I Was a Middle Aged Barn Rat, Part 2, “The Situation.” This is a ten part blog series about the year I decided to pursue my lifelong interest in horses, based on an article that appeared in Equus, March 2015.
In my last entry, I told about how I became a fifty-seven-year-old barn rat, mucking stalls and throwing hay in exchange for riding and horsemanship lessons. As a lifelong and frustrated lover of horses, I leapt at the chance to enter the horse world, even at my age. Bottom line, at my age it was now or never.
This wasn’t a decision to be made lightly. I’m a Type 2 diabetic, with peripheral neuropathy, and I’m overweight. I take medication for high blood pressure. The nerve damage in my left leg makes it difficult to do some things. At first I was worried I wasn’t physically up to the task of controlling a horse any more. But I figured the exercise would help with some of those problems. Baby steps, you see. Journey of a thousand miles. And the only thing left on my bucket list is to own a horse. This experience just might give me the confidence to eventually take that step.
At first the job was as difficult as I’d feared. The walk from the barn to the top pasture is uphill, so leading horses to and from it left me breathless. I often had to stop and pretend I was admiring the sunset for a moment before moving on. I learned to take everything one step at a time, literally, climbing to the hay loft as slowly as I needed to. I made sure the horses didn’t crowd me even when they were hungry and impatient. Yet I never cut corners for being tired or sore. Every time I was out of breath, I told myself that I was up to this task. My parents had always told me I shouldn’t want a horse because they were too much work, and I needed to prove to myself that the work was worth it. And it is so worth it, on so many levels.
Gradually, over the past months, my leg became stronger and my stamina improved. I tightened my belt a whole notch. I no longer dread moving horses to and from the barn, even the less well-behaved ones. I sweep the floor in much less time now. I can climb to the hay loft without stopping for breath at the top. I love it up there; there’s something about the smell of warm hay that is comforting in a way I’ve never known before.
Kristen has given me some lessons. For the first time in my life I am learning how to longue, and even more important I’m learning why one does it. Pepper, the roan mare I ride, is a sweet girl and very patient with me. She’s only five years old, but Kristen has trained her well and she’s teaching me things I’ve wanted to know all my life. Especially I’m learning what it’s like to get to know a horse. Priceless.