For several years I have been taking riding lessons until this summer found me without a trainer and riding on my own. Lucky for me this unchaperoned riding experience coincided with my current equine love affair with a 22 year old Arabian named Cosmos whose age in horse years just about matches my human equivalent; let’s just say that although he has been a first class show horse all of his life he now requires a lengthy warm up and a significant coughing spell during the first trot of each work out. But don’t misunderstand me, the ole Cos still gets plenty excited when he gets going, especially when he knows there is going to be jumping involved—it’s in his blood after all. We suit each other fine.
One sticky summer night a few weeks ago Cos and I had a date to ride; it was almost ninety degrees outside at six in the evening and the flies were thick, so of course he was a bit fidgety and sluggish. I could feel my own sweat pouring down my neck from under my helmet and I knew that Cosmos probably had some major ‘butt cheese’, as they call the white perspiration that runs down between the buttocks of the horse. Well into our warm up he began lowering his head to one side and then the next as if he had an itch under the girth and I kept pulling his head up as I had been taught by my instructors—”don’t let him do that, he is testing you, he knows better, it’s time to work.” But then I realized I wasn’t in a lesson, there was no instructor, and by God if he has an itch we are going to get nowhere until it gets scratched. So I did the unthinkable. I leaned forward onto his neck, reached down with both arms, and wiggled my fingers under the girth on both sides. Then I began scratching as hard as I could. As I was relieving his itch I remembered how as a kid I would offer to scratch one of my sibling’s backs in exchange for the same from them and I wondered if and how Cos would reciprocate. I wasn’t disappointed.
As I finished scratching I sat up in the saddle, gathered up the reins, and as if to thank me, Cosmos, apparently feeling like his youth had returned, took me on a thrilling lap around the arena, jumping all the ground poles at a very brisk canter, ears up in anticipation and excitement. For a few brief moments we were both younger versions of ourselves and we were flying, our aging cares left behind in the dust!
Cosmos reminded me once again that life’s difficulties and unpleasantries, especially in these later years, can be greatly eased by the simple covenant of a scratched itch by a dear friend.
Thank you Cos.