Shedding A heavy coat

Rocky and Crissi.

It’s that time of year. Our horse Rocky is so itchy, he’s rubbing up against pine trees to scratch the hair off. I took the shedding brushes out to his paddock and spent some time reaching all the parts he couldn’t. He’s twenty-one this year, and like most of us when we get older, is sprouting hair where there didn’t used to be any. Different than us though, this hair is thick and grips to him like winter is still around the corner.

I’ve written before about the importance of remaining calm in the midst of chaos. Now the chaos is visiting us when we see the things we thought would always be there are gone. We watch the numbers of us affected by the virus go up, and no one knows where this train stops. Or even pauses.

As much as anyone can in these times, I’ve tried to stay informed without spinning emotionally out of control. Many of my loved ones are far away and some of them are older. We live in a mountain town that depends on tourism. We are self-employed and have cancelled our clinics for the foreseeable future. Those thousands of people who have lost loved ones, and the thousands more who are ill. My hamster brain is running itself ragged on the coronavirus wheel.

As horse people, one of the required skills to thriving with horses is the ability to maintain a level head. This is more important than any technique we could ever learn.

So when I went out to brush the horses this morning, I was aware of how close I was to full-blown anxiety. I was also aware that I was relying on my practices to keep me grounded. Deep breath in. Slow breath out. Listen to the birds. Feel the sun warming skin that hasn’t felt the air move across it in months.

The most powerful moment of revelation came when I was brushing Rocky, and watching his obvious pleasure at being relieved of a winter coat that is too heavy. I was fascinated by the ssshhhshhhing of the brush I was using and the hair that let loose in piles and fell to the ground. Rocky stood still even as I brushed those sensitive and hard to reach places; the inside of his hind legs. The underside of his round belly.

The sun, warm. The air, warm. The birds singing. Rocky, his head down, sighing in relief.

This pandemic coat is heavy too. If we believe we wear it alone, it can feel suffocating. But we aren’t alone, are we? We have each other, our fellow humans and we are all wearing the same coat. We may need to socially distance, but we can smile and be kind to those people who have jobs that require they interact with the public. We can leave supplies for our neighbors, who need them too. If we are able to sew, we can make face masks. We can volunteer to deliver meals to those who can’t get out. Even during a time of such stress and fear and tragedy, we can find ways to focus our mind and heart toward being part of a solution.

All our knowledge of the earth, the air, the sea and the skies, is built on hundreds of years of exploration. It is millions of layers of the bravery and courage of those who have gone before us. Horsemanship isn’t any different: what we know, we know because someone else either tried and failed, or tried and succeeded. I believe the horses themselves are doing their part to help us become better listeners, and hopefully, better people on this planet we share with so many other forms of life.

I take comfort in nature’s offerings of being in each moment and enjoying her beauty, even the beauty of winter hair on the ground and the promise of a shiny coat. I take comfort in the eons of people who have got us where we are today. I feel gratitude for all those people we will probably never know or meet, working together to solve our current and historically unique crisis. However this turns out (and I realize there is tragedy along the way), I also have faith that we will learn things that future generations will use to further their own lives. I have the feeling that we will learn something about ourselves, both individually and collectively that will change us.

I think that all of this knowledge and understanding we’ve been collecting about horses for years, sometimes decades, can serve us well. Just when we think we can’t bear anymore, we think of that horse who seemed “broken” and how they came back because of kindness and patience. How our focus on breathing can be applied to help us through our day. How focusing on the wild grassiness of their smell or the way they ruffle air through their nostrils, is a restful moment in a world that is anything but restful.

Those lessons we learned from and about horses aren’t just platitudes or things with which to distract ourselves. They can be applied right now so we can weather this storm. I would say that we no longer have the option to not apply them; these times are why we have learned all we have.

We can brush our horses. Listen to them munch on hay. Ground ourselves in the present so firmly that for those moments we are unencumbered by heavy coats and can bask in the warm spring air. Weave enough of those moments together, and we might actually be able to feel something other than dread. Take that coat off and we can open our bare arms to the sunshine.

