I feel rather fortunate. It took me only 30 years to decipher the meaning of my life, and ironically, the success is completely unrelated to my college philosophy major. For me, the realization occurred when I met the woman I wanted to marry. I fell in love with her instantly. I also fell in love with her two children; her two hairy, four-legged, occasionally moody, sixteen-hand-tall, hay-eating children.
Yes, my wife is a horsewoman. Before we were married I did not know quite what this meant. Some people believe that certain individuals are interested in horses in the way that others may like dogs, cats or hamsters. I have had dogs, cats and hamsters. Equine ownership is something entirely unique. Horses are not pets; they are a lifestyle.
I will never say to anyone: "My wife has horses." If your life partner owns horses, you also own horses. Caring for our horses has changed much about my life. I can no longer imagine sleeping late, and I don't mind at all. I look forward to the sunrise, even if I go to bed late. I enjoy the sound and smell of breaking off flakes of hay. I savor the scrape of the scoop against the inside of the bucket as I mix beet pulp with grain. I think the click of an electric fence is a comfort, and I even find a freshly mucked stall to be terribly satisfying. This is quite fortunate considering my wife travels with her job.
"Have a great trip," I say as I help her to the skycap with her luggage, "The boys and I will be just fine." I check my pocket to make sure I have my phone list: farrier, vet, neighbor, trainer and a long list of our horsey friends. I kiss her goodbye and navigate light traffic to return to our house.
It's 7 a.m. and 26 degrees. I'm starving, so, I feed everyone else first. I go out to the stalls where the horses stand waiting. I do my best to give our two horses some hay to eat while I soak the beet pulp. They manage to eat most of the hay before I even get the stall door open.
I figure they need some water to drink with their meal, but the previous night was well below freezing and using the water hose is not an option. I grab a couple of buckets and run to the house to get them water. I run back. I grab two new buckets. I measure out differing amounts of beet pulp for each, and run back to the house for more hot water, wondering if I'm even doing any of this correctly. I run back to the stalls and set the buckets of pulp aside to soak.
I jog out to the pasture with a roofing hammer and spend far too long breaking up the ice in the trough. When I'm done, I am soaked, freezing and there is definitely not enough water in the trough for the horses. So it's back to the house. Then it's back to the pasture, several times. I grab the beet pulp and measure out the proper amounts of grain and several supplements and mix it all together. The horses hear me stirring their food and with some snorting and whinnying they let me know I'm taking way too long. While our horses eat, I portion out some kibble for our cats, kibble for one of our dogs and canned food for the other.
Now, the horses figure that yelling at me is a fine way to tell me they're ready to go out. So I lead one horse into the pasture, hold onto him while I fiddle with the four strands of the electric gate, then I fiddle with getting his halter off. When I return to the stalls, the other horse is not feeling much like wearing a halter this morning. I remain calm for 10 minutes and countless attempts at putting the halter on. It pays off. I lead him out, hold him while I fiddle with opening the gate, then hold him while I get it closed. Now he won't let me take his halter off. Ten more minutes of my being calm, but persistent and he finally relents. I look at my watch. It's two minutes past eight, and I'm late for work.
A while later, I am at work, seated and looking out the window, wondering if I put the right blankets on the horses. If it rains today I may return home to get them in. What did these animals do before we came along? More correctly: what did we do before these animals came along? What did I do, for that matter?
I can't imagine being satisfied with any other kind of life. I love being married with horses. Tonight, my wife will call from another city, and I'll ask her some horse questions and tell her that we all miss and love her. We are considering getting another horse and show season starts in less than a month, but those are probably adventures for another time.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in Grifton, N.C., with their two cats, two dogs and two horses.
Read Jeremy's other columns in EquiSearch's Humor section.