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Killacky: Nature's At Peace

01/05/12 7:55AM By John Killacky
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(Host) Now that our long arctic nights have settled in, commentator John Killacky is observing the changing rituals at his pony’s barn.

(Killacky) Long before the geese flew south, my Shetland pony’s winter coat started coming in. I wasn’t ready for a change of season, but nature was. Raindrop is now a fat and fuzzy fur ball. She doesn’t mind the cold, but she's far less interested in going outside, since the luscious pasture grass has been transformed into frozen tundra.

Working outdoors during this time of year is not an option, so training can get mighty complicated, with up to six horses and riders simultaneously in the indoor arena during the after-school and post-work rush hours. This necessitates an interrelated choreography of awareness, patience, and generosity by equines and humans alike.

Loose but firm hands on the reins. The animals go where your eyes go. We dance together. Occasionally, though, ears will flatten, nostrils flare, and the whites of one horse’s eyes glare if another gets too close.

I have the only driving pony at a dressage and jumping barn. First, the size differential is comical. Then, it is startling for the other horses to first encounter my little one pulling me in a cart. Many get discombobulated.

Horses are genetically responders and reactors. Anything new is suspect; a first encounter with the unfamiliar unsettling. All eventually adjusted to the cart, until I stored it upright against a wall. Even Raindrop didn’t recognize her own cart with its cover on and shafts in the air. In this new position, all the horses had to be sensitized over again.

Winter dictates a number of barn rituals and new utensils. Multiple layers of thermal clothing are essential for me, as well as hand warmers in gloves, that also warm the bit. Tools include a rubber mallet to chop up the ice in the water bucket and a miner’s light to help me clean her hooves of frozen impacted earth. Grooming includes spot cleaning, since bathing is not an option for months to come, and making sure she is cooled down and dry post-workout before I put her blanket back on.

My favorite time at the barn is late at night, with no one else around. I love being in the stall with Raindrop as she and her stable-mates settle down for the evening. The sounds and smells of two-dozen safe, warm, and protected equines are divine. Just being there, in sublime stillness, through her quiet eyes, I am part of the herd. It’s at these moments that I experience Rasa, a Sanskrit term indicating a profound state of empathic bliss.

Life is good; nature’s at peace in our frigid Vermont wonderland.
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