While visiting my parents recently, I attended church with them. Much to my surprise I heard the following statement: “Some of you look like you’ve been rode hard and put away wet.”
The wordsmith in me immediately pulled out my phone and tapped in the phrase to look up later. Turns out it’s a horseman’s term that refers to someone not taking care of a horse after a hard day.
So we looked like we’d not been properly cared for, huh? Tuckered out, bedraggled, ragtag, worn down, scruffy. It had probably been a tough week for a few people there. In any large group there’s a high probability that more than a few were run ragged that week either physically or emotionally.
The last time I threw my leg over a horse to go riding I hadn’t graduated from high school yet. Now, what feels like nearly a hundred years later, I still remember the sway and roll of sitting in that saddle. The muscles of the horse under me felt powerful and yet, somehow, very gentle. My friend, whose family owned the horses, led the way on her horse through open fields and along the foothills. I could have sat up there all day, feeling like a queen surveying the world.
If you’ve never ridden a horse you’re missing out on one of life’s most eloquent pleasures.
That phrase, “rode hard and put away wet” has stuck with me for days now. Curiosity pushed me to research a bit more about how to care for a horse after a ride or a day of hard work. A few basic steps, about twenty to thirty minutes, and a horse can relax and rejuvenate after a days work.
Loosening the saddle some, pulling up the stirrups so they don’t bang around, letting it walk a bit to cool down are the first things to do. Following that you’d take off the bridle and put on a halter and tie the horse off. Loosen the cinch and take the saddle off being careful not to hit the horse’s back. Remove the blanket, clean off dirt and sweat with a wet sponge and brush and then dry off with a towel. While doing so check for cuts, nicks, and scratches. Check the hooves for stones and mud and use a hoof pick to clean. Lead the horse to pasture, take off the halter and let the horse cool down a bit more before feeding.
I wondered why someone wouldn’t take care of horse when the steps are basic common sense and fairly simple. If it keeps the horse happy and healthy and you care about the animal wouldn’t you do this every time?
What happens when these basic steps aren’t taken? A horse can develop saddle sores, or have untended wounds, become lame or simply be dirty and unkempt and uncomfortable.
I wondered why we don’t do this for ourselves. After a long day working or caring for others do we take basic measures to make sure we’re healthy and cared for?
At the end of the day do we loosen up a bit, set aside worries so they aren’t banging around, cool down a bit and shake off the weight of the day? Is there some basic self-care we could engage in that’s equivalent to having a brush down and our hoofs checked?
More than likely we push ourselves nonstop from the minute we wake up until our head hits the pillow at bedtime. Sure we might turn on the TV or browse the Internet some. For me that’s not much different from wandering into the stall untended. I need a more active, conscientious and deliberate effort to relax and care for my physical and mental well-being.
Reading or writing after a long day works wonders to wipe away the “sweat and dirt” of my day’s ride. Other times, having a conversation with MSH helps me lift the saddle weight of worry from my shoulders. Sometimes simply sitting and doing nothing, staring, thinking or meditating can wash away a day’s stress. If you’re the praying sort, that might be your emotional and spiritual grooming time to work out the kinks of life’s demands. Or maybe a literal washing in the shower or a soak in the tub serves as an emotional cleansing in your day.
Whatever we need to do to avoid being “rode hard and put away wet” seems like a good plan to me.
“A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open.” ~Gerald Raftery
I remember exactly where I was when I heard this phrase for the first time … in the elevator at the federal building downtown, where I was working for the summer during college. Ann Richards came up, and a man in the elevator said she looked this way. It tickled me, though I suppose it wasn’t very respectful at all!