6 AM. I am awakened by the soft, frilly dinging of my alarm. And although not glaringly annoying I still try to silence it as quickly as I can, causing me to sit up in bed and rouse myself from my slumber. First thing’s first: check the weather. How many layers shall I wear today? What shall I dress the horses in for turnout? Will we be riding inside or outside today? All of these questions race through my mind as I prepare for the workday. Next: breakfast! My fave! As I sit eating my first meal and sipping my orange juice, I flip through the pages of a novel and try not to lose track of time.
7 AM. As I hike up my cellar stairs with lunch in hand I can feel the temperature change to what the great outdoors is sporting, hot or cold as the season may be. Here we go! I open the door and face the day. This time of year I am greeted by fallen leaves and the first glimpse of the sunrise. Just gorgeous! As I make my commute across the yard I am greeted by several pairs of expecting eyes and perky ears, the nicker of a hungry stomach, and the annoying sound of the pawing addicts, who we always joke need to attend a PA meeting (i.e. Pawers Anonymous)! “Nordic!” I say sternly as he ceases to paw for an instant to look at me with the look of, “well, if you would just feed me right this second I would stop!” Every day, Nordic, every day. Once grain is fed we are faced with the fun task of figuring turnout for the day. And once we think we have the positioning down pat, something inevitably changes such as turnout needs, new horses, lesson schedule, client requests…..it can get so confusing.
8:30 AM. Horses are out. Water buckets are scrubbed and filled and we proceed to clean stalls. (Side note: why don’t the horses drink out of their buckets equally? They leave one nearly empty and another full and filthy! So now I have to muster up the strength to lift the full bucket off the wall without spilling it all down my boot! Thanks, ponies.) As we muck the stalls our conversation somehow always seems to include the state of the stalls. “Man, Merlin must have had a party in his stall last night!” “Oh boy, I just went straight from the Mason Mountain down into the Rio wetlands.” “Beware of the Dark Circle stall!” Oh perfect….another stall mat to fix. And for the umpteenth time I silently grumble at how the horses seem to make it their mission to soil the stalls as soon as it has been cleaned. Thank you, horse, I really appreciate how much you appreciate what it is I do, I think to myself as I listen to the sound of urination next door.
10:30 AM. The final droppings of hay and shavings are swept up and taken out only to pull the hay cart around once more to feed the horses again. Grain is made up for the remainder of the day with meticulously stacked buckets based on the location of the horses (again changing daily based on turnout). Schedule of riding is posted for the day and a plan is formed. Hurrying around like busy little bees we bring in horse A to ride so now we can turn out horse B, except B can’t be out next to C, so D needs to shift over so we can put B there. Now after A is ridden E will need to come in so A can go back out, but we need to shift C over since A can’t be in that paddock! Man, I’m hungry! Do, I have time to eat now?
11:30 AM. I’m in the saddle, through the warm up, and ready to ride the first horse of the day. As I pick up my reins again to get back to work I plan out the schooling session for this particular horse. Transitioning from trot to canter I realize I didn’t have enough of a forward trot nor did I release enough on the inside rein for a smooth transition. As I prepare to trot, re-prepare, and do it again, I hear the words, “You needed more trot coming into that canter and remember to release the inside rein in the moment of the transition.” Yup, called it. And then when I’m on the young horse and I nail the walk to canter transition, I look up to see if it was noticed…..nope…and it was perfect! “Ok, Beth, now try some walk to canter.” Figures. She is actually very good at spotting everything, and when you think she is not looking or couldn’t possibly see what it is your left leg is doing….she knows….and she is always right! One day I can only hope to develop an eye like hers! I do have to say that one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever experienced on a horse is performing a line of flawless, straight, tempi changes. There is nothing like it!
12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM. Untack one horse, bathe/brush, turn back out if possible. Is there time to eat yet? Bring in the next victim and shuffle turnout as necessary. Put tack away from previous ride, rinse the bit, pull out tack for the next ride, saddle up, ride. Rinse and repeat — Hold on, horse D is running and freaking out at the imaginary boogie man. Bring in horse D, B, and C since the domino effect is in full swing. As I lead in the crazies I wonder why it’s always the old horses that seem to loose their cool while the babies couldn’t care less about chainsaws! We have a common saying in the barn to sum up the times when the calm and orderly routine turns suddenly wild: “And chaos ensues.” Or for short: ACE. I turn to my coworker and say, “Ace, man, ace.” This seems to be a daily occurrence.
