The Pros and Cons of Being a Working Student (You Decide Which Is Which)

(Alternately titled: “You Know You’re A Working Student When…”)

I’ve worked at three dressage barns in three different states and as I embark on my fifth consecutive year of being an intern/apprentice, I’d like to think I’m pretty qualified to throw together this list. But even if I wasn’t, I’d still make it. Just because I love lists.


  • You can eat whatever you want, when you want it, and never worry about gaining weight. (If you do, you’re doing it wrong.)
  • You develop the ability to sleep anywhere at any time in any place and any position. In the truck, in a chair, on the grass, in a stall, in the hay mow, in a field, while cleaning tack, on the tractor, and possibly while riding.
  • There are no such things as holidays. Only days off.
  • Your day off consists of doing laundry and sleeping.
  • You’ve gone back to the old-fashioned way of bartering and trading. Money? What’s that?
  • You can carry about 2 saddles, 6 bridles, a couple helmets, 1 pair of boots, a grooming tote, and a bucket all in one trip down the barn aisle.
  • You can pack a horse trailer tack room like nobody’s business.
  • Every horse nickers at you when you walk down the barn aisle, regardless of if it’s near feeding time or not.
  • Local radar channel? Not necessary when you’re outside experiencing it in real time.christmasmorning
  • You get to sit on VERY nice horses.
  • You get to sit on not so nice horses.
  • You could take apart and clean and put back together a full bridle with your eyes closed.
  • You become able to catch any horse. In any weather. With just a chewed up lead rope.
  • You have lost at least one boot to mud.
  • The only boyfriend/girlfriend you have is a horse. And you refer to him/her as such. (Yes, breakups are awkward.)
  • Long-lining feels easy, lunging is like breathing.
  • Everyone wants to clean stalls with you because of how fast and efficient you are.
  • Straw bales are light. (As are bags of grain.)isabelanme
  • You can tell stories about your adventures in electric fencing.
  • You and your trainer can hook up the truck and horse trailer using only nonverbal hand signals and a secret code consisting of a combination of blinks and eyebrow waggling.
  • You take pride in your groundwork program.
  • You have a farmer’s tan in the summer that is second to none.
  • No one recognizes you in jeans and flip-flops. (Let’s not even bring up shorts.)
  • You don’t recognize barn people outside of the barn. (No breeches, no helmet? No clue!)
  • People don’t even ask you to load their horses for them anymore, they just hand you the lead rope.
  • You know all 29 ways of using a stud chain.
  • Non-horse friends always seem to comment on your muscles.
  • You judge a person’s character by their sweeping technique.
  • You’re proud of your callouses. (And scars.)
  • You can tell which horse just whinnied without turning around.rileyanme
  • You can tell who’s in a field at dusk from a quarter mile.
  • You’ve questioned your life choices in multiple instances.
  • You can adjust a bridle with great accuracy before ever putting it on the horse.
  • You are a master at re-rolling polo wraps.
  • You have highly specific standards and intimate knowledge on daily wear such as socks, riding gloves, boots, etc. and detailed season-specific guidelines.
  • You have highly specific standards and intimate knowledge on horse equipment and tack. (Not those side reins, this saddle pad combination, the shaped bit, the other hind boots, this brand of fly spray, etc.)
  • You know the pooping and peeing and sleeping patterns of every horse.
  • Hay in your bra. (Nuff said.)
  • You recognize the value of quality lesson horses.
  • Hoses. That is all.
  • There is a broom/rake/pitchfork that you’ve claimed as “yours.” (Yes, it’s better than yours.)cahluajumplesson
  • You prefer that one curry comb/brush/hoof pick over all the others.
  • When you’re referred to as “the slave” you can’t tell if they’re really joking or not…
  • You wake up earlier on the weekends than you do on weekdays.
  • A “light” work week is 70 hours.
  • Every horse has a nickname. (The weirder, the better. Bonus point if you use an inside joke.)
  • You’ve only ever said “I’m bored” once. (NEVER. AGAIN.)
  • You have seen the world at it’s most beautiful times (middle of the night when a colicking horse gifts you with a steaming pile of poop, the sun rising on your way to the show grounds to braid a couple dozen horses, a foal standing on wobbly feet for the first time after a long night of labor, having a horse you’ve trained from the ground up win a class with their owner).
  • You learn something every day. (If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.)
  • It’s hard to call what you do “work” because you love it so much.


