My bare feet move across the hardwood floor. I can feel the grit the dog and I dragged in the day before stick to my bare skin. Walking out onto the deck, I grab my socks and boots from the doorway and hop in an awkward dance pattern as I brush off my feet and pull them on.
I walk down the steps and towards the pasture, grabbing Luke’s halter and lead line as I pass them. I see the long blades of grass waving peacefully in the breeze, so completely unaware of their approaching doom as two horse muzzles move methodically across the ground, seeking out the tenderest, youngest shoots and pulling them greedily into their mouths.
When I reach the gate, I whistle and call out Luke’s name. A chestnut colored horse raises his head and rotates his ears towards me, like a radar dish searching for a signal, but he doesn’t move any closer. My hand slips a carrot from my pocket and breaks it in half. Luke’s resistance falters as the sharp crack of the carrot breaking reaches his ears. He walks toward me and reaches for the carrot, his mouth gently tickling it out of my palm. I scratch his face and draw his halter over his ears, letting the lead rope dangle to the ground.
I lead Luke to the trailer where the saddles, bridles, and grooming supplies are stored. I take my time grooming him, spending extra time currying his favorite spots, which I know I’ve hit when he stretches his neck towards the sky and turns his head slightly, pursing his mouth is an expression that says, “Aah…”
Luke’s saddle and bridle pass from my hands onto him in the same pattern I’ve followed a thousand times. I make sure his hair is smoothed back as I set the saddle blanket, then the saddle in place. I loosely tighten the girth, knowing he’s blown up his barrel like a blood-filled woodtick and it won’t do any good to try and pull it tight right away.
I hold the bridle to his mouth and he grits his teeth in stubborn resistance. I place my finger between his gums and coax his mouth open and slip the bit in. The bridle slips over his ears and I buckle the throat latch. I quickly pull the girth tight when he’s not expecting it.
Throwing the reins over Luke’s head, I put my left foot in the stirrup and swing onto his back. His body is tight with anticipation, and I pat his neck and push him toward the empty field next door.
We start at a walk, getting a sense of each other, the rhythm of our movement. Gradually I push Luke to move faster. He picks up the trot and I relax the muscles in my back to follow the up-down motion.
When Luke relaxes his neck, I know he’s warmed up and is ready to accelerate. I press my legs to his sides and feel his hind quarters gather under me. His body lifts and rolls into the canter.
I close my eyes. I can feel the warmth of Luke’s sides and push of his lungs against my calves. I hear the swish of the grass we pass through.
I abandon myself and the world that tries to hold me. I lose myself in the motion and spirit of this horse, who knows nothing beyond the pleasure of a pasture full of grass and the joy of running.