It is good to currycomb draft horses before and after they do the work you ask of them, especially during mid-winter muddy spells. Horses look and surely must feel better in harness with grime-free, brightened-up coats, and the rough-edged rubdown seems to prime the animals for action.
After their labor - which, at this time of year might be skidding logs or hauling firewood and manure - the leather straps, harness, collars, and pads are lifted away in the chill air to expose hair that is mussed up and in places damply matted.
But the currycomb works its wonder one sweeping stroke at a time, restoring the coat's lay and luster bit by bit. In the case of our own draft animals, Doc, Jim, and Ben, grooming is well appreciated, well earned, and worth every tick of the time it takes us.
In fact, the exercise conditions comber as well as combee. It calls for a lot of stretching and bending, good aerobic exercise if one sidesteps the clouds of dust attendant on the pre-work clean-up. And, it calms and soothes like any essentially patterned movement that is too infinitely varied to be merely repetitive.
I currycombed Doc, one of our two Belgians, today before our neighbor Jason harnessed him up to work alongside his own Belgian mare, Julie. His accustomed harness-mate, Jim, seemed delighted to be off the hook, and ambled back to sun on his pasture after we'd brought Doc up through the gate.
Meanwhile, Ben, our black Percheron who has been paddocked next door with Julie this winter, whinnied his protest at her temporary absence, and she answered in full throat from her tether at the harnessing post.
Doc ignored them both, the better to concentrate on and enjoy the brisk movement of the round scalloped comb up and down his body.
As my arm circled over his back, down his sides, under his honey- white belly and along his thickly muscled neck, I happened to glance toward the farmhouse. Flashes of sunlight were glinting off the workshop windows with unaccustomed brilliance and clarity. Then I saw that Charlie was just behind the glass, his arm sweeping up and around the panes in the same rhythmic, unhurried motions as my own. He was washing the windows, and high time one of us did, too.
For a moment our two arms synchronized, then they fell back into their own patterns and paces. Still, it seemed to me we were doing essentially the same thing - banishing dust and currying light in the slow, patient cadence of a wintering farm.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society