In Which Jane Remembers Why the Real Horse is Better than the Dream Horse

Before Hudson, I would go to Tiny when I was upset, and he would “hug” me. If I stood at his neck or shoulder, he’d try to bend his head and neck to wrap around my body.  Tiny’s affection saved me often. If I hung on  him, he’d drop his head over my shoulder and pull me toward his chest by pulling his head back.  He was amazingly smart and intuitive, and very willing to share his boundless affection. Horses are all different, but my experience has been they “get” sadness, and try to help. (I may also be living in Black Beauty World.)

I leave the hospital determined to see Hudson.  A hug from Hudson will make it better.

Helplessness is not a  useful feeling for me.  It leads me right into Train Wreck Thinking: helpless goes to hopeless, hopeless goes to powerless, powerless goes to (?) I’m a terrible human being.

Yeah.  I don’t get it either.

The weather mirrored my emotional state: driving rain, erratic shifts in the direction of the wind, with low visibility.

By the time I got to the barn, my train wreck was in full dramatic rending and crashing.

I step out of the car. It’s freezing cold, and the storm seems to have intensified.  I fill the boy’s grain buckets, and hike up to their shelter. It’s unexpectedly cozy inside.  It’s only two and a half sides, but it’s quiet, dry, and wind-free.

I dole out buckets, and check under-blanket temperatures.  They’re fine.  Toasty.

I walk up to a chewing Hudson, and plunk my forehead on his shoulder. I sob.

Hudson looks at me with mild alarm:  Okaaaaay. 

He doesn’t move, but his body  weight shifts away from me.

Oh. I’m bugging him.  Maybe it’s  the weird forehead plunk? Surely he’ll comfort me.

I do a more normal thing: I stand at his shoulder and gently lean my shoulder against his. I want to crawl under his blanket. I continue to sob, leaning on him.

Hudson scoops a huge amount of grain into his mouth, so he can chew and consider me without having to reach down again.

“It’s just hard”, I say. “I have all these feelings.”

His ears swivel. Grain dribbles out of his mouth, and he tries to catch it with his lips: the big wad of grain remains safe behind his clamped teeth. Talented horse.

“I don’t want to keep bugging my friends”, I say, “and I can’t stop crying, I thought talking to you would help.”

Hudson doesn’t have a clue what I’m saying. But I am convinced horses can read our emotional intention.  I wait for my “hug”.

Instead, this happens:

Hudson: Jane? You’re leaning on me. I’m not cold.  I’m warm, see? 

He shifts away, putting air between us.

Also, the leaning thing? Itchy.

He refuels his mouth with a normal amount of grain. Chews.

I convince myself he just doesn’t understand – yet – what I need.  I hug him.

Hudson steps away: Don’t know what the problem is? But, uh, this time of night is guy time. We eat, get ready for bed, and you go wherever you go when you’re not here.  Go there, K? Come back in the morning. We’re fine. See?

He glances at Woodrow.  Woodrow lifts his head and swivels his ears slowly, in what I can only describe as the horse equivalent of a “don’t look at me, I have no clue” shoulder lift.

I swear, if Woodrow could talk, he would have said: “Um yeah, we’re fine. Blankets, food, nice in here…” (Sotto voice: Dude, what the heck is that all about…?)

I can’t help it.  I burst out laughing.  I laugh so hard I can barely stand, and have to move to the wall for physical support.

Woodrow and Hudson exchange a look, big question marks over their heads. Within a second, the question marks are dismissed, and they are contentedly focused on their buckets: the important thing in their environment.

This cracks me up more.

Immediately, I feel more normal. A hug would have comforted me, but would also have prolonged the feelings I hadn’t been able to turn off for hours. Hudson rolled his eyes at my train wreck, encouraged me to leave, and it fixed me.

Much to their relief, I leave. By the time I reach my car, my jacket is soaked through and I’m shivering. But my world has been righted again, and I’m not crying. I’m smiling.

God I love this horse. I’d run back up and hug him, if it wouldn’t bother him so much!

22 thoughts on “In Which Jane Remembers Why the Real Horse is Better than the Dream Horse

  1. Sounds like this horse knows you better than you know yourself… he knew a good laugh would make you feel better much quicker than a hug. (Tucker has also been known to resort to humor when my face is leaking onto his neck and I’m interrupting his hay-eating.) Hudson really is a swell guy. Love him!

    1. “Touchy-feely” isn’t part of who he is, but humor? He has a wickedly deadpan sense of humor. I don’t think he was trying to be funny, but it was hilarious to me.

      The way he looked at Woodrow: “Dude. Help me out here. Leaking human.”

      Followed by Woodrow’s looking back at him with concerned puzzlement….
      (got me AGAIN!)

  2. I’ve got a “diva” mare who isn’t into the hugging thing, and catching her in the pasture can make the most patient person swear at times. But she likes smooches on the side of her nose( when no ones looking of course), LOVES to smell my hair and will stand there for hours so you can scratch all her favorite spots. A visit to the barn always seems to make the bad days better.

  3. The last time I got upset, my young cat went and stared at the wall. With that intent cat stare that says “Bad things are about to happen. Right. Here. Just wait.”