This list was brought to you with the assistance from Isabel, who interned with me for three and a half years and thankfully all that time doing all of the above made us great friends and not great enemies. 😉


What Has It Gots In Its Pockets?

Fun Things You Will Find In A Horseperson’s Coat Pockets

  • Peppermints
  • Peppermint wrappers
  • Straw
  • Wire cutters
  • Braiding bands
  • Sugar cube residue
  • Straw
  • Baling twine
  • Hay chaff
  • Bent horseshoe nail
  • Pulling comb
  • Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen
  • Straw
  • Cell phone
  • Flashlight
  • Some horse’s SmartPak
  • Straw
  • Any or all fencing supplies
  • Hoofpick
  • Electric tape
  • Straw

Today I found my wire cutters. Guess where I found them?

Region 4 Championships; Sunday

Sunday morning was dark and a wee bit chilly when we trundled out of the truck and into the stabling early this morning. Riley was not very wide-eyed, but definitely had a bushy, wood-shavings-filled tail. We threw hay (Quite literally. I’ll admit it was fun to toss the flakes up and over the stall fronts and try to hit the mark, a corner, each time. It’s the little things.) and watered and fell right into the usual show routine. Polish boots, wipe down tack, braid horses, tack, dress, ride. So familiar I can do it half asleep.

Riley and I had some debate on whether or not he really needed to do the work, but today, unlike Friday or Saturday, he resigned himself to the proposal that I laid down and went to work for me, albeit a bit grudgingly.

A lot of dressage showing is “hurry up and wait.” You get ready, you rush about madly, and then you look at the time and you’re early. So you wait. The ring we were to ride in was running late. So we hurried up and waited. Not for too long, thankfully, but long enough. He spooked minorly at the volunteer waiting to close the end of the arena at A and with that, we were doing the test. We were riding our championship class. I felt like I was riding the test of my life. I was aware of everything and I pulled it off to the best of my abilities. Riley wanted to fuss and complain a little, but he kept it under wraps for the most part and the test went without a hitch. I knew it might not be the winning ride, but it felt like the ride of my life. I tried to smile throughout the test and by the closing centerline, my smile was genuine.

Then we got to wait some more.

We were one of the first riders in a class of thirteen, which took nearly two hours to complete. While I waited, my dad texted me from home, where it was 6am, and congratulated me on my score. (This year I have finished training both of my parents to recognize a “good” dressage score from a “bad” score.) I texted him back while walking over to the outdoor rings where I helped school a rider and horse pair from our barn because our trainer was schooling someone else for their championship ride in the main indoor arena. It was a thrilling feeling, one that I had not felt before, to coach someone and then watch them ride the test and have it be their best test of the weekend. I’m sure our smiles both matched.

When I walked back into the barn, I was greeted with the news that I was still in the running for a ribbon, which they award up to eighth place. After, you guessed it, more waiting, all of the tests were ridden and the scores were calculated. Riley and I sat in the ribbons! Eighth place, a brown ribbon and a victory “gallop” for the gallion and I.

It was Riley’s first award ceremony and once he realized that it meant standing around, looking pretty, and a little trot around the arena, he thought that he preferred it to showing.

I am so proud and happy and grateful for the journey that took us to this spotlight moment. If it takes a village to raise a child, than it takes a barn to raise a rider/trainer. I looked around at the other riders in the open division during both of my warm-ups today and yesterday and I thought on it last night. I asked myself, “What is the difference between me and those with the winning rides?” Because if I analyze and pinpoint it, I can become better. So I looked and I thought and I did both some more and the answer became very clear to me. The difference is years.

In my division, I am competing with professionals who have been doing their job for as long as I have been alive, most for longer. Some maybe even twice as long. This year was only my fourth regionals. It might be their fourteenth. Riley might be the tenth horse I’ve shown. Their ride might be their fiftieth. And although it feels like I’ve ridden 1st Level Test 3 a thousand times over, I’ll bet that they feel like they’ve ridden it a million times (not to mention that USDF changes the tests every few years). So to ribbon in a class among these experienced trainers meant more than just a pretty ribbon. A lot more.

Region 4 Championships; Saturday

Riley and I back in May.

