Life is funny. If the opportunities for vocational fulfillment that I’m currently enjoying were presented to me 30 years ago, I’d have realized that it was cool, but I wouldn’t have been focused enough to do the jobs to the best of my ability. I was pretty darned distracted by horses and hanging at the track with my friends–but even though I was a railbird, no one ever talked to me about working at the track, or a career in the sport. Had someone taken the initiative, they might have helped carve the angel out of the stone.
With no wizened racetracker adult to rein me in and help me find my vocation in the sport, I thought of racing as something I loved passionately–obsessively–but something that I did on Saturdays and Sundays, after a full week of work and summer school.
My confusion about the fact that racing could have provided a career was complicated by the fact that I was distracted by pretty rock star faces whose big buses drove down Union Avenue on their way to SPAC. I was pretty easily fascinated by those who had mastered Three Chords and the Truth: “Oooh! Look at that! (Think, “kitten with ADD.”)
This thorough enjoyment of life on the first, most shallow level (that of “having fun”), meant that my talents and gifts weren’t discovered or honed 30 years ago, just suspected to be lurking beneath the surface.
This is why, at 54, I’m running full-throttle through every door of opportunity that God opens for me. I am blessed beyond belief to work at jobs in which I get to do what I love (write, edit) about the objects of my passion (horses). How many people get to say that they work seven days a week, and are absolutely enchanted by the objects of their concentration?
Sometimes the details obscure the mission, and that’s when I have to get back to that which I call, The Core. The raw, organic reason why I do what I do. Allow me to illustrate.
A couple of days ago, I was going from duty-to-duty, the proverbial chicken sans noggin. Meetings, articles to write, ideas to hammer out, contracts to pass on to bosses. As I drove out of my Nth meeting in three days, I realized–as if I’d not seen it a million times before–that I was on George Street in Saratoga, and passing the Oklahoma.
There sat the historic, beautiful training track on the north side of the Saratoga Race Course–and I was driving past it! The races don’t start for a while yet, but horses have been coming in since April 15th. In my flurry of activities and working at several jobs simultaneously–in-between getting bloods drawn and some other tests at my doctor’s office, and being dog-tired from the vampirism I’ve suffered at the hand of my kindly medical professionals–it’s been a rough month. I had lost sight of the reason why I do the jobs I do, and why I love them all. I wear many hats, and all of them involve four-legged equine critters, in one way or another.
The phone meetings, arranging media luncheons, writing and editing articles–all about horse endeavours, but none involving actually touching a horse–are my joy. But the reason why these activities are my joy is that I am obsessed with horses.
So as I drove down George Street, past the Oklahoma–I took stock. I turned left, went up Union a few feet and into the Oklahoma guard post. I chatted with the guard and went straight to the barn of Gary Contessa, a great trainer who’s given me permission to spend Quality Time with his horses.
I pulled up to Gary’s barn, and his familiar green-and-white sign that reads, “Contessa Racing.” Parked the vehicle, and scanned the curious faces peeking out of their stalls.
The first bay on the left seemed to be a friendly filly. Perhaps a two-year-old. I strode over purposefully, offered my fist for her to sniff.
She sniffed, and approved. I kissed her nose, stroked both sides of her head and wrapped my arms around her beautiful muscular neck. She nickered. I nickered. Four minutes of Equine Therapy, and I was good.
This is why I call horses, Valium on the Hoof. I need spend only two or three minutes in the presence of a horse–the animal who graces this planet with its physical presence, even though it’s an utterly spiritual creature. For some reason, horses like humans and choose to hang out on this material plane with us–even though they’re far superior in my humble estimation.
We-none of us–must ever forget why we do what we do. We horse lovers must remember that in under five minutes, the worries of the day–doctors’ tests, work pressure, fears of vocational failure–melt like snow on a warm March morning when we are in the presence of a horse.
I tend to think that horsepeople are far more tuned-in than those who don’t get it. We realize that these ethereal animals want to have relationships with we mere mortals–and we gratefully jump in, face and heart first, to share the experience.
We are blessed, and we need to take time to smell the roses. Rather, to bury our faces into the neck of a willing equine, and smell the hair, the musculature, the scent of sweet timothy. We can be working furiously to publish equine magazines, promote our racing stable, write the next “Black Beauty” or write a race for a track. But unless we spend a few moments, often, with the reason why we’re here–two things will happen.
a) We’ll forget why we do what we do, and become lost in our Life’s Mission; and
b) We’ll lose sight of the fact that horses need us just as much as we need them. Without humans who love them, horses would be slaughtered, eaten, abused and neglected. And there are many humans for whom horses are only good for one of those four things. So we who love them and defend them via a variety of causes need to get rejuvenated so that we can Keep on Keepin’ on.
And that rejuvenation comes not out of a bottle, a walk on the beach or even a good night’s
sleep. The best, most sure-fire way to recharge the battery of a horseperson is for that person to spend time with The Horse, and allow it to heal the tired, overworked, underpaid, writer’s blocked soul.
Find an agreeable horse and owner–always ask permission before touching a horse who’s not yours–but walk out of your office, and straight into the loving emotional embrace of a horse. Feel your soul revive–and carry on your good works. Whether your job is to work to end slaughter and abuse; to grow the sport of racing or to handicap a race–step away from the desk and the computer, and wrap your head instead in the authentic emotional embrace of a horse. Your spirit, mind, creativity and even health will benefit–and you’ll gain what you need to continue…until the next time you need a fix.
Happy Horse Hugging, Everyone. Good night.
Painting of Slash by Brian T. Fox.
Photos of Spider and Twylight Cocktails, courtesy of All Play Stable, Paul H. Rothfuss.]