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You can find peace, serenity in the barn

A friend and I were talking this morning and one of the things that came up was time spent in the barn and what it can do for you. Everyone who has horses knows that time spent riding is not deducted from your natural life span, but not everyone knows what time spent in the barn can do for you.

Now this lady is the mother of six kids, all of whom are all grown up, and she was the wife for many years of a very busy horseman who was a farrier and a steeplechase trainer. She herself ponied thoroughbreds at a couple of the tracks here in the Maryland area and did a lot of other horse involved things as well.

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I am 69. She is older than I am by a little bit but she goes to the barn every day and takes care of some of the things that need to be done on the farm for her very busy kids if they call and say that they are running late. She also helps out a less physically able friend who still has an aged horse and is keeping a couple of other horses.

The reason that we were talking today is because she got, well, punted a bit by her favorite mare. She was out in the big run-in shed with a shedding blade getting some of that long hair off the mare and it turned around quickly and just sort of blipped her with its hip. Down she went and realized that she wasn't going to hop right up again. She crawled about "three crawls" as she put it, then used the shedding blade to hook over a door handle to jockey herself upright and then she called her daughter.

Now she is at home, on the couch, with pills from the doctor. And what we were talking about that is making her unhappy is that, right now, she can't go back out to the barn. Yup. The doctor is against it, the kids are against it and, face facts, her physical condition is against it.

The reason that I am writing this is because we both agreed that, after a day when everything conspires to take piece after piece out of you, going to the barn and just being with the animals puts the pieces back inside of you and in the right places, too. I don't know how that happens and neither did she, but it does.

We are not talking about doing the barn work now. We are talking about sitting on a bale of hay surrounded by the happy animals and just waiting for the sweet peace slip around us and overcome us and heal us.

It is not Zen and it is not meditation and we certainly don't sneak down there and get a snort of white lightning out of a jug in a hidey hole in the hay bales ... however good an idea that might be, come to think of it.

We do not elevate ourselves above the world mentally, we don't do breathing exercises and quite often it is too darn cold to study our navels. We just go down there and sit on a bale of hay and, well, wait. We can't explain what is going to happen but we know that it will.

While we wait we watch the horses or the barn cats or even the silly chickens and we pat the dog that comes up and pushes his nose under our hand to ask if we are OK.

We allow ourselves to become fully involved in what is happening around us as though it is the most important thing in the world. We listen to the horses munch their hay.

There is something ultimately satisfying about listening to a horse strip the hay out of a hay rack and then munch it between his big old teeth. It is sort of like, "Swish! Crunch, crunch, crunch. Swish! Crunch, crunch, crunch."

There certainly doesn't seem to be anything metaphysical about that — and yet, somehow ... there is. Go figure.

My friend and I agree that the process and the result is somehow magical but not explainable. Her husband, horseman that he was, would often say to her, "I don't know why you just go and sit there with those horses!"

She said she never could explain it to him.

She also said that she would often see him through the window leaning on the fence and just watching his beloved cows grazing. She said when he came up from watching the cows he was in that peaceful state so we agreed it must be something farming and animal universal.

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But she also said, "I never could figure out what he got out of just staring at those cows!"

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