    To her credit, it’s hard to be upset when you have the heebie jeebies and are looking around for a can of Raid and a ghost-killing baseball bat, so it worked.

    But next time, I think I’ll borrow Hudson, if that’s ok with you. He seems much more tactful about it.

    I’m glad that is sounds like you all are on the road to recovery! Hang in there!

  4. My last mare was affectionate as long as no one could see. I would try to get a hug, and she would glance around to see if anyone was watching before she hugged back. If another horse or person was there, forget it! She got the look in her eye of “who is this crazy person and why is she touching me?!?”
    I’m glad things are going better 🙂 I have missed your blog, and I will be thinking about you/sending goodwill beams so that improvements will continue and the blog will return victorious!

  5. Like people, each has their own style. You have to find it and love it. Less then a year ago, I lost a horse as affectionate as Tiny. The mare that came after was as affectionate, if not more so. She would leave food to lean on me. Then I lost her too. Now I have another mare that I don’t know well yet. She is an older broodmare, trying to re-purpose as a working horse in suburbia and she is stressed herself. They have emotional lives that are huge and rich, and when they share with us, we know it is not because of co-dependency. It is real.

    1. I love how you put this: “emotional lives that are huge and rich, and when they share with us…it’s real”. Beautiful, so….true. I think it’s that emotional honesty that horses have: Hudson can’t be anyone but himself, and he is himself to the Nth degree – which totally works when one is looking for comfort. I guess if I got all psychobabble about it I’d say his totally being present (with the exception of one eye on the grain bucket) sooths me.

  6. I had to laugh because Solo is exactly the same way. He will tolerate my leaning on his ribcage and he loves to rest his muzzle on me and is so sweet — but NO HUGGING. It’s like he says, “woman, have you no self-respect? don’t be hanging all over me!” I have wanted to so hug his neck and cry, just like you, but instead I just sit with him and let him co-exist with me, which makes us both happy.

    1. Yep. Hudson is very affectionate, in his singular, determined sort of way. When he’s feeling super affectionate, he wants me to rub his face, but hugging? So embarrassing. He and Solo are cut from the same mold!

  7. You know what REALLY fixes that “my life is a trainwreck and I can’t do anything about it” feeling?

    A nice long ride in cold, pouring rain.

    Yep. That’s my winter-time fix. Why don’t you come on over? I’ve got a fire going in the woodstove, a floofy dog on my lap, and two muddy horses in the pasture who would love to haul your butt on the trails in the freezing-ass clammy cold for a few hours tomorrow. C’mon. You know you want it.

    Also, there’s mac-and-cheese in the oven. It’ll still be warm if you start driving now. You can bring dessert.

    –Aarene (and Fiddle and Hana and the floofy dogs, who think that you should bring Christmas with you)

    1. I should be there in about…20 seconds…?
      I’ve never minded rain. It’s all good at the end of the day when you’re warm, dry, telling funny stories, and have mac-and-cheese on a plate in your lap. Thank you!!

  8. Glad things are turning around. I have turned to horses for comfort and found that they are very patient and very concerned and very attentive…. for about 5 minutes. Then it is time to return to normal life. It has worked great for me.

  9. I’ve missed your blog, and I’m glad to hear all things are on the mend… Here is what I notice about my horses. They aren’t so good at feeling sorry for me, and a good reality check is kind of like a hug, only different.

    1. I’m with you on that: feeling sorry for oneself isn’t bad as long as it doesn’t last more than two minutes. (My own personal rule of thumb) And a reality check can be the most awesome hug imaginable. I’m often amazed at what I think I need is not always what is best for me. 🙂

  10. Ah! You have really hit the nail on the head here!

    There have been so, so many times when my life has overwhelmed me, and I have gone out to seek refuge and comfort in the one happy constant in my life: my horses. I have leaned on them, and cried into their necks. They always bear my histrionics with a bemused sort of tolerance. They simply don’t understand how life can be so overwhelming. And that puts it all into perspective.

    They have saved my life so many times. They are endlessly tolerant, never judge, and always happy to live in the moment. It is an attitude I aspire to.

  11. So glad the recovery is going strong. Much love and blessings to you and your family. Also so glad to have you back on the blog, one of the few email alerts that I get giddy about. Looking forward to see you at the barn. xoxox

    1. Laurie you are a real gem, I am so grateful you were watching out for Christmas when I was late or had to be gone all day. Guys, Laurie came over and took care of our dog!! It was a lifesaver. BTW, Hudson had a valentine for Ginger, but I sort of ate it. Accidentally. (Don’t tell?)

  12. I’m so sorry you’re feeling so stressed. Horses are pretty darn good at calming me down when I’m upset even if they won’t always give you a hug. I’ve surprised my horses a couple of times by showing up late at night so I could cry on their shoulders and give them a hug. They’ve always looked at my with blinky eyed surprise but never any judgment.

    Sending hugs from Boston.

      1. Whew! I thought there was a turn for the worse. Glad to know that’s not the case! The animals who really seem attune to my moods are the cats. If I’m upset they always come and curl up on my lap.

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