Friday, March 26, 2010

The Flip Side of the Barn

I used pass them on the driveway or run into them as I was arriving at the barn.  It would be late afternoon, usually early evening, after my work day was finished.  If they were still there, they were on their way out.  I'd hardly have time to speak to them as they hustled to their cars or waved as they passed me on the driveway.  I'd rarely see them on the weekends.

The people I interacted with at the barn were like me.  We worked all day long and 'ran' up to the barn in the evenings with whatever energy we had left.  Our window of time was limited due to after hour chores, heading home to fix meals or being home at a decent hour to head off to bed before another work day commenced.  Weekends were used to spend extra time at the barn to get 'fixes' in with our horses which we hadn't had time for during the work week.

Since I've retired one of the biggest changes I've found is that I'm now part of the flip side of the barn.  Yup, that's now me you see heading out the door or waving to you on the drive when you're on your way up to ride after work.

The flip side of the barn has introduced me to people I never knew before.  There is the woman who I've come to refer to as "My Inspiration".  She hauls in every day, rain or shine.  She boards a horse at the barn and every day she hauls in her other one.  She rides them both during her day.  She's a 50+ rider who had a  bad fall a few months ago.  It shattered her confidence and when we visit or ride together we talk about the steps one takes on rebuilding or raising their confidence levels.

Her commitment to ride every day, not only in the indoor/outdoor arenas, but all over the 100 acre facility has paid off.  About a month ago she rode over to tell me she'd just cantered for the first time since her fall.  She says she cantered for a long period and that her confidence faded in and out, but she succeeded!  The look on her face expressed the goal she'd achieved.  She's now cantering every time she rides.

We find ourselves riding together during the week when it's quiet.  Our discussions on confidence and the approach to getting past fear have helped me get my confidence back.  I'm now riding all gaits again since things went sideways for me last November.  I find myself climbing on without fear and having FUN.   This last week we put on an old Carpenter's CD and rode to the music.  Two goofy old broads, laughing and riding together.  We had a blast.  I smile at the recollection as I write this.

There is the small pleasant woman who spends numerous hours each day with her horse.  He's a huge Thoroughbred, full of personality.  He's recently had some health issues and she tends to him for hours every day.  Her love for her horse is projected in the difference of their size. 

She's filled with positive thoughts and suggestions.  She had shared with me in January that Champ appeared unhappy and suggested I introduce some positive energies into our routine, such as hand-grazing or going for walks after we finished our rides.  Her ideas that we should add some different routines into the daily grind of going around and around the arena (see prior Post/Mixing It Up) have really improved Champ and my relationship.  Her suggestions are a testament to my recent incredible rides. 

The gentleman who feeds our horses is part of our daily group and someone I never had a chance to interact with when I was on the flip side of the barn.  His English is woven through his native tongue.  As he brings the horses in from the fields each day, he sings softly to them.  The horses adore him and I appreciate how well he cares for them.  He tells me with laughing eyes, "That Champ, he is Loco!"  I smile and tell him the horse he is bringing in from the field is, "Mucho Loco!"  Then we both break into laughter.

Where I used to be in a hurry or share business shop talk with my fellow riders, conversation now centers around serenity from moving at a slower, more relaxed pace. There seem to be no hurry to get a certain project with one's horse accomplished in a single day. The flip side of the barn takes each day as it comes.  If it doesn't get accomplished on this day, there's always tomorrow.

I have a great respect for those on the side I used to be on and count myself fortunate to experience the other side.  The flip side of the barn, two groups of people with the same passions and goals, like ships passing in the night, rarely encountering each other.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I don't know of very many people who are 50+ and still riding horses that haven't had at least one good wreck.

Wrecks are a great conversation piece.  They can literally stop dinner at a family gathering in its tracks.  They can make an "urban" co-worker turn pasty white.

By sharing your worst wreck with someone who just had one, your intent is to comfort them by aligning your past experience to what they're feeling.  What's odd is that no matter how long ago your wreck took place, by sharing it with them, YOU feel better.

Sadly, it probably won't help the individual who just experienced their own wreck.  This stuff has to settle in the mind.  It has to filtrate down through the nervous system (literally).  No matter how many of your friends share what happened to them, one has to personally come to grips with their own wreck to move forward.

Wrecks hurt.  They can severely injure you.  If you're lucky, you'll walk away with bumps and bruises. Either way, they scare you.  As time goes by, the recollection of the hurt usually diminishes, but the fright remains.  It eats at you each time you ride.  Conquering it is the biggest challenge of all.  And even if you THINK you've conquered it, it can still be there, hiding in the deepest shadows of your mind. 

