By DANIELLE LATTUGA
The other day, I was washing my hands and a brief glance in the bathroom mirror revealed that something was askew with my hair.
Granted, this is not unusual—I am not one to brush my hair very often. However, things were particularly awry and a closer look revealed a massive rat’s nest at the back of my head—a sticky tangled mess that included a few bits of hay and perhaps a fragment or two of oat.
No, this was not the result of a romp in the hay with my sweetie (although that’s not unheard of!). It was Smoke’s handiwork, or noseywork, if you want to get anatomically correct.
We had just spent the afternoon together, out to pasture. After sharing a carrot with him, he decided that he should investigate the back of my head, in case I was hiding another, somewhere in my mane.
I am a snuggly person. I love the warmth of other bodies. Luckily, I have a lover who happily provides the majority of the heat and security I require.
No, I am not getting all Catherine the Great (it’s not true, anyway) on you, here. And get your minds out of the gutter. This is not about sex; it’s about affection. I snuggle with my dogs—their soft coats predispose them to affection. And now, I snuggle with Smoke. I take it as a privilege, since he’s a horse with a propensity for ignoring people.
Smoke and I shared the sunshine with two of our friends, their horses and the rest of the herd.
Having just lost my 19 ½ year old cat and dealing with a potential move away from Montana, I’ve been pondering the nature of loss, pretty intensely. I began to talk with one of my friends about what our relationships with these horses mean.
I admit that one of the biggest things that makes the idea of moving away slightly unpalatable (aside from my deep love of Montana) is the big thing that was standing behind me, warming my neck with his breath. I can call my family and friends. I can bring my dogs along. As another buddy, Pam, pointed out, horses aren’t that good at texting.
There is no question that the bond between woman and horse is quite unique. I’ve spent a lot of time with women and horses in the last few years, and I’ve accessed a part of myself that I didn’t really know was there.
Horsewomen seem to exhibit a fine balance of independence and grace when they are in the realm of the horse. Somehow we are less tame. Somehow we are more present.
My friend, who shall remain nameless, readily admitted that she has wondered if she’d miss her horse or her husband more, if they passed away. I often joke that Smoke is my mane man.
I mean really, who are we kidding? Most women I ride with act like there is nothing else in the world when they are with their horses.
It’s true that looking at the moon through the frame of Smoke’s ears, that day, was pretty beautiful.
So, maybe our main men do suffer a little neglect when a horse is in the picture. Lucky for us, our guys have their own thing going on and probably don’t mind if we get out of their hair and hold onto the mane for a little while.
I don’t really believe that a relationship with a horse can replace a relationship with another human, but I do believe that a relationship with a horse is unlike any other.
Who else will call you out on your s!#* so clearly and instantaneously, without causing you great offense? Who else will carry you back to the present before you even realize you’ve left it? Who else can slobber in your hair without totally grossing you out?
Yeah, that’s love.
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Danielle Lattuga is a novice horsewoman, frequently found guilty of confusing hoof beats with heartbeats. She believes that riding and writing are not so different – both part poetry, part sweat. Follow her into Montana’s horse country, and find out if she’s right.