26 responses to “Shedding A heavy coat”

  1. Hi, I am getting your blogpost twice, once for my wordpress account and once for my Facebook email address I would like to stop getting them at the email, since I get them on Facebook already.

    Love your posts, Crissi, but don’t want to skew your numbers with a duplicate subscription.


    1. Hi Jet – thank you for letting me know. Numbers don’t matter much to me, but duplication of things that don’t need to be duplicated, do. 😃 I’ll dig around WP and see if I can remove the email address you gave me. Could you also look at the bottom of the email (below the blog) and see if there is an unsubscribe link there!

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Wonderful encouragement, at any time, but especially now. Keep on brushing. 🙂 We all will.

    1. Thank you Marcia – our horses are going to be very shiny this year! My best to you and yours and wishes that y’all stay healthy.

  3. Thank you Chrissie for sharing I really needed that.

    1. You’re welcome, Elaine. 🙂 May you and yours be healthy and well.

  4. Thank you Chrissie for sharing I really needed that. Beautiful and poignant.

  5. The horses are my/our sanity right now. When I lost my husband I couldn’t dissolve into grief because there were three horses and two dogs to get up in the morning and care for. Now I have one and ride another and it keeps me balanced and hopeful these days. we who have these creatures are lucky to have them and if they are with us, a place to go outside and enjoy nature. Thank you for your thoughts Chrissi. I am going to share them with non horsey friends because they are so uplifting. And maybe the lesson we learn from all this is how much we need our “herd” and not just a computer screen.

    1. Ruth, that last line you wrote hit me in all the right places. Thank you. May you and yours be healthy and safe.

  6. Thank you! What a beautiful comparison you made about shedding our coats! Grateful heart. ❤️

    1. Thank you, Pam. It feels good to take it off for at least a little bit. 🙂

  7. Thank you Chrissie for your beautiful and comforting words. Grateful heart. ❤️

    1. You’re most welcome. Be safe out there.

  8. Beautiful.. thank you for your encouraging message.

    1. Thank you, Deb.

  9. Thank you Chrissie, your words strike a deep chord in my heart. I’ve been brushing our horses a lot lately and it is when I am with them that I find a deeper peace. I hope you and Mark are safe and doing well.

    1. Same here, Kim. The horses will help us rough this. Be safe and healthy.

  10. Thank you for keeping it real but encouraging Crissi. I look forward to hearing more from you. Stay safe. Pat

    1. Thank you, Pat. May you and yours stay healthy and well too.

  11. As usual, Crissi, your words are timely, relevant, and at the same time uplifting. Where I live I have lots of room to roam outdoors with my pup and no concern for social distancing. Easy to stay safe. I feel blessed to have this beautiful space and I am so happy to know that you and Mark are home now, where you can also roam and be safe. Time spent with horses is so grounding and we all need that right now. Unfortunately I no longer have my horse herd, and I am truly missing “shedding” time. I do have a beautiful flock of Heritage breed hens and I find myself spending a lot of time with them. They are social, curious, funny and friendly. Cuddling with my girls definitely helps to fill the void. Stay safe. Heart hugs!

    1. Cuddling with hens sounds amazing; I love their noises and responses to the world. And I adore watching them run. Instant joy, right there. May you and your be well, and thank you for your kind words.

      1. Crissi,
        I just realized that my comment on your blog used my Word Press account name. I spoke about the hens filling a void.
        Hugs to you!
        This is Nancy Bourdeau

  12. Your words give me comfort as do my animals. And walking in the woods. And the photo you shared made me realize we have the space now to really think about all the things that have changed for us in this critical time and really how many of those things are a blessing to lose in this season of humanity, just like the winter coat. May you. be well, May we all be well

    1. Thank you for your sincerity, Ritambhara. My wishes to you and yours that you are all well.

  13. So enjoyed this message. It touched me. Thank you. Wishing you, Mark and all your critters good health. Looking forward to seeing you again in hopefully the not too distant future.

    1. Karla! It’s wonderful to see your and Kent’s name here on the blog. 😃 wishing you good health too and I’ll look forward to seeing you hopefully soon! Xo

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