The Sights, The Sounds, The Smells of Mane Stream
I drive into the parking lot of the facility where I take adaptive riding lessons. I am delighted by the sight of the horses who have been “turned out” in the surrounding fields. They are peacefully grazing on the grass. Some are frolicking with the other horses. The countryside surrounding the pastures is magnificent, a showcase of beautiful and extravagant horse properties. The field adjacent to the parking lot blooms with bright sunflowers during the summer.
I step out of my car and am treated to the smell of horse manure that spreads beyond the barn where the horses are kept. On days when the farrier is there, the air smells exactly like huge quantities of burning hair as they heat the keratin-rich hooves of the horses who are getting new shoes. It is an odor that is unique to horse boarding facilities. Each horse has its own scent, as well, which drifts out of the barn on the passing breeze and greets visitors.
I hear the sound of the larger horses in their stalls as they whinny and nicker since the barn doors are usually wide open. I love the sound of enormous gushes of air blowing out of a horse’s giant lungs. When it’s cold, I see this vast breath coming out of their noses. If I’m lucky, there is a horse or two on its way to the outdoor ring. As they pass me in the parking lot, I enjoy the sound of the ker-plop of their hooves as their shoes touch the pavement. I am still impressed at the magnitude of these animals.
Once inside, the sounds and smells are magnified and again when I go in the barn itself to mount my horse for my lesson. Once I am securely saddled, I may catch a sniff of leather from the horse’s tack. The sounds are amplified on the back of the horse, and I will see its breath up close as it gets exhaled through their gaping nostrils. After a few laps around the indoor ring, the horse generally likes to cough and clear its lungs, another magnificent sound which may be accompanied by a stunning sight of their breath being exhaled when it’s cold. Even though I’m not supposed to look at the back of the horse’s neck and head from my vantage point, I can’t help but occasionally take in the sight of their beautiful ears that sometimes move independently of each other. Their long mane flies in the breeze as we start to trot, and I have to remind myself to stay focused on where I want the horse to go as it will go where my eyes lead. The slight shifts of my body weight in response to a change in the direction of my glance serve as powerful cues for the horse as I direct it where to go.
After my lesson, I routinely visit my horse in the barn and serve treats. When I give her an apple or a cookie, I am given some horse drool on my hand. If I pet her nose with my spit covered hand, it gets coated with hair.
Mane Stream is a facility where their equine-based programs serve miracles to their special needs participants on a regular basis: www.manestreamnj.org