Summer seems to be here in full swing in the South. It was as if the weather went last week from a nice, cool, wet Spring to muggy, miserable, energy-draining, 90-degree humidity in the blink of an eye. As a Minnesota native, I struggled in the heat for many years until I finally figured out a while back that it was okay to slow down on hot summer afternoons. Rather than ride in the afternoon, I could write. Rather than muck stalls at noon, I could do that in the evening. I’ll even admit to the occasional summer afternoon nap.
Acknowledging and respecting the heat should be obvious to many, especially people who grew up in warmer climates, but to a hard-working upper mid-westerner, that lesson only came after years of letting the heat beat me up day after day. Of course, when I finally decided to work with the heat, rather than against it, a horse was involved.
I have long been an advocate of humans studying the horse to learn about him- or herself. It’s what I teach in my clinics and it is a theme that runs through many of my books. Horses study people all the time. It is part of their safety system, and over time, horses have developed an innate ability to tell if a human is mad, sad, tired, sick, angry, or joyful––all from a hundred or more feet away. Why, then, could I not understand that if my horse was hot, then I might be, too?
Then one hot Tennessee day a draft mare that I was caring for became overheated while standing in her paddock under the shade of a lovely, old tree, and something inside me clicked. Just maybe, it was too hot for me, too. I brought the mare in, hosed her off and dried her, then put her in a stall under a fan. Then I did the first smart thing I’d done in a while and went inside.
Many people love the heat. Not me, but I have learned to use it to my advantage. I write all year long, but I am far more productive in the summer, when high temperatures force me inside. The afternoon heat removes all temptation for me to perform yard work, mow the pasture, clean stalls, ride, fix the fence, haul hay, and all the other outdoor activities people with horses regularly do.
Instead, I get to write. I get to put down words that help someone forge a better relationship with his or her horse, and words that hopefully engage people as they help Cat Enright, my protagonist, solve a horse-based who-dun-it.
Summer heat? It will never be my favorite thing, but I’ve learned to make it work for me. How about you? Heat or cold. Which do you prefer?