Clifford and the Pond Routine

I’ve noticed Clifford spending more time apart from the other two horses. They are out in the field, nipping off the tips of the new spring grass nearly as soon as it emerges from the dirt.

Clifford spends the heat of the day inside. He has always done that. If given a choice, he will be in the barn until the temperature starts to dip below steaming.

I haven’t been riding. Immersed in another sick family issue, grieving for another lost relationship that was very dear to me, trying to come to terms with the way personal ethics seem to be diving into an abysmal vat of self-righteousness I no longer recognize, I am barely able to function on any sort of useful level these days.

I have been through enough loss to know that I need to find the energy somewhere to bounce back, but I languish.

Clifford looks thin, so I have started walking him out to the dog yard every morning. If I am going to be around, he gets to eat the grass out there. The dog yard is a good size; over half an acre, freshly mowed, with plenty of shade in the afternoon. Clifford has his bucket of water and best of all, he can reach the deck from there, on the occasions when I want to hand down peppermints or carrots.


I am at the pond every morning, pulling weeds, taking pictures of the new flowers, feeding fish, talking to the birds. I love the pond. The sound of the water hitting the rocks is a primeval comfort to me.

And just for these weeks, for this season, it is very important for me to find that peace, that inner solace away from the disappointment, the anger, the frustration, the rage that is brought on by the narcissists who are victimizing the helpless.

I will not permit it. The time is coming. Meanwhile, I have to stay calm, think clearly, and breathe.

The pond helps me do that.


Clifford is getting spoiled, I think. He now waits for me to come out, early every morning, and he nickers to me from the stall. The other horses are nowhere in sight. He is alone, staring at the house.

I go out and get him. It’s usually before 8 am. I put him in the dog yard. He eats the grass or stands by the fence watching me mess around pulling weeds.

Come afternoon, he has to go back into the barn because there is no shade in the dog yard that time of day. He can’t fit under the deck like the dogs do.


So as usual, today, I go and lead him into the barn. When I open the door so he can go back out with the other horses, he just stands there.

“Fine.” I tell him. “You can stay here in the barn aisle. But I am not leaving that door open. If Jr. gets in here he will make a mess.”

Clifford is standing on his cushioned stall mats. I take him a bucket of water and leave it. He can nap now in the cool air for a couple of hours. There is a nice fly trap in there with him, too.

He bumps me with his nose as I set the water bucket down.

“No, I am not staying in here with you!”

I leave the door ajar about a foot, enough for him to see the house, and I go back in.

About three pm, he starts demanding to come out.

So I go get him. I lead him over to the dog yard. He goes back out on the grass, but then just stands there looking at me. I go back in the house and he positions himself by the deck and snoozes there. Every time he hears my voice, or if I go outside, he hollers to me.

In the evening I sit down by the pond. He has had his fill of grass and he goes to the gate. He thinks it is time to feed, I guess.


I go open the gate and he walks out. He ambles over to a burgeoning patch of tender clover and nibbles at it. So instead of putting him away, I decide to just let him hang out.

He does not go to the barn and beg for grain. I sit by the pond, and he wanders around eating grass.

As the sun dips below the horizon, I stand up suddenly. It’s time to go in.

That’s when his head pops up and he marches over to me. He waits patiently while I take his halter and we walk together back to the barn.


I realize then that all he wanted was to hang out with me.

I have developed this daily ritual I wasn’t even aware of.– up in the morning, early. Have coffee by the pond. Watch the birds. See what’s new and blooming.

Midday, taking a break from work, in the heat of the day. Maybe have lunch outside. Talk to the bees.




Evening, sit by the pond as long as I can and enjoy it before the mosquitoes get too bad.

This whole spring season, he has been watching from the barn, like a hawk. And, well, why shouldn’t he just hang out, too? After all, it’s what he did at home. It’s what he does on Drummond.

He’s exactly like my dogs who pine by the fence if I’m outside without them.

Tonight, when his head popped up and he came over to be put to bed, I realized I am not alone.


There is a long, long established relationship that is still maintained, over 23 years. It has never changed.

Those who think that animals do not have emotions are so wrong. This relationship is just as valid as any I have ever experienced, and more so than some.

Those of us who can establish this with an animal are truly blessed. They don’t have motives of greed or changing to please some new spouse, or suddenly reaching the peak of inappropriate judgment due to adopting some new religion. A horse is who he is.

I may be accused of anthropomorphism, which just makes me yawn, because that whole idea is so superior and, gratefully, becoming passe’. It is Clifford’s idea to define some sort of normalcy in this location. He and I hang out together. That is just what we do. He was trying to tell me that, and I wasn’t following.

It’s pretty astonishing that even after 23 years, he is still teaching me stuff.



About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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2 Responses to Clifford and the Pond Routine

  1. Kathy Miller says:

    Nancy, I wish I lived next door to you and we could be close friends. Clifford could teach Boomer so much and you and I would just be content to watch. Please dont get weirded out about this post. I am a good person, not a stalker, just need non-judgemental friends also. Be aware that there are folks that follow you and Clifford on line, I have even met you once, and so admired your quiet confidence. I do pray for you and hope you find the peace you are looking for.


    • Thanks Jackie! I’m not “weirded out” at all. I am sure you have a life, and therefore have no need to be a stalker! I thank you for your kind words and for the encouragement! I appreciate you reaching out, and hope that you and Boomer find a non-judgmental group to hang out with!


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