The only way to fight this animal is face to face.  The longer you wait to ride, the less you test yourself, the bigger it gets.  The more you ride, the more you test yourself, the smaller it gets. 

If you really throw your efforts into it, you will find a day when you go to ride and the idea of a wreck doesn't even cross your mind.  You will feel strong and ready to take on the world. 

Without even trying you will convey to your horse that there will be no nonsense today and if there is there will be  H-E double LL to pay.  Your horse will understand that message clearly because you're not cluttered up with "what might happen".  You'll find yourself not thinking about having a "good" ride, but about having a "ride", the "good" being a given.

And on that day, when you finish and put your horse away, you will not only have gained the respect of your horse, you will have gained the respect of yourself.  You'll walk ten feet taller and your smile will light up the sky. 

Days like those are like gold coins.  Save them and refer to them often.  They will take you far.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Changes in Priorities

When you have outside work that really needs to be addressed, you take advantage of good weather.  Sometimes that means giving things up.  This past weekend, that meant giving up my riding in the neighborhood schooling show.

Our house is the last house on a road of four homes and we are about two miles from the main road.  With the exception of our drive, the road is gravel.  But recently it seems to consist of more pot holes then road and I swear some of them have become 4+' deep. 

It's been a stand-off as to who would make the move to fix the holes.  My husband and I have been the only ones to come forward in the past to purchase the gravel and patch them.  We figured since we drove the furthest, being the last house on the road, that we should 'contribute'.  But we were really hoping and communicating (in a nice manner) that someone else would step up this time and take the lead.

No luck.  Once again, we made the purchase and set forth the action to address the issue, considering it another investment in being a good neighbor and exhibiting goodwill towards others.

My husband looks at gravel the way I look at tons of sweet smelling orchard grass in the barn as winter sets in. It's that 'good feeling' that the larder is stocked.  Gravel means the road will be in good shape, and if we're lucky we'll have some left over for our own place.  I guess just like hay, one can't have too much.

It also means my husband gets to use his tractor.  And that always makes him happy.  So once the 24 yards of 5/8 minus gravel was dumped, I thought for a moment that he was going to jump into the pile for a swim - he was that pleased.  Thankfully, he just walked away, whistling some silly song, in search of his tractor key so he could to start 'spreading the wealth'.

Sure, I could have hauled myself to the show, but my husband and I have always worked together as a team.  That is part of what makes us love each other so much.  As he came and went with buckets of gravel, I went into my mode of support team.  One of the neighbors down the road came out to help patch the holes.  So since the guys had it covered, I felt a need to be engaged in something, but what?

Initially, I got out the riding lawn mower and mowed the lawn.  I could hear that little voice saying, "I am helping!"  What next?  Pull weeds? (Nah!).  Horses?  (Yes!).

I put my efforts into Gus and Sunny, our Belgians here at home.  These big hairy horses are shedding terribly.  Plus they've spent time in the mud.  Looking more brown then gold, they were more mud then horse.  They needed my attention.

I pulled Gus, our younger Belgian out first to give him a "Beauty Treatment".  What a mess!  His mane is long and he is truly the biggest horse I've ever encountered.  It took a long time to clean him up.  I then followed up with working on some of the ground work I do with Champ - stopping, backing, etc.  Gus is young and it's good to remind him of these cues.  I was just as pleased with his responses as he was with being tended to.

It was about thirty minutes into my cleaning Gus that I looked over to see how Sunny (see prior post "Sometimes It's Right Underneath Your Nose") was doing.  I stopped in mid groom to see Sunny standing at the gate, his head lowered, nose to the dirt, looking totally dejected, sad as could be. 

My husband, on his 300th run to get a bucket load of gravel noticed the same.  Sunny's nose was wayyy out of shape that he wasn't getting any attention.  If he wouldn't have looked so dejected, it would have been funny.

When Sunny's turn came, his whole attitude changed.  It was like I'd injected LIFE into him.  Nobody can tell me that these huge animals don't have feelings!  He literally purred like a cat as I cleaned him up.

When I finished, arms aching and the ground looking like it has snowed golden muddy horse hair, I fed the Belgians their evening meal and left them for the night.  They appeared to be as pleased with themselves as I was in cleaning them up.  I headed into the house to clean myself up, covered in golden/muddy horse hair and start our dinner.  The tractor came and went with buckets of gravel until well after dark.

There is a good feeling about doing something good for others, whether it's patching the potholes on your road, sprucing up your horses or supporting your husband with dinner on the table when he finally gets off of his beloved tractor.  There are other shows down the road, indeed many in the next few weeks, but days like this don't come around often so it's good to grab them when they do.  In the meantime, we have left over gravel that will come in handy around our place!