I knew on the way home that tonight was the night. I hadn’t sat on my horse's back in 3 days and my rear end was starting to miss the place that felt like home. It was windy but dry on my walk home from the bus stop. The snow from the day before was a distant memory and the now 48 degree temperature felt almost tropical. This was the 4th day in a row I had used the bus to commute to work. I was getting used to walking in the dark. My reflective orange safety vest and miner’s head lamp were now an integral part of my daily wardrobe.
Grace gave me an impatient nicker when she saw me walk past the house and up to her pasture. She was still adjusting to my new work hours. I stopped by the hay tent to get her a small flake before returning to the house.I knew she would do better with a little roughage in her system. The last time I hauled after work on an empty stomach I spent the rest of the night apologizing for the ulcer flare I should have seen coming.
After giving Grace twenty minutes to eat, Belle and I headed back out to the pasture. Belle took off to dart under the bottom wire of the electric fence in Grace’s direction. Grace lunged at the dog, ears pinned against her head as she leapt across the muddy pasture. They were still at it when I opened the gate, I rather naively expected Grace to walk up to me. As she let out a squeal and twisted in the air, I knew it was going to be one of those nights. I had talked myself out of riding in the bareback pad by the time I tied Grace to the trailer. She was much calmer on Monday night when we did ground work in the dark, but that was before a major weather change and two days off in a row. After tacking up, I secured my head lamp to my helmet,stepped off the wheel hub of the horse trailer and swung a leg over Grace’s saddle. My rear end didn’t get its much anticipated homecoming, as Grace bounced up the driveway towards the Saddle Club. Grace spooked at the reflection of the head lamp against the trees and the puddles as we walked into the arena. I took a deep breath, reached up to my helmet and switched the light off.
The change in the energy was instantaneous. Grace’s jig settled into an even steady walk. I could hear her clean foot falls in the wet sand over the sound of the wind. I felt the symmetry of my seat bones in the saddle on either side of her spine. As I made out the outline of the arena fence and the looming trees behind it, it occurred to me that this was the most centered I had ever felt on my horse’s back. Somehow taking away all the visual noise of the daylight had heighted my sense of feel. The core of my body was able to adjust and follow to the smallest movements generated by the horse underneath me. The more we walked in the dark, the more I started to see.