Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Longears are Good for the Soul

by Jenn Schmuck, Hennef, Germany,

I think all of the Mules and More readers know how good our longears are for us. My husband and I feel blessed to be owned by them every day. There’s nothing like coming home from work and being greeted by a longear hanging her head over the gate to get some ear scratches. After spending some time in the dry lot or even just watching them through the windows all stress and troubles just melt away and we feel calm and happy. Watching our three mules and the donkey munch their hay is just so peaceful (well, if they’re not jostling for the best spot at the hay feeder). And the countless situations when I look out of the window and see our boys playing, or the girls grooming each other, or someone having found a spot in the winter sun, lying flat on the side...It’s just wonderful to live with longears.

This is not something we should take for granted. I was reminded of this lately when my husband Steph’s good friend Piotr came to see us over the weekend. Piotr lives in Berlin, a big noisy metropolis. He lives in an apartment with a noisy neighbour above him. He leads a busy life, often with worries, as he has a company that develops electrical surveying systems. Lately, he has often had customers who won’t pay their bills, so he struggles to keep his company afloat. At one point a few weeks ago he was so exhausted, done in and tired that when he called Steph he made hardly any sense. He said that he needed a break, that he couldn’t go on right now and that he would get into his car and drive over to see us. He did, although he couldn’t get away from his office until late and it is a six hour drive to get here.

When he arrived I was struggling not to let him see how much his exhaustion showed. His hands were shaking, he was extremely hectic and nervous, and he looked dead tired. I made him eat something and then we all went to bed.

He slept straight through and got up already looking much less tired and his hands weren’t shaking anymore. Still on the couch under his sheets he had exclaimed about the quiet and peace. After breakfast we took him out to the longears, and Steph handed him a fork to help shovel poop. It was quite hilarious to see him try to use the fork, until Steph showed him how you scoop up the poop and shake the fork so that the sand falls through the fine teeth. At this point not only had the men company (that is normal here, you cannot do anything without having at least one longear with you who oversees what you’re doing), but also was the company very interested to see such an exotic handling of a poop fork!

The sun was shining thankfully, and Piotr and Steph were surrounded by happy longears who butted in wherever possible to get scratches and pats. Piotr had started to smile and laugh again, but he was still talking very fast and moved faster than necessary. He was better, but still tense. After cleaning the dry lot we took out Larry, Steph’s john mule, and Will, my Mammoth donkey, to be brushed. Piotr brushed Larry with Steph’s help. Larry was being very patient with Piotr, who of course had never brushed an equine before and tried to use the wrong brush in the wrong way on the wrong body parts. Steph told Piotr what brush to use for what part of Larry, and explained that Larry was also telling Piotr that and explained about tail swishing. When everybody was ready we all went for a walk. At first Piotr walked behind us, enjoying the quiet, and the landscape. Will and I walked in front, because he always wants to go in front (in his opinion you really cannot walk second in row and if you ask him to, he will walk painfully slow). After a while Steph convinced Piotr to take Larry’s lead rope, and that helped Piotr to forget any stress or worries he had brought with him, as he now had to concentrate to keep Larry from taking breaks to snack. He had to pay close attention or Larry’s head would go down and there they were, grazing instead of walking. Will in the meantime was disgusted, walkies, as the name implies, are for walking and taking in the scenery, not for eating.

We walked a nice loop over the hills surrounding our home, a trail that offers nice vistas of little villages, the woods, and pastures. It was a wonderful day for a walk.

In the evening Piotr went outside with us to feed. He watched me put together everything, asked me to explain what they have for dinner. Instead of being all fidgety he leaned on the gate and watched us tie everybody to their designated dinner post. He was to hold Will the donkey’s dinner bowl for him that evening, as it’s always nice if someone holds the bowl so that Will won’t step into it and turn it over. I think this was the icing of the cake for Piotr. He was holding the bowl and beaming. Will, who usually isn’t a big fan of strangers, really liked Piotr and was munching away contentedly. Standing there, in our dry lot in our peaceful valley, with my wonderful donk, Piotr let go of all his stress and worries and finally found an inner calm.

The next morning Piotr was pretty deft at cleaning the dry lot with Steph, and then was taught how to scratch ears and butts. He had escaped his hectic life for a weekend. He left for home that day, with new energy and a new calm.

This visit has called to my mind again how blessed we are. Steph has always said that cleaning the dry lot before leaving for work is not a burden of any kind, but a great way to start his day. Now Piotr understands why. Our longears are the best therapy to cope with our hectic work lives. It’s not only trail riding that is good for the soul, but just being with longears. Of course trail riding is wonderful too. Our girls love to go trail riding and when we are on the trail they are so obviously happy to go and radiating that happiness that it makes you just blissfully happy yourself.

People who do not know longears often exclaim about how expensive it must be to keep them, and all the work that needs to be done, and how we live out in the boonies and away from the cities. All I can say is, we lead a wonderful life and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Happy New Year, everybody!

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