Continued from Married with Horses: Love and Sacrifice
(with new & improved horse farm lyrics!)
The coffee's on by four
The cats get their morning feast
The dogs go out the door,
Come back in and get their treats
Then it's out into the cold
To get the horses in by five
I never knew how much frostbite
Could make you feel alive...Oh
Jingle Bells, no water in the well,
The pipes are frozen stuck
Feed the horses grain, I'm going insane
Because the stalls still need to be mucked...Oh
I can't take credit for this clever rewrite. It was the beginning to a Christmas letter written by our horsey friends Jeff and Kim. It's a perfect way to sum up the horse life and infuse it with some holiday spirit. In fact, it accurately captures the exciting pace of a horse barn year 'round.
And the holidays get better every year, but I suspect it's just a change in my perspective. While receiving gifts is nice, having time with family and friends is what matters most. This Christmas, everyone in the family got what they wanted--or so it seemed. Perhaps like me they just wanted the time together (and the food).
The cats and dogs seemed happy with their gifts, too. They've never minded that they get combination birthday and Christmas gifts. It's more out of practicality than economy.
They're all rescues and didn't come with complete papers. Their ages can be approximated, but we've never known for sure. Perhaps it's only people who need to attach themselves to a single day of the year and use it as an excuse to misbehave a bit.
And though she frequently misbehaves behind a facade of senility (pooping on the floor is a favorite), our geriatric Afghan-Border Collie, Kit, seems relatively unconcerned about her possibly-sometime-in-February birthday. With all her health problems and constant cortisone injections, Kit wasn't supposed to live past 8. I guess someone forgot to tell her; she turns 16 next year.
We could try telling her now, but Kit wouldn't hear of it. Truthfully, she won't hear of anything--she's nearly deaf. Kit's also nearly blind. A run-in with Vander took care of her left eye, and a cataract took care of her right. I think she sees shadows, but has to actually put her nose on things and people to identify them. It's a cold, wet nose, but that's good, right?
And that nose works perfectly. We often have to wake her up to go potty before bed time, but no amount of hollering or petting will rouse her. Heat up something savory--several slices of bacon usually work--and she'll come running in seconds. Plus, the tactic gives you a great midnight snack.
Our wood-burning stove, Big Jim, has been heating our home for the past few months, but we suspect the dry air may be aggravating Kit's skin problems. She's so itchy that when she turns in her sleep her legs start twitching.
So this Christmas Kit got a cast-iron humidifier that sits atop Big Jim, some medicated shampoo, liver-flavored glucosamine and some no-lick spray.
The no-lick spray is disgusting. It would definitely make me stop licking things. And I know I bought the most disgusting one because I tasted them all.
"Nice," I said to a horrified woman standing beside me at the mega pet store. "This one offers provocative overtones of apple and rosemary with a light body and smooth finish. It would pair beautifully with smoked salmon."
She pretended not to hear me and hurried around the corner. As I've stated earlier, I willingly make sacrifices for my family's happiness.
Hazel, Jack and Macy got the requisite treats and toys. Anything edible goes over well anytime of year. Sascha got the most expensive gift of all: new windows. I know it's a strange gift for a cat, but she was happy.
Sascha hates Jack. The hatred is entirely unwarranted, but unwavering. Sascha is athletic and fully-armed. Jack is fat, extremely affectionate, has no front claws and doesn't know how to use his back claws. Nonetheless, Sascha will choose to stay outside in single-digit temperatures rather than share the house with Jack. Because the new windows aren't screwed or painted shut like the old ones, we can now let Sascha in through our bedroom window at night. The bedroom door is closed and Sascha can sleep with us, unmolested by the terrifying, overweight tuxedo kitten.
Speaking of whom, the rustling and crinkling of Jack playing in the pile of discarded ribbons and wrapping paper was the only sound on Christmas afternoon. Macy, Hazel and Kit were asleep near the tree and the family quietly occupied the couches and chairs with feast-filled bellies.
It wasn't long before someone broke the silence by asking to meet our new mare, Madison. Soon the whole gang was headed to the barn. Once in the barn, someone asked about riding. Then everyone wanted to ride.
Part of the family had some riding experience, some didn't. Vander didn't like my Western saddle, but we figured he would be the safest ride for everyone. Kimberly rode him around the largest of our pastures to warm him up before the pony rides began.
Kimberly got on Madison and handed Vander off to her cousin. Vander isn't athletic enough to do any real damage, but he was bulging and going sideways and running without permission. Kimberly's cousin just laughed as he bounced in the saddle. Maybe his endorphins had kicked in. It looked painful.
Vander was apparently in a mood and was no better behaved for the next rider. Since Ellie can be rather pushy and Mandy can't be ridden because of her bad knee, Madison became the official Christmas ride.
Our new girl was beautiful. As sensitive as Madison is, she responded to every slight pull on the reins or pressure of the rider's legs. Everyone had a ride, and Madison remained sweet and quiet for all the trotting, circles, starts and stops--with only one exception. Another cousin--not sure how to get her going--gave her a quick kick, and she almost jumped a fence.
Naturally, Kimberly and Vander accompanied all the riders. Also naturally, Vander was a bratty Grinch the entire time.
I must have shot 200 pictures that day and the group rode until it was too dark to see. We were still laughing about the horseback rides as the family was leaving. It really was a fantastic day. To see people who've never ridden get on a horse and have a great time is something special.
Kimberly and I went through the pictures several times after everyone had gone. The family members' expressions were priceless. The photographs of their faces revealed a calm and contentment I hadn't seen in them.
I recalled the recent trail rides I'd been on. I know I felt so, but I wondered if I, too, looked so content.
And that was it--the best gift of the year. I'd gotten everything I wanted while watching the family enjoy being with our horses. Maybe our horses' magic isn't entirely elusive. This Christmas I felt like I'd somehow put my finger on something intangible.
Even better: I had the pictures to prove it.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina.
Read Jeremy's other columns in EquiSearch.com's Humor section, and share your comments in the forum.