Finding Horses Part of Journey
Last weekend, I was strolling around a 13th-century Stave Church in Oslo, Norway.
People have asked me: OK, you just casually took a weekend excursion to some exotic country over 4,000 miles away?
Of course, I told them. I do it all the time. Private jet and VIP service. The whole nine yards.
I was kidding, of course. In celebration of my aunt Cori Bargmann’s Kavli Prize in neuroscience, my lucky family got to travel to the Scandinavian country for a few days.
But I digress. Back to the Stave Church, where I was gazing up at the imposing oak walls, admiring the painstakingly crafted patterns on its roof. I drew a deep breath and smelled faint hints of old incense.
The atmosphere seemed to transport me back in time. I closed my eyes.
And suddenly, I was jolted back to consciousness. By a single, deep-throated, piercing whinny.
My eyes flew open, and I smiled in delight at the familiar sound. Music to my ears.
After hurrying down a wooded trail and along a dirt path, I encountered a small fenced-in pasture — and saw a tall bay draft horse standing near its edge.
He swung his head around and looked in my direction. His forelock spilled out over his entire forehead, rendering both of his eyes hardly visible.
He was wary at first. He raised his head and eyed me, regarding my outstretched fingers as a possible afternoon snack. But after a sniff or two, he dropped his muzzle into my hands and accepted my head rub placidly, sighing in relief.
I only bid him goodbye after my hands were sufficiently blackened with horse hair and dirt.
Even on these non-equine adventures, it seems to be an uncanny ability of mine to find a horse anyway.
During my senior year of high school, I studied abroad for a month in Grenoble, an urban area nestled in the Alps in southern France.
Over half a million residents and as many ski resorts as Pinehurst has golf courses. And for the first two weeks, not a horse in sight.
But on a run one day through a residential neighborhood outside the city, the fates struck — I came across three fat and fluffy ponies, probably Connemaras, grazing some distance away.
Enticing them to leave their grassy feast ended up being an impossible task. But on a return trip up the hill several days later, I caught one of the mares lurking near the fence, and I paused to feed her an apple slice before continuing my jog.
It happened again on our family vacation in summer 2011. While walking around Schloss Nordkirchen in Westphalia, Germany, I saw a herd of horses in front of the park’s castle.
A sign on the fence in German probably said something along the lines of “no one is permitted beyond this fence,” and my parents, sensing my intentions, warned, “Sarah, don’t do this.”
Naturally, 17-year-old rebel that I was, I shrugged, ducked between the fence slats and strode confidently towards the herd. If need be, I would play the dumb-American-can’t-read-German card. Easy.
The horses swarmed me, and I petted two noses at once, working my way around the circle. I looked back towards the fence. Dad was shaking his head.
My ballet flats and new sweater were muddied within a minute. But after nearly three weeks removed from the barn, I was basking in the glorious aromas of pastureland and fresh manure.
Attempts to remove me from horses for extended periods of time have proved largely futile. I guess my equestrian ways are just meant to be.
Contact Sarah Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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