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CHILLIN' In The Country

Lynne Holt

Here we are with the heat of the summer still ahead of us. My old house, under the trees, up in the mountains, keeps cool even on the hottest days. Something to be said for the old cellar and lack of being totally wrapped in insulation, I guess. There are a number of ways to cool off in the out-of-doors. Just being in the woods can feel degrees cooler. The earth does not sit open to the sun's rays and there is continual shade. But to make it even more comfortable, I head for the creek that runs between the mountains. If you are hosting a picnic and have a nearby spring or creek, it is great place to keep a watermelon cool.

I introduced a teenage girl to this activity. First, almost every girl has this thing about horses. I think it must be the combination of romance associated with the horse, the beauty and grace of the animal's movement, and a feeling of balance with one of nature's larger creatures. She was visiting her grandmother and I got a call about perhaps could I give her a riding lesson. Well, convention has never been one of my big things, so I said it is going to be hot, let's take the horses down to the creek. No need for boots and breeches, let's wear old jeans and sneakers.

So, with halters and lead ropes we rode the horses down to the base of the mountain where the creek runs. The horses know what we are about and willingly stand in the cold flowing water. This is not only cooling, but therapeutic.

When I do this without the company of another person, I will read book or work a crossword as I sit on one of the horses. The teen was charmed by this. Imagine, getting outside and not depending upon any other source of entertainment. Well, my thoroughbred mare Virginia provided us with some amusement. She likes to paw at the water and get a good splash going. This, in turn, horrifies the very dignified Duchess as she tolerates water for survival purposes only. Then Virginia will stick her nose under the water, simultaneously drinking and blowing bubbles. This is some goofy activity for a regal, old horse.

During all the shenanigans, the horses are cooling off by soaking their feet in the water. Horses' hooves are very important to their well-being. And just as we apply lotion to maintain soft and supple skin, water and mud can create a pliable hoof. The dry, hot weather can make their feet as hard as steel. A half hour goes by quickly. We let them drink their fill and amble out of the creek. I think the horses prefer a drink from the ever flowing creek. The water is always cool, not warm and stagnant. During the time I have been sitting on my very broad-backed, carriage horse, I can feel her cool off. Sometimes Virginia will lie down in the water. This is why I wear the old sneakers…….

The teen took it all in and wanted more. Because of the heat this was to be a short bareback ride down to the creek and back. Two days later she returned for a more conventional morning ride. The earth has had time to cool down overnight and the constant shade made for a most comfortable ride.

When I was the teen's age, my Irish Setter would accompany me on all rides. And every ride had to detour past a pond. He would swim across and onward we would go. I guess there is something to be said for getting a good soak and then continuing on. This past week, I had the pleasure of speaking to the friend with whom I swam the horses. She reminded me how we led the horse out into the pond and then we would climb up on his back, stand up, and dive off. Isn't it grand to be able to recreate memories such as this? But I think we can enjoy these activities no matter what age we are. I have traded a pond for the creek and do not put my horses through the stunts we did as kids. There are great memories with every season. Mine quite often involve horses and always the great outdoors.

Hey, do you think that watermelon is chilled enough to eat yet.

Read other articles by Lynne Holt