Confessions of a Working Student

To all my diligent readers and to fellow working students in the equine industry, I confess I have some things to admit to, with which some of you may sympathize and may have experienced yourselves. It’s time to expose some of those inner feelings and thoughts I possess on a daily occurrence. So jump on board the train of thought inside my brain, smile, and relax as you hear my confessions.

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Snowy Purple Sunset

 

Let’s begin outside the barn for a moment. I’m sitting here in my basement dwelling on a cold, snowy, winter day, serenaded by the soft rhythm of smooth jazz, with the occasional pitter-patter of my pesky mice friends above me. I have tried many methods of exterminating these critters from my abode with little success, but the battle is not over yet. I confess that on a few occasions, as I’ve been lying exhausted from a long day’s work and attempting to obtain a good night’s rest, lying awake by the seemingly booming thundering of paws back and forth above my head, I have sat up in bed and punched the ceiling in a futile attempt to get the mice to stop their incessant pacing. Does it work? I confess not. Does it make me feel a little better? Perhaps it does. One can only imagine the silly sight of me doing this in the late hours of the night.

Getting a large pot of water to boil on my little hot plate is no task for the impatient. I confess that in my attempt to not stand there and watch it (since we all know that a watched pot never boils) I would return occasionally and cluck at it to go faster! This sound made out of the side of one’s mouth is a universal cue to horses to move faster than their current pace. Ingrained into my head, it is my first natural go-to response when I want something to move, go, or act! As a young girl I would be riding my bicycle around the neighborhood and if it was slowing down against my will I would cluck at it, looking incredibly stupid before I realized that my feet were on the pedals and I needed to cycle the bike to get it to go again. Whoops, my bad. Older now, as I’m driving down the roads and coming up behind a slow moving vehicle, I find myself clucking to encourage the car ahead of me to move on a bit. Again, it is a futile attempt. Walking beside friends who are lost in conversation, and when trying to tell my friend that our turn is here on the right, I confess that I have bodily moved myself closer to her and clucked to get her to move over. I confess that the knuckle may have even come out and poked her in the side to physically get her to step right. I formally apologize to anyone I have ever done this, and confess that I meant no degradation to your status as an intelligent human being.

This also applies to leg aids. As a passenger in a car, if the driver is doggedly moving ahead off a stop, I subconsciously find myself squeezing my legs inward to encourage the car to move ahead more boldly. We are all familiar with the passenger moving his right leg and pressing on the imaginary brake pedal to stop the vehicle. In my case, as a horse rider, I use my leg and seat aids to futilely perform the same task, to no avail. And while running my errands around town I confess I have caught myself holding onto the handles of my handbag like a rein, with the little finger on the opposite side of the leather.

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Visit from the farrier

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I confess that another title for my job would be waste management. There is the obvious definition to this that I do remove manure for several hours out of each day. But we also find ourselves being handed free food that our clients do not like, or are simply just full of sugar and everything else that is not deemed healthy. “Oh the girls will eat it!” is the common consensus as the bags of cookies and expired baked goods show up in the tack room. I confess that they are right. We do eat it. We burn thousands of calories a day and we are hungry seemingly all the time. No worries, I eat healthy outside the barn and my diet is surprisingly balanced. But coming from the words of the boss lady herself, “You guys are like waste management!” I confess that we are. My coworkers have even confessed to a loss of weight even while on such a terrible diet.

To all barn owners out there, if you want to make your workers exceedingly happy and be the highlight of their day, bring new brooms. Nothing will make us squeal with pleasure as much as unwrapping a new, clean, shiny broom! If you want to take it a step further, buy a few pitchforks. If you want a worker that will be loyal to you always, work longer hours, and stick with you through the grunge of winter….buy a new wheelbarrow that doesn’t require daily bolt tightening, WD-40, or air in the tires. I’m telling you, you will make a friend for life. I confess that I deal with all the barn work to live for these little moments of joy.

I confess that we have restructured our day around radio contests. We play the radio as we work around the barn and there was a stint there when the station we were loyal to was giving out tickets to some pretty incredible concerts. We tried our very hardest to win. Three times a day a small phrase would be spoken and all needed to be gathered and strung together to form the winning sentence of the day. The following morning one had to call in and say the sentence correctly to even be entered into the drawing for the tickets. We would make sure we were in the barn at these times so we could hear the phrases. Pausing turnout so we could stand by the radio, jumping off a horse quickly and re-entering the barn at the right time, or calling 15 times hoping to get through the busy signal while cleaning a stall; I confess that we did all these things so we could win this contest. And did we win? Negative. But you can’t win if you don’t try.

