The barn in winter
We had another great autumn ride Saturday, Turk and I, my friend Alan and his mare Rita. We headed into the canyons north of here, in the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Area, and encountered a band of about eight horses. One yearling filly approached to check us out -- or at least to check our ponies out. These horses are pretty accustomed to human visitors on foot and horseback.
But that was Saturday. Today is Tuesday morning and a front is moving through. There is rain here in the valley and snow not too far up on the surrounding cliffs and mountains. It's winter in Colorado.
Is there any place more welcoming than a horse barn on a winter morning? The smell of sawdust and horses? The nickering of our impatient buddies, ready for their breakfast.
We don't have anything too fancy. I built the barn myself -- with help from my wife and daughter and a few friends -- about 10 years ago. There are two 12x12 stalls, a tack room (which doubles as a dog room during the day, and has a doggie door opening to a fenced dog run). There's and an open area where the horses can go in and out during the day. I rarely keep my horses in the stalls unless I'm treating an injury or preparing for a show or the like. But I feed grain to the two mares in the stalls and to Turk in the open area. They're out there now, staying out of the rain, and waiting for me to come feed.
I'm not sure if people who have never had horses, never had a barn of their own, can really appreciate how much we enjoy going out to the barn, being with our animals, feeding, talking to them -- yes, even cleaning the barns.
I grew up in the dairy country of Wisconsin when most of the farms had relatively small herds of 50 to 100 head. And the dairy barns on winter mornings then had much the same feel as my horse barn now -- the steam from the breathing of the cows, the heat generated by their bodies, the stone and wood walls keeping out the cold, the smell of hay and silage.
There's a connection there with the animals -- and with our history -- that fewer and fewer people get to experience.
I'm going out to experience it right now.