Riley and I back in May.

Riley and I back in May.

The Open division 2nd Level Championships were held today, in which Riley and I competed. Our test was so much better than yesterday. It was not perfect, contrary to popular belief, I do occasionally have such rides… If a ride has mistakes and no one who knows you saw you ride, then were there actually mistakes? Or as a fellow competitor put it, “my mistakes flow from one movement to the next.” All (or some) joking aside, I was pleased with the ride. It could have been better, it could have been worse. That’s life and you live it.

In more detail, our warm up was good. I was more confident in the saddle. Riley had his resistances, but he was being Riley. Not stallion Riley. Just Riley. In the ring, we had lovely medium trots, passable lateral work, and unsubmissive canterwork consisting of a wrong lead, and a “moment” during a medium canter. In the moment, I had to decide between a couple options. A) Ask for the collection, and have his head pop up so high as to possibly cause him to blast out of the arena or B) use the short side and corners to collect. In the moment, I choose option B. We lost the score, but stayed in the ring. Okay, so maybe it would not have been as dramatic as ring-jumping, but I only had a moment.

Our judge at C was Hilda Gurney and it is always a pleasure to ride for her. I felt that she judged the class very fairly, as always, and one of her comments, “Nice sitting rider!”, has put this silly grin onto my face that I can’t seem to wipe off. I would not have gotten that comment in years past.

Riley, an unofficial SLADS volunteer, hard at work on weed eating the fence row.

Riley, an unofficial SLADS volunteer, hard at work on weed eating the fence row.

Speaking of judges and their comments, I picked up my test sheet from yesterday and here’s what the judge further remarked upon, “Needs to be in a more sophisticated frame…” I passed around the laughable test (a fabulous 55%) for laughs around the barn and was told that if I rode for this judge again, perhaps I should stick my pinky finger out while saluting, for a more sophisticated flare. And maybe trade out Riley’s plain browband for a blinged out one. I suppose he thought that Riley and I were just heathens, running amok in his ring. Feral, undomesticated beasts of the field. I feel so blessed to be able to have that kind of ride and not feel negatively pressured or guilt-tripped, or harped on by those who are invested in me and Riley. Instead, those around me are supportive, understanding and helpful in their comments and criticism. How much I appreciate that and them, I can only hope to somehow convey.

Tonight was the Prix St. George Jackpot, which I would love to go into detail about, but I won’t because I need to be up at 4am tomorrow. Many of the riders did not place at all where I thought they might, which only served to facilitate my growing desire to pursue a judge’s card. It was a fun class to watch, as there were different horses and ways of going and different riders and ways of riding.

Let’s end on a mini-rant, just because I can. I know that we are in a barn but that does not mean that people need act as if they were raised there. Yesterday I was in the restroom minding my own business (see what I did there?) and in that very brief time period, I kid you not, only one person knocked while five others opened the door on me. It was locked with a chain so I wasn’t scandalized by any means, but I was astounded by the lack of common courtesy. Knock, please.

Region 4 Championships; Friday

1 of 2 grazing adventures for the spoiled boy.

1 of 2 grazing adventures for the spoiled boy.

1 of 2 grazing adventures for the spoiled boy.

When asked how my ride with Riley was today, I took to answering with, “It was really quite bad.” Truth is, it was not good. If it had been my championship ride, I would have cried after exiting the ring. But it wasn’t my championship ride. Riley was uncharacteristically unsettled and needed to take a few deep breaths and relax. I chatted with him and did what I could. The test has mistakes, some glaring, some not, and it was nowhere near the quality of work that we are capable of. When one teammate falls short, the whole team suffers. Isn’t this horse showing at it’s finest? Taking the good, the bad and the ugly? The smiles, the laughs, the funny?

I was not distraught or angry or even disappointed in our ride. Not all was lost. In fact, much was gained. I learned that I needed to ride nervous Riley differently than I ride distracted Riley. I had things to analyze, figure out and work on improving.

"Will I be a stallion or a gelding today? That is the question."

“Will I be a stallion or a gelding today? That is the question.”