3 PM. After hurriedly eating the sandwich I packed for lunch, finally, while simultaneously pulling off my riding boots, we proceed to pick through the stalls again and begin to bring in the ponies. Now, there is great strategy as to which horse to bring in first and which sane horse to leave last. And why are they always in such a hurry to come in? There is no food in the stalls and the boogie man is gone now, so why? It could be because it seems every horse you put in the stall promptly relieves himself, and as I walk through the barn serenaded with the sound of waterfalls on every side I wonder why they don’t just go outside! Are you not horses?! Aren’t you supposed to live outside? Come on! I just cleaned the stalls again! I pick up the pitchfork, head outside, and muck out the dozen piles of manure per paddock. Sometimes I cannot believe how they can produce so much waste in just one day. And the little bullies just have to back/walk/run through their piles of manure whether on the cross ties, in the paddock, or in the stall despite our verbal efforts to prevent them from doing so! It reminds me of the behavior of this Thug Cat. <–click link
4 PM. This is one of the loudest times in the barn. There are whinnies all around from hungry stomachs trying to make sure I do not forget to feed them. “Hey, have I ever not fed you in the past?” “Guess what, Whisper? You’re not gonna die today!” I say as I wave my hand at the plump mare and tactfully throw in the hay so she doesn’t grasp it from my hands impatiently before I actually throw it. “Thank God, I was about to starve!” she intones as she proceeds to “vacuum” up the hay with such enthusiasm that would win any eating contest. Tell me about it, I think, remembering my own eating schedule. Suddenly there is a loud crack from a hoof hitting the stall door. “Hey!” I blurt loudly as the horse shrinks back from the door knowing what it was they had done. And then there are those pawing addicts again….”Hello, my name is Heartsong and I’m addicted to pawing”…..”Hi Heartsong,” drones rest of the barn…”KNOCK IT OFF!” I respond. And then suddenly the barn is the quietest it has been all day as the last flakes are thrown to the final horses. Ah…peace.
5 PM. All bridles have been cleaned, aisles swept, water buckets topped off, tack room vacuumed, and horses blanketed. “Guess what, ponies?! It’s food time!” As the door latch of the feed room clincks, the horses respond with more whinnying, kicking, and pawing. Will they ever learn? I guess this is the way with creatures that live for the now. I balance the tall stack of grain buckets with one arm and swiftly empty their contents with the other, glancing in each bucket to visually make sure every horse is getting the right grain and I don’t cause a final “ace” situation by screwing it up and having to bodily throw myself between horse and bucket because the grain is going to the wrong horse! With the final barn checks completed, we call it a day and walk back across the yard, glancing at the sunset this time, or now since it’s after the time change….sheer blackness.
6 PM. If I haven’t accidentally fallen asleep yet, I’m showered and dinner is in the works. I enjoy the evenings that I have events planned off the property, because well, it gets me off the property and keeps me awake to a more acceptable hour if not later than I would choose.
10 PM, ok maybe 11 PM, yes, sometimes 9 PM (like last night). I’m sitting reading a book and I….just….can’t…stay…awake….time to just put the book down and give in. I set it aside, knowing I will have to re-read that section tomorrow, and shut off the light. In no time at all I’m asleep and the cycle starts all over again. Rinse and repeat.
This is a general guideline of how my day goes. In a sense all the days are similar, but yet they are so different when it comes to the events of the day and especially those exciting and stressful “ace” moments. Horse shows add a whole new fun twist with getting up early to complete the barn chores before the rubber needs to hit the road at 6:45 AM. And then after the show we return to ride everyone else…these turn into very long days.
Speaking of horse shows, I am proud to announce that Rio and I have claimed the All Breeds title for 4th level! This means that he is the top thoroughbred in the nation at 4th level! In fact, just the other day I was at the tack shop, rifling through the clearance section looking for cheap deals to fit my budget, when I was asked by an employee where I rode. Having revealed it was Five Stars Farm she asked me who I rode. As I began to say how he is an off the track Thoroughbred, she cuts me off and says, “You are her!” “Excuse me?” “Yeah, you ride the 4th Level Thoroughbred that won that award!” I’ll have to admit I felt like a little bit of a celebrity. “Yes, well now I will need a shadbelly since I will be showing FEI next year!” I pull off the rack one of the only two in the whole store and for kicks and giggles try it on. It just so happened to fit me perfectly and looked extremely flattering. “It fits!” I squeal and proceed to look at the price tag. “But that doesn’t fit….” my voice sinks as I take one last look in the mirror as a bride trying on the dress of her dreams but knowing that it’s unreasonable to have. Whatever shall I do?
Lola is coming along splendidly in her training and I feel blessed to have found such a nice horse with great potential to keep moving up the levels as the years progress. She learns things quickly and with a calm and willing spirit. She’s a gem. I just did a trace clip on the furry beast driving home the fact that winter is on its way. Can’t it just stay autumn forever?
Well, the seasons come and the seasons go. The sun rises and the sun sets. And that dingy alarm comes every morning at 6 am. Though day after day might seem mundane for some of us in our work and everyday lives, I encourage you to find the little gems in every day that bring a smile, embrace the “ace” moments that dare you to rise to the challenge, and remember to step back and look at the big picture of how you have progressed, how your efforts have caused positive change, and the goal to which you are striving. Every day is a stepping stone, and you can’t miss one.
Enjoy your weekends (mine is broken up and on wacky days) and savor every holiday (yeah, I don’t get those either…apparently the horses still need to be fed and such….such demanding creatures). Although my schedule is abnormal and consumes much of my time, I don’t mind, I feel rested. I love it and I have an efficient system down both in the barn and out. On my days off I get my errands done and enjoy what New England has to offer me through day trips and hikes. And boy, do I have a boatload of pictures that encapsulate the beauty of God’s creation in my everyday routine. Don’t miss those moments, rather allow them to polish and bring out the shine of your workday.
Until next time. God Bless.