Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back on the Horse - Part 1

The daughter who won't lift a finger in the house is the same child who cycles madly off in the pouring rain to spend all morning mucking out a stable. ~Samantha Armstrong

About a month ago another homeschool family joined the Princess and me on Tuesday morning at Miss Annette's 4-H Horse Barn. They had joined the 4-H Club in the middle of December and had been going out on Friday nights, as I had started to do a year ago and continued through the summer. In August, I went to Wednesday mornings and then changed to Tuesday mornings in October, which was the ideal morning for our schedule.

Difficulties arise in finding a replacement for us when the unforeseen happens and we cannot fulfill our obligation. Miss Annette used to do Tuesday mornings herself, but her schedule has changed as well and it is not convenient for her to do so now. There are only so many homeschool families that can take mornings and of the ones we have not all of them want a morning. Still, I was torn about the idea of having another family out there with us on Tuesdays until I talked to the mother, a very sweet woman with two girls about my daughter's age and a teenage boy. It seemed like a good fit especially because she seemed to have more experience with horses than I have had, although she admitted to not have been around them since she was a teenager, again much like me.

The lady seemed so knowledgeable and organized also that I was excited for the Princess that she may learn more on handling horses with this family coming, even though she told me her own children had no real experience with horses. The first day, they arrived just minutes before us and opened the barn to allow the horses into their stalls before the Princess and I could walk to the barn. Most of the people with which I have worked in the past there wait until the other group arrives and do it that together. It concerned me a bit because they are newer and I felt responsible for training them as I was not sure of their familiarity with these horses. On Friday nights at the barn there could be a number of families and more children than horses. It was difficult for my daughter to get any time with the horses, so I was not sure how much experience this family had gotten in just a month.

On the other hand, I thought to myself as I approached the barn, maybe they were just very confident and were more experienced than I thought. I mean, I had spent some time on the phone with the mother and she seemed to have definite ideas about training and handling horses. Actually, I may have felt a bit knocked off my high horse, so to speak, because she seemed so much more experienced than I ever was. Her family had a farm with well-trained working horses to help them run it. Maybe she is the take charge type and I should just be open to learning from her.

When I got to the barn the first thing I noticed besides the horses were all in their own stalls and had not acted up this time, as they are known to do especially with inexperienced people, was that the lights were not on. In the evenings, the lights are usually not needed because of the angle of the sun but they are usually needed in the winter mornings, even more so when it is dark and rainy morning as it was that day. I suspected that the family did not know where the light switches were, which made me a bit concerned about what else they might not know about the barn.

The first thing we are to do when we get to the barn is read Miss Annette's white board for special instructions. Sometimes there is a change in hay feeding or medicines need to be administered or one horse or pony needs to be kept separate from the others or to remind the children the limits on treats...just things like that. On Friday evenings there are so many families that such routines may go unnoticed by the newbie, because someone else already did it and has passed the instructions along verbally. I asked the family, as they were on their way to the feed room, if they had read the white board before allowing the horses into the barn...and was met with blank stares, as I suspected might be the case. I know it takes some time to get used to the barn routine and to find where everything is, particularly when you are on your own, so then I took point and just continued with the chores as the Princess and I usually do, teaching the new family along the way as if starting from square one.

The feed room has everything labeled well: Which horses get how much of a scoop of which feed. One mini is allergic to hay and must get a special feed. A couple of the older ones get supplements for joints. We even have a colored bucket system so that each horse or groups of minis have their own color. That way, when there are a number of children, they can each take a bucket or two and know which horse to feed. It works well.

Then there is checking the water. Does it need filled or dumped, cleaned and refilled? Taking hay to the upper pasture for when we release the large horses and ponies from the barn. I like to clean the barn, stables, and paddock areas while the horses are grazing on hay, but on rainy days the paddock usually does not get cleaned up.

That is all we did on the first time. The second time, the weather was very nice, sunny and cool, so everyone wanted to ride and that is when it got...interesting.

~ My Lord, some changes are never easy even when they are good and make things easier. Help me to be more accepting of changes. ~

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.