Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Barn Bunch

The Barn Bunch plotted a surprise birthday party for Trainer Tracey. We gathered last night at the appointed location and were escorted to a separate party room. We were all pretty pleased with ourselves until Tracey arrived -- she parked her car right outside the window of the party room where we were all seated!! Fortunately, the blinds apparently blocked her view (nor was she expecting a crowd) and we got her good! Although we feared the "mass of candles" on the cake would set off the sprinklers [ :-) ] a good time was had by all.

I've been very fortunate to make and keep good friends from several of the stables where I boarded.

A little background is needed here, I suppose. I acquired my first horse when I was 29. Unmarried, no significant other, friends and coworkers all married with or starting families and socializing with others at the same life stage, modest income, afraid I would be trapped home alone if I opted to save for and buy a home. Living on a single income, realistically I could afford ONE thing to spend discretionary money on: car payments, a fixer-upper house or small condo, travel, a horse.... In one of those convergent moments, a friend had a litttle red mare to find a home for and I still had a savings account. So I did something I had always wanted to to -- buy an Arabian horse.

Of course, it was all I could do to own a horse. Lessons were out of the question and stabling was self care. Over time, I moved my mare from stable to stable, working up from self-care, to partial-self care, to full-care as promotions and pay raises allowed. I had always wanted to give jumping a try and when we finally arrived at a hunter-jumper barn it took me a year before I could afford one lesson (flat) a week. Somewhere along the line I started jump lessons, and when the stable offered a package deal ($X amount each month for unlimited lessons) we were off and leaping!

I made some marvelous friends at the hunter-jumper barn that became my primary social group. Interestingly enough, we all kind of moved on at the same time, taking our horses to a couple of different barns. At the eventing barn where I eventually ended up, I met another group of great people. I also acquired my second horse (the gray purebred Arabian I had always threatened my 3/4 Arabian mare with if she didn't behave -- like she was concerned that I would replace her). The little red mare became a working woman supporting herself as a lesson horse and was the darling of the women and girls who learned to ride on her.

We moved again to our current location, established by a good friend who had evolved into a wonderful trainer. From the handful of believers who brought their horses to the barn we grew into yet another group of great folks who shared a love of horses. Regrettably our owner and trainer had to give up her dream, but the new owners of the facility turned out to be the lovely people she promised they were. Although the group of boarders changed over time, it still remains a bunch of good folks.

A lot of people outside the horse world assume horse ownership is only for the rich. For a period the red mare and I competed in hunter-jumper shows where we encountered the moneyed people who spent an amount equal to my entire net monthly income for their horse (board, training, lessons). Most of them were nice, but the spoiled and self-absorbed were plentiful, also. Traits I didn't seem to encounter as much at the more modest level of stabling and showing that I participated in.

The barn bunches that I have enjoyed owned horses because they loved the animals, not the competition. I don't click with the folks who put competition first and treat their horses like tennis rackets or golf clubs -- repeatedly changing horses/equipment to find a winner. The barn bunches I've belonged to cheered each other's victories, consoled losses, and understood that the passing of a companion animal was a big hurt. We watch out for each others' horses, share treats with their stablemates, and willingly loan and share equipment. We safely and courteously share the arena -- no prima donnas to dodge -- and display concern for the welfare of all the horses at the barn, not just our own.

Once again my horse and I are surrounded by good people. My little red mare has since moved on to greener pastures that I'm sure she shares with former stablemates that have also passed on. My little gray guy is very content at his current location and well cared for.

Unfortunately, our various work and personal schedules mean members of the current barn bunch don't often get together. But ask us to give of our free time to spiff up the barn for the annual Horse Owner's Workshop presented by the local feed store -- and everyone is there. Likewise a party to show our regard for one of our members.

The Barn Bunch -- they're the people who understand why a piece of metal that goes in a horse's mouth costs so much, and need no explanation as to why and how horses fill our souls.

1 comment:

Steve Parisi said...

As a member of the barn bunch, I agree and appreciate these comments. I only wish we could get together more! Especially for trail rides etc. Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to be retired! :) I am enjoying reading your blog. I am learning much about you. Your comments on my blog, DomicileEquus.com, in my request for thoughts on Equine Tourism in Clackamas County were terrific. Did you turn my name into the Clackamas County Tourism Director? :) If you did, I am glad. I was contacted to be a part of a "think tank" of sorts on the issue, and Sally, of the Country Classic will be there and from what I understand has had a great deal of interest in this for quite some time. As you are breaking from the service to others after 37 years of doing so, to enjoy this well deserved time in your life, I will offer (but not expect), you to join me for a preliminary disucssion on the issue of equine tourism in Wilsonville this month. Contact me for details. On the other note, Although I am an active show hubby, and am highly competitive, I agree with your thoughts regarding some folks approach to competition over relationship and "horse centric" behavior. I think you can have both, and it is interesting. Folks are always chattering at me about Tatanka when he hits the wrong lead. You know what my buddy and I did last night when this ocurred. We just turned around, cantered in the other direction, and then went and played outside! :) If "The Tonk" wants to run around like a child, let him! He is my inner child after all, he does'nt show, and we spend more time hugggin', talkin', and increasing our awareness of eachother than anything else. he knows when I "let him go" to go where "he" wants. I know horse people are opinionated alot of times. But you know what? When I brought my buddy home, I made a committment to be of service to "him". Heck, he carries me (literally and otherwise), through life. The least I can do, is keep the promise I made to him the first week I brought him home. I said, "Tonk, I'll never take the horse, or the spirit out of ya'. Your home" Sometimes in the field when we run off and people see me lay the reigns on his neck and let him stray as he runs, these moments of trust and letting him make some of his own decisions, are some of the times where our trust grows exponentially. Dangerous? Maybe. So is horse back riding. Last night, I rode my buddy, and then sat in his stall for an hour. He came over to check on me frequently, and licked me like a dog, and then leaned over and put his forehead to mine as I sat cross legged in his stall. Folks who do not "get" horses, will never understand that moment.
Anyway, back to Clackamas county E-Tourism....Please pass on to any enthusiasts you know to visit my site or contact me, as although my role will be minute in comparison to highly connected individuals in the county, I am a worker bee, and I believe this to be the next part of my journey with horses, and the protection of their future in Clackamas county through tourism, land use, and my profession as a Realtor. An actual, congruent life cycle is forming in front of me, of which the horse himself only entered my life 3 years ago at the age of 40. He continues to transform me, my relationships, the people I am drawn to, and now for goodness sakes, my livelihood. I would have to say also, the very way I look at life, money, sprituality, and the things that are important. Wow. Was I lost before. That's OK. You can't figure out where you are going, until you figure out, you may just be temporarily... a little lost. Stay in touch.