I am person of contradictions.
I am a night person, a city girl, a scholarly introvert. I prefer 11 p.m. to 11 a.m.; I usually feel as if I haven’t woken up properly before seven o’clock in the evening. I dislike noise, but I prefer the constant hum of the city, with the occasional wails of sirens and the punctual trembling of the walls as trains rumble beneath the street outside, to the sharp disturbances to a countryside’s peace: four-wheelers, lawn-mowers, chain-saws. Mockingbirds.
Oh, especially mockingbirds.
They wake up as early as horses.
And horses: there is my contradiction. They love all the things that I dislike.
There are two problems with horses, in my book. (Well, aside from the obvious ones: their suicidal nature, their expensive taste in shoes, their delicate palates, their inability to keep their rooms clean.)
The first is that they get up too damn early. I have yet to find a breed of nocturnal horses, although I am still hopeful. I hate mornings, despise mornings, cannot stand mornings. I don’t see the point in mornings. Yes, yes, the sun has come up, and what exactly does that have to do with me?
The second is that they live in the country. And I am bored with the country. I am bored with quiet, punctuated by the occasional, unpleasant power-tool. I enjoy rain again, by the way. And thunderstorms. Because I’m no longer in a state of panic about what the water is doing to my horses’ hooves, or whether or not lightning is going to drop down and find one of my horses as they graze. I’ve traded a growing paranoia for a gentle nostalgia, remembering what the thunderheads looked like glowing pink in the sunset, forgetting the lightning that took our telephone so many times that we gave up having it repaired, or the constant wailing of the NOAA radio reminding us to take cover from tornadoes, hail, deadly lightning, flooding rains. The daily apocalypse of Florida farm life was growing wearisome.
Horse-people are horse-people, though. There’s something fundamentally wrong, or gloriously right, with us, that we can’t think of anything except horses for most of our waking hours. (And then we dream about them, too.) I’ve found my horse exile as frustrating as it has been pleasant. The sleep is great, but where are the prickly-soft muzzles, searching my hand out for the treats I lied and said I’d never give them?
But now I have finally found some: city horses. And not racehorses, who live (sort of) in the city but who get up so early that it’s positively absurd (forget about sunrise, they get up with the dim anticipation of sunrise so far from one’s mind that daylight seems like a remote dream), but plain jane riding horses who awake at a somewhat reasonable hour, around seven o’clock, and start looking for their breakfast with a general air of interest and not a bucket-slamming temper tantrum.
I’m calm, you’re calm, everyone’s calm, here’s your breakfast, thank you for not whinnying and bursting my slumberous ear-drums. It’s kind of like that in the morning. It’s soothing. Getting up at 4:00 to take a train to the racetrack and listen to shouting men and shouting horses was taking a toll on my horse-obsession. Quiet, golden-lit mornings with a pair of draft horses, listening to the traffic on 5th Avenue and the dogs barking as they enjoy the off-leash hours in Central Park, are very much my style these days.
So here’s my reconciled contradiction, as captured by a few nice on-lookers during a quiet turn-out sesh in Olmsted’s famous park yesterday. The Bridle Path reclaimed from joggers for just a few hours, so that my buddies Monte and Pete could have a game of halter-tag, show off their squeal/back-up/kind-of-rear routine, before they go out on patrol as members of the Parks Department’s Mounted division.
Parks horses taking a break in Central Park twitter.com/kevindelaigle/…
— Kevin de l’Aigle (@kevindelaigle) April 21, 2012