I confess that I have an obsession with the tidiness of the barn. I put a lot of work into this place, the least it can do is stay nice! I confess that once the carpets are vacuumed in the tack room, I walk around the perimeter of them so that any dirt on my treads will not show on the rugs. I confess that I have watched a client stuff a blanket onto the rack without bothering to even fold it, or let’s be honest, she has folded it but not the way that prevents the straps from unsightly hanging down. “Have a great rest of your day!” I cheerily say to her as she steps into her vehicle and I return to the blanket rack, take down the blanket, tidily re-fold it and replace it with care.

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Selfie with Lola

I confess that during a lesson with a fellow working student, we have our own under the breath conversations of which everyone else in the arena is blissfully unaware. A snide comment is passed between us as we ride past each other, a knowing glance, a silly face. Frustrations at ourselves or our horses find an outlet in the ear of our coworker. “I said that for your benefit.” I say to the other after our ride, and a chuckle is shared.

I confess that I love Velcro for the ease of taking boots on a off a horse, especially when wearing winter gloves and buckles are impossible. I confess that I hate Velcro for the lack of something large enough to grab onto while wearing winter gloves, so the gloves have to come off anyway! I confess that I love Velcro for the speed at which they can be put on and off when time is always of the essence. I confess that I hate Velcro for its uncanny ability to re-stick itself once I have undone it, and find myself undoing every strap several times before it’s finally free of the horse. I confess that I love Velcro for its strength as a fastener. I confess that I hate Velcro for its strength when new and rips the stitches out that hold it onto the boot, rendering it useless. I confess that I love Velcro for its ingenuity as a quick fastener. I confess that I hate Velcro for its lack of stickiness once it is old, and flaps about begging to be ripped off by the horse. I confess that I love Velcro for its adjustability of size. I confess that I hate Velcro for its inability to stick to itself when caked with dirt or mud. I confess that I have a love-hate relationship with Velcro, and I still need to make up my mind with how I stand on the whole matter!

I confess that I have finally been bucked off by a horse. Well, the horse bucked, continued to buck, and I eventually landed in the dirt by means of an ungraceful dismount. I did not, however get launched out of the saddle and come crashing gloriously downward, I rather slowly slid off the left side of the saddle and eventually found myself in a position from which I could not recover as the horse is still spinning and galloping around the ring. My train of thought was a follows: You jerk, you will not be the one to get me off and ruin my reputation! as I up-righted myself and attempted to re-gain control. The chaos continued however, the right shoulder dropped, the horse spun right as centrifugal force shoved me off to the left and I found myself hanging level with his belly. Option A: I can dig my right spur in and pull myself upward possibly upsetting the horse even more and so the bucking continues. Option B: I can pull on the right rein and pull myself upward, possibly causing the horse to fall over on top of me. Option C: I can give into my fate and let go. Option C it was and down I went, landing on the back of my right shoulder and for the splittest of seconds I felt something tighten around my left leg. Whatever it was released as I thanked the Lord that I did not get stepped on or drug through the dirt. I jumped to my feet and the horse stopped, turned, and looked at me, standing like a perfect gentleman waiting for me to come up and grab him. Oh that was dirty, you wanted to get me off! The least you could have done is run around like a crazy horse afterwards! With shaky hands I put him back on the lunge and he was wild! Ok, there’s the craziness! I mounted him once more and he had to work! I confess I was sore for several days afterwards and a groan escaped my lips whenever I lifted a hay bale.

Immediately following this episode, I was tacking up my mare in her stall while another mare was in the aisle. She must have looked at my mare sideways as Lola let out a squeal. With my nerves still on edge, I let out a scream and then broke into a fit of laughter with my coworker. I can honestly say that was the first genuine scream I have ever loosed! I didn’t know I had it in me! I am not a screamer and am very adverse to it as it hurts the back of my throat. Once I was required to do it in a drama production and I did not practice it until the performances since I hate to scream! Well, I’ve done it now!

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Winter Greetings

My work day is full of high activity and physical labor. I confess that I feel like those cartoon characters who are running as fast as they can and suddenly they run off the face of a cliff holding straight for a while until gravity remembers its place and sucks them downward. Or like the ones who run into the window: splat! and then the epic squeak as they slowly slide off. This wall comes suddenly in the afternoon or immediately following work and I have caught myself numerous times from succumbing to sleep as soon as I enter my apartment. I always picture these cartoons.

And with that I confess I am hungry again and this account has come to a close. I hope you have enjoyed your time inside my confessions and can find it within yourselves to laugh at the little things you do and think as well. Now it’s on to make more memories. See you next time!

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