Thursday, January 17, 2008

Barn Stories: Episode I

My mom has been a horse lover all her life. She was that little girl that bugged her parents every year for a pony, and she just never grew out of it. She got her first horse when I was about 2 or 3; a very green mare named Fancy, and she’s had at least one at any given time ever since. With my dad in the military, my parents were never in the place to own their own land and barn (until recently), so as kids my sisters and I spent three days a week at different boarding facilities, where we would clean stalls as a way to subsidize what we owed in order to keep our horses at that location. And even then the cost was unbelievable. My sisters were always more content to muck stalls and carry buckets of water in exchange for lessons than I was, but we all have tons of great memories from those days nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved riding. I just wished I could have been one of those rich snobs that we all pretended that we hated – the ones that didn’t have to do manual labor in order to afford their hobby. The ones that got all the expensive, professionally trained horses while we were stuck leasing horrible ponies with names like “Blackie” and “King”. Really terrible, over-worked ponies with short-man complexes that you’d have to kick to death all the way to the far side of the riding arena, only to have them spin on the spot and sprint back to the gate nearest to the barn. Kick kick kick kick a begrudging pony, then hang on for dear life, and repeat.

The girls that we pretended to hate also had other hobbies. Not just riding, but dance, and soccer, and an array of other fun things to do. We had horses. And cable TV. (Thank goodness…kids that grow up without it are just weird).Whenever I would complain to my mom in an annoying whine, “…but Iiii want to do ballet…!” she would respond with finality, “We have horses”. My sisters were always okay with that, though. In fact, Annie trains horses for a living now. It’s the only thing she’s ever done to earn an income.

Some people just have that horse bug, you know? Like my mom, she’s got three horses now, on her own land, and she’s happier than a clam going out in sub-zero temperatures to make sure her babies aren’t too cold. And cleaning poo out from around the run-in when it’s 100 degrees outside. I love riding every once in a while, but I’m not into that “by the sweat of my brow” thing. It’s a blast to visit my parent’s house and have horses in the 20-acre backyard, and to pick the one I want to ride. And then ride it. And then put it away. Do I sound like a snob? At least I’m being honest.

I think my disconnection to it all may have stemmed from two very specific, unfortunate events that occurred early on in my riding history. The first happened on my very first trail ride. Trail riding is always lots of fun, although we’ve never really owned any horses that wouldn’t purposefully throw you through a tree in order to save themselves from a scary skittering leaf. Anyway, I was on this great little pony (the only good one we ever leased) named Sandy. My riding instructor decided that it was time for me to hit the trail when I was about six. She tied my steed to hers and away we went. I was gripping the reins tightly in my excitement, and forgot to give a little slack when Sandy decided it was time to try and grab a mouthful of grass off the side of the trail. I was hauled out of the saddle, and I somersaulted down her neck and landed on my butt in front of her nose. Through the sheer power of my own grip. Reminds me of this past summer when we were at the annual Saint Anthony Pioneer Day rodeo. During the break-away roping event, this woman forgot to let go of the lasso once it was around the steer’s neck, and she was dragged out of the saddle… out of her boot… then face-first through the dirt before loosening her grip. That may have been the hardest I’ve ever laughed. The best part was she didn’t even put her boot back on, she just dumped the dirt out and carried it all the way across the arena.

Anyway, the second traumatic event that may have to do with why I’ve become somewhat disconnected with horses also has to deal with Sandy. Short story short, she diarrhea’d on me. I was cleaning out her left-rear hoof when my sisters started screaming frantic, incoherent instructions at me. By the time I’d realized what they were trying to say, it was all over. I was covered in the stuff, hair to jodhpurs. I actually shouldn’t have mentioned that in episode one, because no other barn story could ever, EVER top it.

To be continued….

1 comment:

  1. My feelings about horses are rather mixed. I like riding good horses. Okay so my feelings are not so mixed.