These days, I take forever in the cross ties—especially before my ride. I didn’t used to be this way. My horse always had to be body clipped in the winter, because I didn’t have time to scrape off mud or wait for them to dry. Every minute was precious.

Maybe it’s because I was still married then, and had that thin layer of guilt that comes with an extra twenty minutes spent at the barn when I should have been heading home. Or maybe it’s because I took those days for granted. There would always be another ride, another time to linger. A quick groom, a quick hack, a quick pat to say goodbye. I was always in a hurry.

But these days, I take forever.

I start with the curry gloves, and push my fingers into his muscles, always lighter under his belly so he doesn’t dance around. Then it’s the stiff brush, fly spray or hair conditioner (or both), the soft brush. The face brush with its soft, quick strokes around his doe eyes and absolutely going to be muddy furry cheeks. Maybe a little tail spray.

Most of my friends are already walking to the ring, but not me. I take forever.

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I Take Forever in the Cross Ties