The Lessons of Dusk


By now, regular readers of this blog will know that almost every phrase I write has [at least] two meanings. In my own time, I’ll get around to Dusk, the Dimming of the Day [known to modern tweeners as Twilight]; but I’ll begin with Dusk the QuarterHorse. Although I had been on and around horses since the age of 7, they had always been the Property and Responsibility of Others, whose ultimate decision it was whether to call the vet [or, alternatively, to reckon that a wound or a gimpy leg was just “summat & nowt”]. I may have been the one to cleanse the wound or soak the hoof; but I was not in loco parentis [the horse’s “mother”]. What a heavy burden that vet-or-not decision is, when you are responsible for a large, beloved, expensive animal’s welfare!

You collect equine health tips from all sorts: the stable lads, trainers, more seasoned owners, books, that old telly show All Creatures Great & Small. And soon you develop a rubric: a rough guide, to avoid the pitfalls of Fiddling While Roame Burns, on the one hand, and Crying Wolf, on the other. After “To Call or Not to Call the Vet?” comes the dilemma, “Stall Rest, or Walk It Off?” You see where I’m going with this? The corollary of “Adopt your body as a rescue pet,” is “Treat your body as well as you would treat my old mare, Dusk.” Unless a horse has had a catastrophic injury [like Barbaro], often [not always], exercise is a big part of the solution.

Obviously, their exercise may need to be modified from the classic beast-of-burden routine. The horse may need to be lunged [on a real or “pretend” lungeline], or ridden at a more sedate pace, or even taken for a swim. As anyone who followed the sad story of Barbaro knows, stall rest makes most horses stir crazy. They mope and stiffen up and get swollen ankles and develop “stable vices” [such as gnawing the wood or metal of their “cage”]. To anthropomorphize, they appear to get angry at their enforced idleness & confinement. Baby, they were born to run! And so were we humans.

Now, for the other lesson of tenebrosity. As noted in previous posts, most diurnal creatures get more fearful with the fading light, when they cannot see [potentially threatening] things as clearly. In the UK in the 60s, instead of school cancellations for snow, we had “fog days.” After some trial & error, we developed a rubric: “If we can’t see the blue door of the house across the road in our rural village, it’s a foggy day in London Town, as well. Ergo, no school.” Think Sherlock Holmes mysteries and Jack the Ripper flicks [not to mention the many iterations of the Jekyll & Hyde story]. “Cue the fog machine!”

So, have you seen this week’s news photos of Los Angeles’ smoke-shrouded skyline? Our kid’s college is a few miles south of the San Gabriel mountain fires; and the Dean sends us daily e-mail updates [no doubt, meant to allay parental fear, but having the opposite effect, in this household]. I bet he’s rethinking how swell it is, to be in loco parentis. The first safety measure the school took was to proscribe all outdoor athletic and recreational activities. Everyone at Claremont is on Stall Rest, until the smoke clears. [Highly inconvenient.]

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Filed under black and white thinking, born to run

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