At first, Roxanne and Scott Bok merely wanted to preserve the land across the road from their weekend home from encroaching development. But when maintaining the faded glory of the adjoining El-Arabia horse farm was more than their elderly neighbor could handle, Scott’s success in business made it possible to rescue the place. What could an investment banker and a writer know about the rigors of caring for large animals?
The joys, heartbreaks and self-discovery that transformed their lives are detailed in Roxanne Bok’s pastoral memoir HORSEKEEPING. Elements of Emersonian introspection mingle with Bok’s keen eye for the lush landscape and humor for the less-than-tidy aspects of being a gentlewoman farmer.
Anyone who has lived through home restoration will appreciate what it takes to restore an entire farm, from the mall-sized stable down to the riding rings, outbuildings and caretaker’s cottage. Bok is delightfully direct as she describes watching the farm come back to life as uninvited wildlife, accumulated mess and years of neglect are forcibly evicted.
The introduction of horses – and all that goes with them – to the newly named Weatogue Stables sheds a light on what makes some people go “horse crazy.” Starting with a charming pony and a lovable horse named for a giant rodent, Bok and her children begin the fundamentals of “horsekeeping.” But along with the pleasures of caring for and raising horses, dogs, cats and rabbits comes the possibility of loss, and Bok must confront her own fears left by the death of her young mother, even as she helps her own son and daughter understand the joys and sorrows of living with nature.
As the family grows as equestrians and learns the ropes of showmanship and competition, they learn what it really means to be a part of the land, the community and a world too few of us get to enter.