Monday, June 2, 2008

Retiring From the Horse Business

As a child I galloped thousands of miles on my imaginary horse, Leafy. He was named that because he ate leaves. I was an adult with children of my own when the first real horse entered my life. Back in those days feed was $2.50 a bag and you could buy hay out of the field for fifty cents a bale.

Our family added a second horse, and then two ponies to our herd. We cleared the three acres of woods we owned with a chain saw and a bush axe. We sunk fence posts and strung fence wire. We build our first barn out of salvaged materials. It was tacky, but serviceable.

The children and I took lessons. We all joined a local saddle club. We had a ball with our horses, riding for hours in the woods and on country roads. The children grew up and I went to college. The local community college offered an equine technology program. By then my barn had expanded. I was boarding horses, giving riding lessons, and had a thriving 4-H Horse club. I wanted to know more. I spent two years going to school sunup till sundown and got my two-year degree in equine technology. I took short courses, became a certified open horse show judge, and was breeding Arabian horses on a small scale. Then came the divorce. I moved from my small hometown and started all over again. I quit breeding and put my heart and soul into teaching. I ended up with a nice little group of clients and school horses. We showed in a few class ‘A’ shows, but most of our showing was at 4-H and small fun shows. I loved every minute of it. And that is what I have done for the past fifteen years. I began writing somewhere in the middle of everything else I did to carve out a living for my grand daughter, who lived with me, and myself.

The other thing that happened while I wasn’t looking was I got older. The physical part of having horses got harder. I know there are sixty-year old women out there that can lift a fifty pound feed bag or bale of hay with hardly a groan. Well, I am not one of those women. The other thing that has happened gradually over the years is the price of horse feed and hay is much higher than it was thirty years ago. The little farm I rented was sold to developers. I have two horses at a nice little place, but it is not set up for a horse business. Expenses are exceeding income.

So, I have decided to “retire” from the horse business, at least from having my own barn and horses. Miraculously, I have found someone willing to give my dear old mare a home. A couple, who are young and full of dreams and goals, and most of all, energy. I am turning over all my “horse junk” to them. They are building stalls, planting pasture, and putting up fences just like we did so long ago. When they have all that done Mira, and her pasture mate Nisha, will go to their farm. I am already feeling sad, and at the same time have a sense of relief that I will be free of that responsibility. I guess it can be compared to empty nest syndrome. Miramar and I have been through a lot together. I’ve sat up with her when she was sick and when she delivered her foals. I’ve been mad at her when she’d fling a fit at the horse show, thrilled when she’d win the blue or even the pink. We’ve been together so long, over the years, we can almost read each other’s minds. But, I don’t feel like I can afford to care for her, and what if she out-lives me?

I am scared of how I’ll manage life without a horse. I know I will miss my old girl. Who will listen to me with those black, knowing eyes? Where will I go to cry when life gets hard? How will I manage without the children giggling in the barn that make me giggle, too? I have Barnie, my JRT, but he just doesn’t understand. He thinks life is about barking at squirrels and everything is so darn exciting to him. He can’t sit still for me to cry on his shoulder.

Well, I guess life is in one of those changing modes and I’ll just have to wait and see what’s next. Maybe I’ll travel across country, go to Alaska, or to the beach. I won’t have to worry who’s going to take care of the horses, and Barnie can come along. He’ll show me just how exciting life can be. Maybe I’ll bark at some squirrels.


scriberess said...

How lucky they (the horses) were to have you as their friend and caregiver.

Double H Stables said...

I have way too much to say in a little comment, but I am honored that you would trust me with the care of your friend....and SO excited to continue your wonderful work of teaching others to enjoy horses.

Donna Campbell Smith said...

I have been so blessed to have been in the horse industry for all these years. It has brought with it many good friends and teachers. The best teachers were the horses;o)

Dineane said...

"Maybe I’ll bark at some squirrels." LOVE IT! I know it's really hard, but focus on the positive!

Amanda said...

Thank you for this post... lately it seems my life has been more about crying, and not laughing. But - seeing the positive with what you've got - made me laugh and cry and hug my JRT who jumped in my lap, because I was laughing. Now he is back to squirrel watching, so I shall join him and learn.