parable for everything we know in life. A few circles, some deep breathing, and we’ll get on with the ride.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.