I felt much better than yesterday. My frame of mind was better and I was able to focus on making my body match the confidence and sureness that I wanted to convey to Riley. As a newly gelded stallion (a “gallion” as the barn ladies have dubbed him during this transitioning period), I have discovered that during a single ride, I have to ability to be riding a gelding some of the time and a stallion during other moments. Today was definitely a gelding ride, which I am still learning how to ride. Yesterday was also a gelding ride, until I took him to the outdoor rings, where he then was a stallion which I was already prepared for and rode him through it accordingly.

Once the show was over, I lightly schooled Riley in the indoor arena where our championship classes will be held. Yesterday when I schooled him there he was slightly uneasy with the unfamiliar layout so today I gave him the chance to get a closer look at everything by hand-walking in around the perimeter of the rings. When he started destroying all off the harvest arrangements, I interpreted that as a good sign that he was no longer supicious of them. It was a light ride, we did a lap of each gait, both directions, around the show ring and the adjacent warm up ring. He was settled and I was happy.

I went right to stall cleaning and bedding, which he then tested by going in for a roll in the fresh shavings. Then it was time for a bath and tail wash. We borrowed Venus’ Lucky Braids shampoo and went through the whole regimen. Riley did not mind the plastic tail bag and heartily approved of the warm water, showing his approval by cocking an hind hoof and standing in a nearly comatose state for the entire bathing process, acting rather annoyed when I asked him to move over so I could scrub his other side. After the bath, we dried off while the sun set and he grazed on what meager vegetation we could find. Back at the stall, his sparkling clean tail was brushed and braided and finally, dinner was served. We both ate and headed to our respective beds, where I now write to you from.

Region 4 Championships; Thursday

Riley waiting on his dinner after a relaxing massage.

The stars were still out and the sun had yet to show its face when I went out into the pasture to catch my show mount, Riley. I could see him, his dapple gray neck turned when I called out. “Ri-Man!” The chain jangled and clinked on the gate. He meandered over, the headlights of the truck and trailer illuminating him further.

Six hours later and we arrived at the National Equestrian Center in St. Louis, MO.

I felt at ease and ready to get out there and work and show Riley the show rings. I started off at ease. Then the worries set in. The old, nagging fears gripped me by the shoulders, reminding me. They reminded me of spooks and falls and bucks and rears. Of the unexpected adrenaline rush, of nervous butterflies, of fear and disappointment and not being good enough. The thoughts in my head manifested in my body and my body just so happened to be astride another body, Riley’s.

Riley waiting on his dinner after a relaxing massage.

Riley waiting on his dinner after a relaxing massage.

It was not a bad ride. I spent most of it in my headspace, which is not usually the best place to be while riding. I spent even more time thinking about how the ride had went for the rest of the day, which is how I came up with a better plan for tomorrow’s ride. It’s all about the mental competition. With myself in my head. It is about the serenity and confidence that I need to feel inside that will translate to my horse and show up in the ring.

You are not going to make a training break through at a show. You are going to ride the horse you have the way that you know how to ride it. You are not going to “fix” anything at a show. In fact, you will probably ride at least a step lower than you do on your most mediocre day at home. It’s called a show. You don’t learn something new. You show off what you know.

I know a lot more than I used to. I know what I am doing and I am capable of doing all of it, as is my horse.

No one ever told me that it is easy to break old habits. No one said that I could get over old fears by force. I know the key is to be repetitive and positive. It’s all you can do. Small steps, one at a time. There is no quick fix, no easy out. It takes dedication.

No wonder this is a sport (which I go so far as to call a career and lifestyle) that I love.

How To: Pack For A Horse Show

Riley and I rocking the blue in the show ring.

(Particularly Regional Championships)

  • Wait until the last minute
  • Check the forecast
  • Choose show clothes accordingly
  • Choose clothes to wear over show clothes to maintain some semblance of cleanliness
  • Choose clothes to wear after changing out of aforementioned show clothes
  • Raingear/A Multitude Of Coats
  • Toiletries
  • Double up on everything
  • Pack more things
  • Extra stuff

Now you have successfully overpacked for your horse show and if you did it right, you should finish at about midnight, just in time to go to bed and promptly wake up at the crack of dawn to trudge through dew-soaked grass to catch your horse, attempt to put pillowy wraps on his/her legs and load into the Dark Cave Of Doom- er, I mean, horse trailer.

Happy trails! But wait-

Riley and I rocking the blue in the show ring.

Riley and I rocking the blue in the show ring.

