Guest Author - Susan Hopf
Fairly early on in my current incarnation of [barn owner/manager/head trainer/instructor/handyperson/tractor driver/hay hauler/trail & pasture maintenance/rock picker and head referee for crazy horse people] I experienced a real wake-up call from one of the aforementioned crazy horse people. She was telling me how lucky I was to have the job that I had. It was a hot summer’s day and as she was going on about the peaceful existence of my life with horses I found myself quite distracted as I was desperately trying to disengage a piece of hay from inside my bra without looking too much like Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine the telephone operator. “Snort, snort, one ringy dingy, two ringy dingies…oh yes, snort, hello, is this the party to whom I am speaking??? Snort, snort.”
The poking (into and under what used to be a T-shirt and soon to be rag) and whining (of the human blathering machine) was becoming more and more unbearable and just short of tearing off all above-the-waist clothing my strip-tease was interrupted by the most profound statement I have ever heard. “The reason I think your job is so wonderful is that you don’t have to deal with people.” Well suffice it to say that the poking of hay into my personal parts was nothing compared to the poking of my teeth into my tongue – well I had to do something to prevent myself from bursting out laughing. This was even more poignant given that just a week or so ago I had the mind-boggling task of explaining to same said person the folly of closing the barn up tight in 90 plus temperatures when all of the horses were inside – yes you heard me. After a ride (mid-day and in such incredible heat) she put her horse back into the barn and closed tightly all of the barn doors, I suppose in order to prevent any escapees, but it was 94 degrees out with 99 percent humidity. I guess the fact that she was creating the only reason one would even think of leaving the comfort of a stall fan and escape into the sort of bug infested hazy afternoon sun that was plaguing us outdoorsy types on that infamous day, never occurred to her. Not sure where I was at the time but I arrived however many hours later to find 14 horses drenched in sweat, water buckets drained, my brain on overdrive and my emotional state – well in undiscovered territory. As I removed them from the “Oxford-brown” stained hot box, which was actually producing sweat of its own, and hosed each down in turn I could not help but wonder about the workings of the human mind – or more precisely the failure of such.
So as this same woman continued on and on and on about my peaceful existence, san human contact, it took all of my reserves not to slap her out of her stupor. However, being the non-violent type - yes really!, I instead tried to explain that all horses are attached in some way to at least one, if not more, persons – she, in fact, was leasing a horse so was person number two for her particular equine resident. In addition I hoped to make clear that all of these people involved with each and every horse seem to know all they need to know about said horse, their riding, their neighbor’s riding, their kids riding, their neighbor’s kids riding, how much everyone’s horse cost and the personality test results of every horse professional on the face of the planet. Add to this mix veterinary visits, farrier appointments, perhaps an outside trainer or clinician and we have a grand old human circus here at the barn almost everyday – no people – say what?? But in her defense I did understand what she meant – she was right, in a way – no – no people – only the walking dead.
In all seriousness stable management is an oxymoron of sorts. There is nothing stable about people that spend countless hours and money on the care and coddling of horses. We freeze, we sweat, we slog through mud and snow, we get poked in places where the sun don’t shine, we chew grit and exhaust all reserves for a few hours spent in the company of half-ton beasts of muscle and grace. And we love it – yes really! Stable management? – snort – snort – um – yes – is this the party to whom I am speaking???