Equine Therapy

It’s ironic that I have to work so hard to maintain my urban farm that I find I don’t have much time to enjoy it.

by Audrey Pavia
Audrey and Rio

Photo by Audrey Pavia

Me with Rio, one of my equine therapists.

My life is hectic.

I work in an office all day as a technical writer and do freelance work in the evening and on weekends. I also have three horses on the 1/2-acre suburban lot I share with my husband, Randy, as well as seven chickens, a Corgi, and an urban barn cat (more of a garage cat, but we keep the hay in the garage, so it sort of qualifies as a barn). I also live with two rabbits and four cats inside the house.

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It’s ironic that I have to work so hard to maintain my urban farm that I find I don’t have much time to enjoy it. My husband bugs me to slow down and relax, but I can’t. If I want the privilege of this lifestyle, I have to hustle to keep it.

I don’t know if it was a conspiracy between Randy and the horses, or if the horses came up with it on their own, but today was different, at least for a while: I was forced to slow down.

I had just gotten back from the grocery store and went out back to the horse stalls to check on the crew. Rio, my 2-year-old Spanish Mustang, had dumped over his plastic water trough and was playing with it. Randy has water duty, but he was in the house putting away groceries, and there I was. So I figured I would take a minute to fill up the trough.

I pulled the garden hose to Rio’s stall and dropped it in the trough. As I started to walk away, Rio grabbed the nozzle and started to play with it, squirting water all over the place. Knowing this boy’s capability for mischief, I realized I would have to stand guard over the hose the entire time. I had work to do in the house, but the trough needed filling. I hesitated. Should I wait for Randy to do it? Rio looked thirsty. What the hell, I figured. I’ll do it.

I knelt down on the outside of Rio’s stall so I wouldn’t have to bend over (bad back). Rio stuck his muzzle under the spray of water and started to play with it, flapping his lips and giving himself a Water Pik treatment on his teeth. Just then, my handsome 9-year-old Spanish Mustang, Milagro, who shares a fencing panel with Rio, sauntered over to watch.

Then, as if on cue, my very mellow 21-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, Red, came up and stood behind me. He was the lucky one getting “turnout” at the moment, meaning he had the freedom to roam around the outside of the stalls.

As I knelt at the trough, Rio continued to flap his lips in the water while Milagro began to doze. Red hovered over me, his chest only a few inches from my shoulder. His head was above me — when I looked up, I saw the bottom of his chin. He began to sniff my hair and absentmindedly brush it with his lips.

My horses have short attention spans, and such a scene should have only lasted a minute. But it didn’t. For 15 minutes, the four of us stayed as we were: Rio flapping his lips in the water, Milagro dozing within feet of me, Red standing over my shoulder. The sun was warm, the breeze was sweet and the birds were singing. I couldn’t tear myself away, no matter how much work I had to do. Thanks to my horses, I was forced to slow down and live in the moment — and remember why I work so hard.

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