Here’s what you need to pack for your horse:

  • Tack
  • Extra stuff
  • More things
  • Lunging things
  • Cleaning things
  • “Just In Case” things
  • Buckets
  • Saddle pads (the more the merrier)
  • Unnecessary things
  • Raingear/A Multitude of blankets and sheets
  • Treats
  • Hooks and hangers and snaps
  • Double up on everything

Alright, now you should be ready to go to a two-week-long competition. Also you will be very fit after carrying all these things from your horse trailer to your tack stall. Overpacking has many benefits. See for yourself, follow these lists the next time you show! Your horse will thank you (for all the treats).

A Chip Off The Block

Today I rode Pequin for the first time without going into the round pen. Lately, our plan of attack has been to lunge in the arena, lunge and/or ride w/t/c in the round pen, then come out into the arena and ride around for 5-10 minutes. What we did today was eliminate the use of the round pen altogether. He was ready for it. In fact, he was more then ready. I felt it. He could have done it during our last session, but I wasn’t ready until today.

This photo looks so warm I almost can't stand it.

This photo looks so warm I almost can’t stand it.

It’s hard for me to explain how exactly I felt that he was ready. I think it was as much his body and aura/chi as his place in his training. Training-wise, this is the natural progression of the way I do things with a green horse. What I mean by “aura” is not some weird spiritual thing, but what body language he was projecting. During our last session I felt him finally be comfortable and relaxed in the arena and that is how I knew I could have gotten on him in the arena that day.

Because I knew what I had planned for our session, my nerves kept building and building. As I took the lunging equipment off Pequin, I assessed myself. Why was I nervous? I asked myself this question and answered it. I was remembering past bad experiences. Suddenly I couldn’t recall the good experiences. Funny how that works. I told myself to picture the ride happening in a positive way and being very successful. I had a hard time doing that.

I thought instead (keep in mind that this is happening all in my mind during a matter of mere seconds) about the time that I got on a green horse that was at the same place where Pequin is in his training. I thought about how I got on her in the middle of the ring and when I reached for my stirrup with my right toe I was suddenly on the ground at her feet in a heap. I thought about getting on that mare again, on another day, picking up that ill-fated off-side stirrup and suddenly being atop a bucking beast. (Nevermind the part that it was the one and only time I ever managed to stay on a bucking horse and went on to have a successful ride. Nevermind that part.) I remembered that was why I’m always nervous about picking up my right stirrup on any and all horses now.

I took a breath and tried thinking again. I tried to think about how Pequin had only ever bucked once or twice on the lunge line. I tried to think about all the times I had already gotten on and ridden him without anything bad happening. I imagining mounting up in complete confidence and relaxation and riding around the ring like I knew I could. It was really difficult to imagine.

Pequin stood perfectly as I stepped onto the plastic stool and mounted up. I picked up my off-side stirrup and focused on breathing. I asked him to walk on and he did and I was aware of the tension filling my body. I pretended not to be nervous. I pretended to be calm and cool. I’ve gotten to be pretty good at pretending. Fake it until you make it. It actually works.

I never fully relaxed, although I did get better as we went along. I find it interesting how it was all a mental process for me. Physically, I was capable. It was really just me and not the horse. I couldn’t have asked for better behavior from Pequin. He did everything exactly as he had been told and taught.

I know I am capable of doing this. I’ve done it before. I know what I’m doing. But the mental block is there and it’s always there. I don’t know when it showed up or how it really came to be in my mind. I need to struggle through and push through days like this over and over and over again, each time chipping away at the block until it gets smaller and smaller. Maybe one day it will be small enough to step over, to kick around with the toe of my boot, and maybe disappear altogether.

Sometimes I wonder if this block means that I’m not cut out for this job or career. Surely successful trainers don’t battle with the same fears that I have, the same mental block that I harbor inside of my body. Or perhaps they are successful trainer because they have conquered their own blocks, physically and mentally. I don’t think it’s time to throw in the towel just yet. I think I need to just do it again.

And again.

And again.

