New Tricks

PATH 2020 Horse of the Year

The therapeutic riding barn where I volunteer runs its lesson program in seasonal quarters, and I am proud to say I survived my maiden assignments over the long, hot summer. I’m back for the fall session, and in the mood to reflect on the experience.

I went a-volunteering when my last horse retired, because I wanted to be around horses. Oddly enough, at the therapeutic barn, we leave the horses alone as much as possible. The barn is a busy place, and if everybody who had a mind to petted every equine nose in sight, those equines would have no bodily privacy.

Before I started this volunteer gig, I hadn’t really considered that Thunderbolt sticking  his head over his stall’s half-door isn’t a license for me to make free with his person. If my job is to groom and tack, well, yes, then I have a reason to intrude, and I’d best do it as politely as possible. If not… then it’s not the pony’s job to accommodate my need to pet him.

Teddy–AKA Mr. Terrffic

This is an aspect of being around horses I hadn’t really considered before. This barn also turns horses out between lesson sessions for as many consecutive days as the calendar (and severe weather) allow. Meals are brought out to the pasture on those term breaks, and the horses have no work stress put on them whatsoever. They graze, swish flies, play with their buddies, and nap in the shade or the run-in shed for days on end. A true vacation from the downsides of domestication.

Which has prompted me to wonder what a true vacation at home would look like for me?

I’m also learning horse stuff I haven’t come across before, and I have been a horse lover since wee pals. I did not know, for example, that if a horse for some reason falls, and it’s necessary for him to stay down for his own safety (tangled harness, for example), then I can keep that beast on the ground by bringing my weight to bear (carefully) on the top of his neck. If he can’t toss his head up to begin the getting-off-the-ground process, he can’t get off the ground. Might have to use this in a book!

Mighty Mae

I’ve known for some time that I missed the social aspect of being part of a horse barn. The timing of my rides at my last billet (weekday mornings) meant I hardly ever saw another rider, much less an instructor, and the barn help was generally too busy to shoot the breeze. At this barn, I have yet to meet a volunteer or staff member whose company I don’t enjoy. My Friday morning gig in particular is full of older ladies whose years in the saddle are mostly behind them. Some of these women have been volunteering with this organization for thirty years.

We have fun, we commiserate, we tell our horse stories, and we cooperate around the challenge of making sure every lesson goes as well as it can. I hadn’t anticipated that I could find my horse people tribe at a place where I’m not riding, that I’d still be learning horse stuff even in a volunteer capacity, and that appreciating a horse might mean leaving him the heck alone.

Hmm. Have you learned any new tricks lately?


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7 comments on “New Tricks

  1. Another wonderful essay/post. I can’t say that I have learned any new tricks but it’s entirely possible I have without realizing it (I’m not the most self-aware person out there). I learn new facts frequently, however, from the books I read (including yours) whether they are historical or contemporary or sometimes even paranormal/fantasy. I like to learn and to know, so it’s good.
    I love horses to watch and have ridden once or twice, but I don’t care to be that far off the ground most of the time. But I’m really glad you have found a happy place.

  2. Pingback: Yet Another Ducal Deal!!! | Grace Burrowes | I believe in love.

  3. I love your horses. NIcholas’ horse, Buttercup, says so much about him. The scene where the heroine discovers two draft horses have conveyed with her property is wonderful. (Around here it’s usually chest freezers. Boring.)

    We’ve had a few short term foster kids in the last year. Have I EVER learned a lot!

  4. I’m unexpectedly a caregiver for a family member, and I’m learning a lot about grace and patience. Good lessons, although not in a form I would have preferred!

  5. Your volunteer work sounds fabulous – you are still around horses, doing useful work, and are around people with a common interest.

    I will likely look for some volunteer work after I retire, although retirement may be postponed for a few months due to multiple issues. 🙁

    I plan on doing some volunteer work, but haven’t pinned anything down yet. I used to think I’d like to tutor children in reading at the library, but Covid and other illnesses will always be around, and I’m not young. So we will see.

  6. My brain went all sorts of places as to why you learned the method of keeping a horse from getting up after a fall. I truly hope it was a simple “just in case” training.

    I’m continuing the process of recovering from knee surgery. Nothing close to major surgery but frustrating because I lack patience. I learned that not only is it important to stop taking fish oil and turmeric before surgery because of their blood thinning properties, it is also important to wait to start taking them again for awhile after surgery to reduce the chance (or certainty according to my orthopedic specialist) of extensive bruising. I’ve also been reminded of the importance of a sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously while recovering from surgery.

  7. My learning new tricks this year is in amazement what all & how quickly grasshoppers can wipe out a garden, & when a plant that I haven’t had luck with before does really well & why others that usually do well, don’t.
    I’m jealous that you have a barn to volunteer at, I’ve been a horse person off & on most of my life, but am off for now. We do have one barn in the area, but not that well organized. Not a good fit.
    So I have an Airedale & volunteer with the county extension master gardeners. Plus have beautiful nature trails to go walk & spin off cares for a while.
    I really enjoy your books!
    Take care all- be well