What is it about the stable that transforms grown women and men into youngsters again? Over my 50 plus years around horses, I have had to take a hiatus or two for different reasons. Looking back, some of those times away lasted far too long. Yet back I come, inhaling the sweet aroma of the barn as I pass over the threshold. A piece of heaven on earth.
For quite a spell I was unable to ride due to my health. Often feeling inadequate, discouraged and cheated. There’s a saying in the world of loving horses; ‘it’s in the blood’ and indeed it must be, for time and time again I’ve returned.
I train horses and I teach people to ride, all levels. I love it and it makes me happy. A happiness that is full, not fleeting, maybe that is what is meant by contentment? It’s not an easy life, especially in my younger years when I was much more involved physically and travelling frequently and let’s not forget trying to make ends meet. How do I put this feeling into words? Well, I’m going to try.
The true realization came to me four years ago. It was the coldest day of the winter and I had packed up and moved to a new state. My sister, bless her heart, drove my car with my dog so I could drive the van with my cat. We arrived at my new apartment with wonderful new friends waiting to help move my stuff in. It had been an exhausting couple of days and my sister and I barely got ourselves fed before heading to bed.
The next morning I drove us out to the barn so my sister could see where I’d be working, my new office. The workers were taking the field horses back out after their breakfast when we arrived. I got out of the car and went up to Bugsy, he’s about 19 hands tall (I knew many of the horses because I would come down to give clinics in years past). I told him hi and patted his red fuzzy neck. He bent his head down to my face and sniffed deeply then nuzzled my neck. He knew me. I too took a deep breath, taking in his winter horsey scent; home! I got back in the car and looked at my loving passenger and said simply “I’m so happy!” I hadn’t felt this happy with myself, my life, in a long time.
So, why was I so happy? Connection. In all the many other jobs I had held there was always a part of me that felt like a foreigner, not truly fitting in. Don’t get me wrong, I had jobs I enjoyed and liked the people I got to interact with but enjoyment isn’t the same as happiness. In those brief few moments with a gentle giant I finally realized what gives meaning to my life, what makes my heart sail and fall and what venue allows me to feel I am valued. To connect, positively, with another creature’s soul, win their trust and teach them their potential. This is also why I love to teach riders – I want to connect with the student and I want to help the horse/student partnership to connect.
What a journey my love of horses has taken me in this life. Throughout triumphs, struggles, moments of despair one constant has always been true, the barn is a sanctuary where I find souls of comfort, non-judgement and acceptance. Though heartbreaks occurred from time to time I have always found healing in the liquid-soft brown eyes, warm breath and the peaceful sound of clip clop or munching of hay.
I have spent years learning, and strive to continue always to learn. There is so much to study about these magnificent beings. Learning “their language” is a continual process. I study to understand their behaviors, reactions, relationships; fully aware that I have as much to learn as a newborn foal preparing for its career someday.
I love the different personalities of every individual. I try not to categorize them, that’s too simple. I have watched a shy, timid youngster grow into a competitor that commands everyone’s attention when it steps into the show ring because of the careful, patient handling it received from confident riders. Or that handful of spirited character that tests everyone’s patience become a solid partner for their amateur owner.
It’s the same with students. What makes it “fun” for me is figuring out each individuals way of thinking and communication. I’ve had those who love horses more than the air they breathe but are scared to immobility around them. And, the other end of the spectrum, are the so confident they are in too big a hurry to move on, wanting to skim over many steps of learning along the way. There’s a difference between being a horseman and being a person that rides. I try to help those figure out which they want to be.
If you want to be a horseman, learning horsemanship, I will take whatever time you require to achieve all that you want to learn. If I don’t know an answer, I will seek out the answer.
I have learned to remain humble, there is always that horse that can humble one in a moment. I learn from all my fellow trainers that have experience beyond mine. I learn from success and from making a mistake. And most importantly, I learn from these four-legged athletes, who allow us to crawl upon their backs and ask of them things they have no reason to do for us; but they do!
Society has it’s measuring sticks of success that we use to judge value of another, and I fell into the trap of listening. I feel I did what I needed to do to care for my family, within the limitations of standards set by society, and I don’t regret it.
However, now when the days are over and I take a final tour around the aisles to check on everyone, walking on the clean swept floor, I say good-night as I check latches. Walking to the door I take one last deep breath of the aroma that is like heaven to me. Shutting off the lights, I sigh and smile a little; it’s good to be home!
**Thank you Janine for allowing me to be a part of PEC!