Stone Soup for the Barn

Today I hand-grazed a mare I’ve “known” for four years, in the sense that I walked past her stall and knew the big bay event horse (meaning she can run, jump, and do dressage) was Sallie. I’d never ridden her, never groomed her, never even watched her go under saddle. I’m at the barn mid-day, and her workouts were morning or evening. She’s on a short end-of-season layup due to minor veterinary issues, so that means stall rest.

When you’re born and bred to run, stall rest gets old fast, so periodic walk-around-and-nom-nom breaks are a good idea. Sally and I enjoyed a recess in the fresh air today in part because our barn manager took a tumble from her horse last week through no fault of anybody. Fortunately, Barn Manager did everything right–all the right safety equipment, all the right precautions–and everybody will be fine. For the present though, Barn Manager is also on stall rest (well sorta).

The barn owners (our trainers) also did everything right. Communication with the barn family was immediate and clear. Everybody knew what happened, and everybody was invited to pitch in as we could or to just bear with the circumstances as graciously as possible. One lady volunteered to take on dumping, scrubbing, and refilling twenty water buckets daily, another will help feed morning or evening (every horse gets a slightly different PBJ, based on age, work load, temperament, metabolism and owner preferences).

Another boarder will help out cleaning stalls (that show must go on), and other riders are picking up odd jobs–like hand-grazing Sallie. The work in a well run horse barn is endless, and much of it requires some specific knowledge. There’s even art to mucking a stall.

The upside here is that so far, it’s all going pretty well. A previously latent (OK, somewhat latent) well of goodwill and esprit is covering the bases, and it occurs to me that part of the hell of the pandemic was that we couldn’t pull together. We could institute family movie night or sister-Zooms, but we could not all show up with snow shovels to clear out the church parking lot, couldn’t get together to edge a set of baby quilts for the new parents.

It shouldn’t take me four years to get to know a horse who lives two stalls down from Santa, but a chunk of that particular four years was spent in head-down, mask-on mode. Now I have a connection to Sallie I didn’t have before, and her rider texted me a thank-you. We’ve never texted before. Earlier this week I mucked stalls with another barn-buddy I don’t spend much time with, which was an occasion for small talk. We’re all paying a little more attention to the barn’s Facebook group page, because we want to stay informed about Barn Manager’s progress and who’s doing which job this week.

Hardship can be opportunity, but that nasty old pandemic… it was and is a stinker of a challenge because of how many ways it isolated us. I’m glad that for now at least, my barn is back to a place where we can weather a challenge together-together instead of together-apart.

Are you experiencing any instances of renewed community activity or community spirit,  (or even family spirit) that the pandemic curtailed? I’m donating to the Maryland Food Bank this week, because we can’t all sustain good health eating clover and orchard grass.


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11 comments on “Stone Soup for the Barn

  1. My former neighbor stored the final load from her house in my garage when she had a short notice closing. Small payback for the times she drove me to the eye surgeon when I couldn’t see to drive.
    Another neighbor mows my lawn & helps with my gardening in return for a monthly stipend that helps him pay down family medical bills in addition to his gas. He just power washed my house, knowing I’ll pay him back over the winter when mowing money otherwise dries up. I (mostly) stay out of trouble with the Hellacious Association of Idiots as our HOA is known on our street & he has a dependable income stream he can count on over the winter.
    A seldom-used room holds a friend’s inventory for her small business so she can sit her family around their dining room table for meals instead of covering it in boxes. In return I get goodies every time her husband makes a batch of chili for their freezer or smokes a turkey.

  2. Back being active with my caring community. I cook, deliver, drive people to medical appointments, that sort of thing. Just having live conversations with live humans is a lift to my spirits

  3. It sounds wonderful. I did not grow up around horses. I think I go up on one – one time – and the saddle slid to the side and so did I.

    As for renewed community activity, I still work 40+ hours a week and my days are pretty full at home, so no. I am not a church goer and that is the most common kind of community activity here. When I retire, I hope to find some volunteer opportunities where I can make a difference. Teaching kids to read and enjoy stories, for one thing.

  4. For a couple of years, I did volunteer work at our local senior center (mostly hospitality, setting up for events, serving, cleanup, plus some graphic design work). When I was offered a newly created job there, I jumped at it. The chance to continue to help out and regularly spend time with some lovely people I had met while volunteering was too good an opportunity to pass up. And I was being paid besides! Unfortunately about a year into my employment, the pandemic curtailed all in person events. We still “met” virtually, but socializing over Zoom was a pale imitation of in person meet and greets. In the past few months, the situation has been improving with most of us seniors quadruple vaccinated, so in person events are starting to be scheduled again. Getting together for our Fitness class twice a week has been a true joy; just having the opportunity to chat with old and new friends while we move to the music has enlivened my week. We’ve had a flamenco dancer accompanied by a guitarist with a served paella lunch, a ukulele concert with Stromboli, several fascinating lectures, and many other interesting events. Hopefully the cases will continue to drop and life can return to some semblance of normal. Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  5. I’m actually not, no. But I wanted to sign on and say thank you for your donation to the Food Bank. That’s a perennially needy area that has just gotten worse with Covid. Thank you for all that you do, Grace

  6. Just a thank you from me, too, for the donation to Maryland Food Bank. 🙂

    My community was small to begin with so, not too much needing to get re-gathered. BUT, I have noticed A LOT more talk between strangers. Lots more talk about pets and the love of cats or dogs. That has been awesome. I learned about a woman who used to run a cat shelter and had a lovely chat with her.

    But, the pulling together and doing tasks for someone else who is healing… that I have not experienced or seen requests for.

  7. During the pandemic, we got out of the habit of socializing with friends, neighbors and extended family. In mid October, I had my 75th birthday and realized I had to put something together for myself. Months ahead, I organized my children and grandchildren to come. Reaching out to the cousins was harder because many of them had ditched their land lines and I did not have their new cell phones. Some had moved and others never responded to my invites. In the end, eighteen people came on October 15th. It was a perfect day in the New Hampshire mountains and the leaves were at their peak. My daughter and I had simple but delicious food. Guests spread themselves around the old farmhouse and garden for a picnic lunch. It was a lovely family gathering, the first in three years since the beginning of the pandemic.

  8. Yes. Here its neither horses not pandemic, but my grown up son is in an intensive care unit for a bad brain injury (damn scooter). But I am getting to know his extended family more as all pitch in with meals for his wife and kids, care taking for kids, groceries, cleaning services. the list goes on for miles. i love these helping people.

  9. I’m glad you have found such a giving barn community and have new connections formed with all hands on deck.

    My youngest is trans and I have become someone parents turn to for help starting that particular parenting journey. I point them to great support groups, good books, and lend an ear. It is satisfying to pay it forward. When my kiddo started talking about gender difference as a young one, the resources were harder to find and a couple of other parents were really informative and I am thankful for their wisdom. So now I try to be available to other parents and make sure they know about the great resources in our area.

  10. Loved this blogpost, so fun and interesting. Still not finding ways to get together in person, and it is so different. Thankful I have loads of dear friends online through work though. Just finished Miss Dauntless, and love love love it! Wish I could remember all the details of Tremont’s back story. I do remember many details, just not all. (sigh)