I had a good day today. Not because I did anything overly unusual or special; perhaps, I think, because I didn’t, and I still enjoyed it.
The start wasn’t promising. My alarm went off at six and my first instinct was to hurl it across the room, curl up tighter in my blankets and go back to sleep. Then the first snooze went off… and the second… I haven’t had a real sleep-in in over a week because my last day off was at Fair Hill, so every morning it’s getting harder to drag myself out of bed.
I also need to go grocery shopping and buy coffee; I think that contributing to my lacklustre morning motivation.
Once I managed to get up I breakfasted, checked the goings-on of the people I know on the other side of the world, and then walked outside.
I promptly walked back inside to get another jacket. Winter is coming! (Today’s temperature topped out at 54F (12C) and the low is 33F (0.5C).)
The morning routine is familiar to me by now. The horses have just swapped over to day turnout, so I go out in the relative darkness of 7am, open the barn doors a little and flick on the lights. Heads poke over their stalls, blinking in the sudden light, and every now and again there’s a little whinny of welcome.
First off I hay all of the horses, going up into the loft in the Main Barn and taking flake-by-flake from the hay stall we have set up in Aisle 1. I also do a general check to make sure that the horses are all alive; so far, so good!
Then I start feeding out. Now that the weather has cooled down and the flies have died off, we pre-make the morning feeds the evening before (we used to do it right before we fed, because the flies were so bad we were worried about contamination). So I pull out the Main Barn horses’ feed buckets, soak the ones that need it (a high percentage of the horses here, which I think is a good thing) and start to feed. We used to have major issues with Gyles attacking the horses on either side of him but a few firm words has put him mostly the on the right track. Generally I just have to deal with the constant neighing, which wouldn’t be so bad if all horses had attractive voices, but when you have to listen to a guttural, constant, demanding neigh all morning it really wears thin fast.
CW normally turns up while I’m feeding, so sometimes she’ll do Aisle 1 while I’m doing Main Barn and VIP. Then I’ve been in the habit of taking the Gator and feeding the field board horses; we have seven at the moment, which has got to be an extreme high! I try to remember to check if they all have their shoes on, and for any obvious wounds or discomfort etc. Been lucky with this so far too!
Now it’s coming into winter, after feeding is blanketing. I still don’t have a full handle on this – what sort of rugs are needed for what sort of weather, which owners prefer more or less rugs, which weather forecast we should trust (!). But I’m learning steadily, and OS’s idea of putting up a chart with temperatures and corresponding blankets is a life-saver; if all else fails, I just defer to that for all of them.
Today was made easier because CW did most of the blanketing while I finished up the feeds. Then we turned out, which was slightly easier today than yesterday, I think thanks to the yoga I did last night; the muscles I killed from running had loosened up a little! I was still a bit slower than usual though. Fortunately I didn’t have any incidents turning out; I’ve been having a bad run with horses tearing away and just generally being obnoxious. In result I think I’ve been a bit more ‘switched-on’ the last couple of days which has helped as well!
The Boss is away helping coach the Classic Format 3-Day at Waredaca, so I’ve been assigned the pleasure of working Team Grey. I actually love it when she goes away and leaves me here, only because I get to work all of her awesome horses!
I decided to start with the hacks, and Gyles went first. He was good, better than he has been the past, and we did 40min on the hills and the flat. It was chilly enough that I had two jackets on, as I’ve quickly realised that just walking a horse on a hack doesn’t really do much to warm you up, so you’ve got to be dressed for the occasion. I am lucky enough to be at this facility, though; even walking a horse for forty minutes doesn’t get boring, the scenery is so spectacular. It’s particularly stunning at this time of year, with all the fall colours coming through; sometimes I can’t help but think it looks like a painting. We don’t get this sort of colour change in the trees back home; or maybe there just aren’t enough deciduous trees for me to notice it! Either way, it’s amazing to see here, and I’ve really got to find some time to take my camera out and capture it.
Calib was next. I switched over the tack in a quick changeover (one of the advantages of the cold weather is not having to hose each horse off after every ride; especially when they’re just hacking, a quick brush over normally does the trick!) and was soon out at it again. I must admit that if I’d had to do another really long hack I might’ve got impatient with the scenery, especially as Calib was jogging like it was his job (I think the longest I got of walk was about fifteen strides); but fortunately he’s just in light work this week so I only did twenty minutes.
