I Was a Middle Aged Barn Rat, Part 5, “Bad Teacher.” 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.
Earlier in this series I mentioned some unhappy experiences in my previous attempts to join the horse world. In particular I had difficulty at a stable here in Hendersonville where I took riding lessons for about a year and a half, and learned little more than that I quite possibly didn’t deserve to be around horses. I was wrong, and so were they. This is what happened:
At the time, I was in my early fifties, and was at my all-time maximum weight. I had an as yet undiagnosed thyroid problem, and was taking blood pressure medication I later discovered was making me pre-diabetic. To be sure, I was not the ideal riding student. But it didn’t matter to me that I was never going to ride in competition; I just wanted to be around horses and was willing to pay someone to let me ride theirs.
My initial problem was that I was far heavier than I am now. I’ve lost 60 lbs. since then, but at the time I realized I was going to need a larger than average horse. The bad news was that the only horse available for someone my size was lazy and difficult to keep moving. I learned very little on that horse, and did much better whenever I was allowed to ride one of the other horses. Unfortunately, that was just the first issue.
My first instructor didn’t seem to care if I learned anything, and wasn’t much interested in adhering to barn rules. Which meant I didn’t learn them. Or much of anything else. At first I didn’t mind, since my objective at the time was just to be around the horses; I would have been happy to just ride around the ring at a walk for an hour each week. But after a few months I became interested in actually learning something. Between the lazy horse and lazy instructor, I was getting nowhere.
So when the first instructor was replaced, I didn’t think too much about it. I’m pretty easygoing, and so I accepted the new instructor, Jennifer, without qualm. I wish I’d had a clearer idea of what my goals were, so I might not have put up with her as long as I did.
Jennifer was very young, in her early twenties. Not a bad thing in itself, but she behaved as if she were fifteen. And she treated me like I was five. She had a horsier-than-thou attitude that, for a student like me who is sensitive about lack of horsiness, was devastating. She never let me forget that I was being taught things she’d known her whole life. She was in the habit of snatching tack from my hands if I fumbled with it too much. When I objected to the treatment, she one day handed me a bridle that was so hopelessly out of adjustment I couldn’t figure out which end was up. She said, “I’d help you, but you said you don’t need help.” I should have asked for a different instructor right then, but I didn’t. It took a few more weeks for her to be replaced by a far more helpful teacher, and I was thrilled to see her go.
Elizabeth was wonderful, but unfortunately she was with me for only a short time. She taught me quite a few things the others hadn’t or couldn’t, but when the stable owner restructured the lessons and doubled the price of private sessions, I had to quit. I could no longer afford the private lessons I’d been taking, and was too sensitive about my age to take a class with small children. The owner made it clear she wasn’t going to miss me, and that she thought I was an embarrassment to her stable; I was fatter and older than everyone there. I left, thinking that this was the way the horse world worked, and that I just wasn’t the sort of person who deserved to be around horses. It was several years before I learned I was wrong.