The Daily Ride; 03042013

I like good surprises. Like having a surprisingly good ride.

baxterIt’s not that I was expecting Baxter to be bad. Today was his third ride in a row so I wasn’t even planning on lunging him. After it sleeted a bit, I changed my mind, thinking that he would be a little cold-backed with a literal cold back. 😛 I went to fetch him from his paddock, where he was eating dinner. The first surprise was him leaving his pile of green alfalfa to come over to the gate to be haltered. (The horses know that I = work, so most of them don’t come running to be caught. I could name on one hand the horses that will choose me over food.) I observed Baxter’s behavior as I walked him into the barn and got him groomed and tacked. He was calm and quiet. I changed my mind yet again after making my observations and didn’t lunge him.

I turned on the radio in the arena and mounted up. The three goals for this ride were counter canter, lateral movements off the track/away from the rail, and a longer, lower frame. These goals were set upon the building blocks of our previous rides. We worked on counter canter yesterday with some success, but there was room for improvement. We had been doing great shoulder-in/travers/renvers on the rail, so the next step was to do them away from the wall as a sort of test to make sure that the wall was not supporting us. After watching our last ride in the arena mirrors, I wanted the ability to ride Baxter with a slightly longer neck, as I felt that I was unintentionally making his neck too short and cramped in the throatlatch area.

He warmed up really nicely and we got to work towards the goals I had planned. To clarify the counter canter, I did a very simple exercise of cantering on true lead through the short side and counter lead on the long side of the arena. To make it slightly more difficult/have Baxter think it through, I asked for both true and counter canter transitions on straight lines, so he had to pay attention to the aids to pick up the correct lead. He was a star pupil! In between the cantering, we did our lateral work on the second track or the quarterline. By the end of the ride, we worked up to doing the shoulder-in to renvers that is part of 2nd Level test 3. During the ride, I routinely checked the mirrors to access the frame that we were working in and adjusted it as needed.

Overall, it was not only a successful ride, but a pleasant and enjoyable one to end the day with. Baxter earned his carrots today!

I understand that not everyone is a planner and that horses and humans are what they are, living creatures who are often different on a day-to-day basis. But dressage makes planning easy. Take the levels and tests, for example. Every movement was made to take you up the next step. When you make small goals for each ride, you set yourself up for that step. You are able to keep things interesting for your horse rather than continuously drilling drills. Can you do this? Well then, how about this?

Here are a couple things to keep in mind when setting goals for a ride:

  • Make your goal(s) attainable. If you haven’t done trot lengthenings for a while, don’t make it your goal to do a extended trot for a 10 score. Let your goal build on the successes from your previous rides. If your previous ride was unsuccessful, then take one step down and set your goal there.
  • Don’t make too many goals. It’s easy to get carried away, especially if your horse is being wonderful. If you find yourself reaching all of your ride’s goals, don’t be tempted to add more and more goals. Either work on improving the quality of your work, or give you and your horse a break, go gallop around a field or jump something. The last thing you want to do when your horse is being that good is overdo a movement or overwork your horse to the point that they do it wrong. Keep the experience positive. It’s also easy to get carried away if your horse is being bad. Maybe you can’t even begin to get started on your ride’s goals because your horse has decided it would much rather scream back and forth at it’s herdmates in the pasture, try to pull your arms out of your sockets, ignore all of the aids, or go reallyreally fast becauseitsfunright? If that’s the case, do what you can, end on a good note and try again tomorrow. Maybe you have to spend the entire ride reminding your horse what the correct response to a half halt is. It’s okay. Why? Because the foundation is what matters. When the unpredictable happens, you and your horse will instantly revert back to what is at the core. And if you have trained a good foundation, no matter if a deer jumps out at you on the trail or you take your horse it it’s very first horse show and there’s a league of ponies cantering around with their heads in the air in the warm up, you will be just fine. Use those bad days to strengthen that foundation.

Well then. I didn’t really mean to go on a spiel about riding goals, but there you have it.

Moving Day

After turning the horses loose at their new home.
The view from the grandstand at the old barn. This is part of the 1/2 mile racetrack, facing town. If I turned to the left, you'd see the rodeo sized arena and if I turned to the right you'd see the actual barn, which is about a hundred years old, no lie.

The view from the grandstand at the old barn. This is part of the 1/2 mile racetrack, facing town. If I turned to the left, you’d see the rodeo sized arena and if I turned to the right you’d see the actual barn, which is about a hundred years old, no lie.

