After this January thaw, the farm has an austere winter beauty: planes of pale color, bare trees, ribbons of pond ice, the old horses all haired up, their russet coats tinged with grey. One day it was mild and misty, the ground turning to soupy mud. Glasgow, retired celebrity Grand Prix jumper w/ enormous ego and desire for attention, made a big show of galloping his fence line and sliding around—his non-subtle way of saying, Bring me in now! I want grooming and dinner!
Next day it was brilliant sun and cold. Between photographs, I warmed my ungloved hand in my coat pocket.
Grappa, Otter and Onira grazed lazily together, enjoying the faded grass enough to keep at it but not so much they couldn’t pause to visit with me: their warm breath and oaky-sweet smell; whiskery, bearded muzzles; contented eyes. They licked my hands with their thick, grass-flecked tongues. I buried my fingers in the plush fur under their forelocks. One of them would get jealous and chase away the current object of attention—ears pinned back and teeth bared—then turn to me sweetly, wanting a forehead rub.
Onira is Brianne Goutal’s longtime Grand Prix partner, for World Cup finals and many big wins. He’s joined my two in retirement: three bays with stars, all having given their riders quite a bit more than we (their riders) could have considered our due. Beyond all the ribbons, the proverbial hard-work-paying-off, it was the feeling of intense connection with these powerful, generous animals—how they’d look out for us when it mattered most, again and again. This is why we make sure they have every possible horsey comfort for the rest of their lives.
Here are scenes of the farm on these January days:
Feature photo: antique bank barn, circa 1900