It is hot on the high desert plateau of western Colorado. The maddening, clacking of whirling grasshopper wings fills the silent void of summer stillness. Gnats crawl into my hair and gnaw on my scalp. The stoic equines endure this all with a Buddha-like equanimity. A firm stomp or head toss is their amenable response to conditions that turn my irritations into a primal scream.

The equines have seemingly transcended uncomfortable circumstances with extreme grace. Some rare humans share this quality. My almost 91 year old mother resides within the category of such endurance.  She mentioned to a mutual friend that her tooth “hurts a little”.  I took her in for a check-up and the gasp of horror from the dental assistant told me enough. She was rushed to hospital, and as the offending tooth was being extracted, the surgeon commented this would have taken down an NFL linebacker.

What constitutes grace under pressure? In my experience, our animal friends can teach us volumes on this subject. A dog gives enduring love and affection without any expectation of reciprocity. An errant human can leave their “best friend” for hours/days without any harsh feelings of reproach upon return. Do any of us know a human who has such stellar qualities?

Equines are not as exuberant or indulgent (of us) as dogs, but they have a certain measured reservoir of physical and emotional strength that transcends human comprehension. Well, maybe not my mother, but the rest of us mere mortals.

The horse flies bite Chief’s face until they draw blood. His steady eye watches me as I wildly try to swoosh them off. He thinks I’m mad.

Traveler’s front feet are tender. He stumbles beside me over rocky terrain, catching himself and then finds suitable footing in sandy spots off the trail. Just being together on an adventure transcends his discomfort and we find a way to be in simpatico gait.

Geronimo is always “starving”. His meager start in life has created his present food obsession. He can’t help himself, nibbling at dry, brittle stickers protruding from the earth. It is our constant battle when he is haltered, and knows that he is not to eat with “that thing” on his head. My angry outburst at the umpteenth time in correcting this bad habit is met with his liquid brown eyes of adoration. I burst into tears, and in a flash, he uses my moment of emotional drama to grab another bite. This makes me laugh. He knows well how to steer me into lightness from such “grave and serious transgressions”, i.e. grass nibbling.

Animals can sense our futile worries and strident human “need to control”, but they are too present to go down that slippery slope into the sinkhole of “what if’s?”. I suspect this is why we find them so peaceful to be around. It’s a form of pure intelligence.

When the heat is on, the truth comes out. There is nowhere to hide, and I’m grateful it is usually only my animals (and my mom) who see the worst of me. They forgive with natural impunity. In turn, I hope they can feel my respect and protective calm. It is something we have worked out between ourselves. I may be the weaker emotional link in this chain, but they know they can trust me implicitly. My outbursts are perhaps even slightly entertaining, especially to Chief.

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