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We Are Flying Solo

January 18, 2013

I Am Not An Endangered Species

The icy rain hit both (yes, I had on two) layers of hoods as the 20 mph wind cut around my legs.  Damn.  It's finally winter.  About on schedule -- January and early February are usually when we see our coldest temps, but even still, 2012 was the warmest year yet, so I make no predictions. 

As I slogged through an ankle-deep slurry of mud, manure, and horse pee, I confess I thought bad thoughts about people who rant online about how no one is a horseman anymore, no one puts in the real work, no one is a thoughtful rider these days.  I was the only person in sight as I tucked my horses into their insulated blankets and made sure they had a clean, dry shed floor to stand on as a break for their feet from the mud (and last summer I had wondered if matting the shed was worth the work, ha!).  I wasn't there to ride or longe or anything else -- my 20-mile commute was purely to prepare my horses for the winter storm blowing through that night.

Tomorrow, I will haul at least one to an indoor arena (Solo is barefoot AND a giant wuss and finds the occasional rock in our arena to be a gross insult) due to two weeks of rain (Encore is the tough brother, he can work at home with no complaints) and Sunday, Encore will be doing some road and speed work while we test out a new bit.

I know I'm not the only one putting in my time in the dark.  I know there are other people who lay awake at night thinking about their current feeding regime and conjuring up one thing to improve in the next ride and waiting impatiently for the next time weather and schedules and diesel money align so they can trot 13 miles through the woods and fields, working now because it would be unfair to expect a spring season otherwise. 

We are here, in the freezing rain, under the stars (and sometimes clouds), staying on our toes and keeping the horses' routines creative and varied after we are done scraping off the mud.  After the ride, we don't come back to a fancy stall or a Florida hammock (well, I sure as heck don't anyway), we just shake off our jackets and follow the headlights home so we can do it all over again tomorrow.

I write this to you, Event World At Large, so that we are not dismissed in favour of a false nostalgic narrative.  Every day, I work so hard to not only do my best for my horses, but to learn and observe and try new things that will make us a better team.  Our kind are not unicorns in that we are neither singular nor imaginary; but our greatest quality is that you don't have to believe in us -- we will journey on regardless.


  1. I am also someone who works very hard, day in and day out (and often starting well before dawn on these short winter days!) in order to care for my equine partners. I also feel a twinge when I read what appears to be a constant barrage of lamentations over the loss of 'real' horsemanship, especially among young people. (For the record, I am on the upper range of these 'young people' in question at 23). So you are not alone :)

  2. Hear hear! I've got you by a decade, LOL, but I think I still count for at least half a person.

  3. I like the boots in the photo: I have some of those floral Bogs, too. And said Bogs are my winter boots for when I clean four stalls/paddocks daily and twice-weekly clean the turnout acreage. Who says that no more horsewomen exist? I'm lucky enough to be retired at 55, and able to spend all day with my mares, cleaning, feeding, riding. That's why I get up a 0330 in the morning, to care for my equines. When I hear of riders who just hop on an already-tacked-up mount, ride in a heated indoor arena, then get off and throw the reins to a groom, I wonder, "What's the fun in that?" Give me hauling muck in the cold any day. My horses appreciate the hands-on care, and I feel their gratitude. It's worth it.

  4. Love the Bogs. I have been living in those things. It is a mud pit around here too. You aren't alone. I don't get to spend as much time as I would like with the kids but when I am there I am out walking the fences and slogging in the mud. I can't imagine just showing up and riding. I might pay for someone to take care of them but all the nitty gritty stuff is part of being a good horse momma.

  5. It sounds completely insane to say, but I wish we had mud here. We've had three days above 32 since 12/28. 3. That is weird and abnormal and horribly, horribly cold. So people who have time to rant about young people online: maybe if you ever got off your computers and went to the barn, you'd notice the young crowd braving the cold and chipping ice out of buckets (again) while you spend all your time online whining.

  6. People actually say such things? Day in day out it's what I do and i wouldn't have it any other way. Just like with my children I choose not to send them off to a daycare for someone else to meet their most basic needs because in providing those needs that is when a relationships develops most. Same with my horses, day in day out daily mundane tasks create a bond and a positive one when we choose to enjoy those tasks. I love my fridge bundled winter barn time every day. I am afraid privilege breeds out of touch people.

  7. Seems like they say these things because the people who actually are the real horsemen -like us who are out every morning, every night - in the cold and warm - are not the rich who buy our way into everything.

    We are mere smurfs.

  8. I think they've just forgotten that plenty of mistakes were made in the "good old days" too -- I can watch old videos and see some appalling horsemanship by even big name riders while chasing the ribbons. There is great horsemanship as well.

    The funny thing is, when I look at my own journey, I don't compare it to others very often. I don't care if no one knows my name or I show on some random point list -- but if you want to call me a poor horseman, well, you'd better tag along first and see if you can keep up! I have made my choices and time is precious; I try hard to be true to the core elements of that.

    And SB, you just made me choke on my beer. You owe me one.