Four days after Christmas, I moved my horse. It was a little nerve-wracking, but not because it was our first time moving to another barn. It wasn’t even because the barn was closing. It was stressful because I had about a week to find a new place. Now, you could say that it was my fault for not planning ahead and being prepared. But you have to understand that the closing of the barn has been talked about for OVER A YEAR. It’s like the boy who called wolf. You hear it enough times and after the first few screams, you stop freaking out and just plug your ears. To make things even more complicated for you to understand, my BO was never actually the barn owner. The barn was just leased from Parker Ranch. The ranch decided that they didn’t want to renew our lease any more and found someone else to take over the place. We were given our thirty days notice and told that we wouldn’t have to leave. We were told that board would stay the same and that there would simply be new management. Less than two weeks away from the date all this was to take place (December 31st), they changed their mind.

I scrambled to get names and numbers. I called dozens of names of people who had a barn, boarded horses or even knew of people who had barns and boarded horses. I explored all of my options. I visited places before Christmas, took a break on Christmas Day, and headed back out the day after Christmas. I began to understand why people lose weight when stressed out. As the time frame grew narrower, I lost my appetite and when I did finally eat, I felt like puking it up right after, which is pretty extreme for me, considering that I avoid throwing up like one would avoid the black plague.

Walking out to say hello to the herd. I took this photo in November about a week after I got home.

Walking out to say hello to the herd. I took this photo in November about a week after I got home.

I’m sure this all sounds really extreme if you’re not a horse person. Even as a horse person it might seem extreme. But my horse is all I have. She is my sole responsibility. All of the other things that I personally own are material possessions. And as much as I may like my computer and camera, they pale in comparison to my horse.

I wrote things down and typed up a document on the computer and sorted out each place I visited and put down the pros and cons of each. I talked to horse people, the two ladies who leased my horse, to my friends and to my parents. Anyone who would listen and let me bounce ideas off of them.

I made a list of my priorities for my horse’s care, keeping in mind that the next time I would see her would be a full year. The list looked something like this:

  • Quality care/experienced eyes, good horse person/someone around to be there for farrier and vet appointments
  • Pasture turnout w/another horse(s)
  • Riding area, the ability to have Miss Take continue to be leased and have lessee(s) take lessons
  • Price range

I found two places that had all of those things. They were small barns where the owners lived on property, had a few horses, a small riding area and pastures with safe fencing and grass actually growing in the pastures. I had my mind set on one of them when I went and looked at a barn that my trainer and another boarder were going to move their horses to. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I am not a spur-of-the-moment-type girl. I was at the old barn, packing things up when my trainer came back from visiting the new place. I asked her about it, consulted the lady who was still going to lease my horse, got the phone number of the owner of the new place, and went out with Miss T’s lessee to see it, all in the time period of a few hours. I came, I saw, and I conquered. Or something like that.

The next morning, we moved the horses.

After turning the horses loose at their new home.

After turning the horses loose at their new home.

The arena.

The arena.

I feel weird calling it a barn because it’s actually just a covered arena with stalls in one portion of it. People know what you’re talking about if you call it Anderson’s and tell them that it’s right next to the old golf course. The owner has been great to deal with so far. The day we told him that wanted to board five horses at his place, he started tearing down his round pen. Now in it’s place are more stalls and a concrete pad they poured yesterday for our (boarders in general) own tack room, feed room, and crossties. Sometimes you can’t ride in the arena because people haul in and practice reining and roping, but there’s 70+ acres to ride on plus the golf-course-turned-cow-pasture. It rains almost daily, so the pastures are nice and green.

Miss Take now has one person leasing her, Maureen. The other woman who used to lease Miss Take is going to ride her in weekly lessons. I’m spending just a little less than I used to on both board and feed. Best of all, I can go back to FHF and not worry about the health and safety of my mare.

Miss T having a good roll after a trail ride on the golf course.

Miss T having a good roll after a trail ride on the golf course.

I think she’s happy, which in turn makes me very happy.

Miss Take is settling into the new place really well. She’s been ridden out a few times, witnessed the craziness of steers being roped, the renovations being made, and the general newness of it all. I’ve gotten to practice my teaching skills and gave her and Maureen a couple of lessons that turned out to be really fun for all involved.

In the fog.

In the fog.

Tomorrow I’ll enjoy my last ride on my mare and bid her farewell until next year. Parting really is such sweet sorrow.