These last few days, as life sometimes demands of you, I’ve spent many more moments than planned away from my computer and from work.
For the most part, I restrict my playtime on social media. I have a chrome extension on my computer that blocks my Facebook news feed, only allowing access to pages and groups I intentionally visit.
I no longer have social media apps on my phone.
But occasionally, after extended absences away, I reinstall the app and spend some minutes seeing what’s been happening.
I stumble across a post from my very brilliant friend Kate Sandel at Soft and Sound, go down the rabbit hole of investigating the dressage test to which she is referring.
Yet again, a horse in the not so delicate hands of a human. A Grand Prix dressage test. A well performed warmblood, a much-lauded rider, receiving commendation for a questionable performance.
I pray to the universe that if I’m to come back to this world a horse, let me be one without athletic vigor. It appears us humans struggle to do little more than extort this for our own benefit.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m operating in a parallel universe. I know a handful of people there that join me.
I really don’t get it. I struggle to understand. I don’t fully grasp why this is something we have to explain or argue for.
That horses are sentient.
That they have an elaborate and complex emotional life.
That it’s an everyday miracle they let us get close to them, let alone ride on their back.
That we need to take more care. The most care.
I think back to the last Black Friday sale. I click on a link, get taken to a page selling bridles.
I can’t find a single one without a crank noseband. My eyes, now used to the vision of noseband-less horses finds the cascade of thumbnails and strapped tight mouths confronting.
I forget this is the norm.
I make an enquiry. If I want one- one without a noseband- I am told, it will be a special order. To modify the bridle to remove it. It will cost extra NOT to have the noseband.
I sink into my seat.
Just now, I decide to change my cover photo on my Facebook page. I choose one with my young horse, of no more than five or six rides, being ridden in a halter.
I wonder to myself if this is the right image. Maybe it might pigeonhole me I think, place me in a stereotype.
I counter myself moments later. If that is the case, I think to myself, let the halter going rider be the box in which I’m placed. I would claw my way out of most of the others.
Yesterday, I’m told a pocket of land close by to me that might be for sale soon. I feel bereft. I often wander the tracks there, am friends with the Fuchsias, the Manukas and the Ferns. I talk out loud to them with the expectation of hearing back.
‘I talk to trees too’, my friend said recently, ‘but I don’t tell anyone else, in case it’s weird.’
‘I think it’s weirder not to’, I say back. ‘To assume the landscape we’re a part of exists without the capacity for reply.’
I worry about the next custodian of the land, that they might take it upon themselves to clear this ancient stretch of bush that’s so alive.
I understand the people that lay in front of diggers and tie themselves to trunks. I think I might be one of them.
My son rang me yesterday, he’s at the top of the South Island camping. A wilderness that’s pristine. He took his fishing rod, planned to sit on the docks and see what happened.
Did you catch anything, I ask him?
‘No mum’, he replies. ‘There are no fish in the water this close to the shore, you have to go out in the boat.’
Those waters should be teaming.
‘That’s sad’, I say to him, and he agrees.
We are not sad that no fish are caught.
We are sad the waters are empty of fish to catch.
The trawlers are out early. Evidence of unsustainable quotas leaving spaces in the sea.
To my mind, these aren’t a series of divided stories without connection. The dressage test and the bridles and the trees and the fish and all the things.
They all interrelate.
And perhaps it’s not the norm to ask,
do you know what the phase of the moon is currently
or how many wild foods can you identify in your area that are safe to eat
or where is due north
or can you point out different star constellations and outline them in the sky
or do you know what the clouds are telling you about the weather
or what the grasses are in the paddocks where your horses eat
If we are looking for the cause of our apathy and our entitlement, this is it.
So many of us do not know the answers to these questions.
We have lost our wider sense of connection, forgotten the intended context of a human on this land.
But the clay of our body remembers, and it’s her whispers that we hear that creates the quiet and unyielding discontent.
The insistent and persistent voice that tells us to stay with the search for better ways.
So with that in mind, to the search for better ways, the process of remembering, and to horses, who one and all are Saints.