Then it was time for Cody, ever the exciting one. Due to the renovations of our indoor, we’ve been forced to start riding him outside, and luckily it hasn’t been quite as exciting as one may have predicted. Hardly any caprioles at all! (I swear this horse is training himself to join the Spanish Riding School; he has a mean levade.) Still, we take precautionary measures, including lunging him and doing lots of transitions before we get on.
He was great on the lunge, but a little more ‘looky’ than he has been the past few days, so I made sure to do lots of transitions (the sort of thing that gets him excited if he’s that way inclined). He managed to keep it together through the ten minutes of lunging, so I closed the arena gates and braved the saddle.
He was actually perfectly behaved. His spooks were more excuses to refuse to bend right (his more difficult direction), so I just worked on getting him to concentrate and bend even if he didn’t want to, and he settled nicely. This horse has the most astonishing gaits I’ve ever sat on. His trot is like floating – I could sit to it for hours – and his canter is just incredible. He is quite simply an incredible horse, and I’m honoured to be trusted enough to ride him. So, all too soon, I brought him back to a walk, dismounted and walked him back up to the barn.
The only incident we had there was when a heron took off from where it had been standing behind a bush, making Cody jump sideways. That was awesome behaviour for him – normally he jumps straight up – and he settled right away after, so it wasn’t a big deal. Those herons, however, have it out for me. Twice Calib’s nearly gotten me off when he’s spun away from them because he didn’t see them before they suddenly take off, flapping their giant wings. Gyles has nearly killed me as well, I think there’s at least one other horse, and then Cody today. I swear they’re haunting me.
I brushed Cody off, let the Boss know how perfect her horses were (:D) and then pulled Brady out of the paddock.
When CW asked how my ride was, I summed it up as, “Brady was a wanker, and I forgot how to ride”, and I still stand by that assessment. -.-
Basically I got some good work out of him, but he was in a bad mood and my riding deteriorated as I got a little frustrated. In the end I just worked on some of the movements for our test on Saturday, got some reasonably nice work out of him and quit.
It’s annoying, because Brady and I either have really nice, harmonious rides on the flat, or it feels like we’re in each others’ way and neither of us can do anything right. But then I do know that that’s how it goes, so I’ve put today’s ride behind me and I’m looking forward to our flat session on Friday being much better.
By then it was nearly one o’clock and, I figured, time for some well-deserved lunch. CW kindly offered to grab something on her way back from getting supplies in town, so while she was out I hayed all the stalls, ready for the horses to come in to, and generally tidied the aisles. Then we sat down for some food in the nicely heated office.
I wiped off all of the Boss’s tack and hung it neatly, and then went to start making afternoon feed while CW starting bringing the horses in.
I enjoy making up feed. It’s formulaic, which means it’s relaxing, and I do it so often that it doesn’t take too much concentration. There’s something between the smell and the sound and the rhythm of it that makes it enjoyable. Call me crazy.
The horses were mostly in moods for turn-in, though. I couldn’t help but literally laugh out loud when Bay Chance – an aging trail horse who has questionable conformation but a generally good heart – refused to be caught. CW and Juan were both standing in the middle of the paddock as he cantered circles around them when I walked up. Then the Three Stooges – Chestnut Chance, Fred and Luca – got their blood up and were tricky as well. Again, because they’re not normally like that, I couldn’t help but laugh. It felt good, actually; to truly laugh at something I found amusing. Feels like it’s been too long.
Finally all of the horses were caught and brought in, and it was time for the morning routine again; soak, feed out, while CW worked on blanketing the horses for the night.
We timed it pretty well, so that we both finished at around the same time. Then it was time for a general tidy, and that was pretty much the barn work done! I had an in-hand session with a client scheduled for the late afternoon, so I hung around and made up the morning feeds, tidied the office (including wiping down all of the shelves and awards; no easy feat!) and sort of chilled for a little bit.
That time of day is probably my favourite. The horses are all tucked up in bed, most of the clients have gone home, and it’s quiet. You can hear the horses munching on hay but that’s the only sound, the bustle of the rest of the workers gone for the day. The end of the work day is near and it’s nearly time to go inside to warmth and relaxation. It’s a lovely feeling after a productive day.
The session ended successfully, with the little horse in question taking a little while to understand what we were requesting of him, but he picked it up easily enough and was a little rock star by the end. The positivity of it tipped off a good day; now I’m at home, in the warmth, waiting for my dinner to heat up and contemplating the joys of going out in 40F later on to do nightchecks.
Still, things could definitely be worse.
Remember: What you take for granted, someone else is praying for.