This Christmas, I had the pleasure of watching my 4-year-old nephew tear through wrapping paper the way T-Rex tore through the goat on Jurassic Park. Then, my family and I drove to Steamboat Springs, Colorado where we got to share the experience of watching my 82-year old Poppie dissecting open his presents with his pocket knife, the same knife he always carries on him and has had to consequently surrender to many an airport security official in recent years. And it was joyful.
Almost as joyful as this:
Ha. That makes me smile, every time!
I’m home from Scotland for Christmas break, but it hasn’t all been a vacation. I’ve worked at an equine rehab center since the day after I arrived from my 22 hour long journey through Christmas Eve. I will say, the jet lag has me waking up bright and early, and ready for my equine husbandry chores every day. It is a part of the required Extra Mural Studies for my program, and anyone who remembers the epic fake pregnancy blunder from August, knows I need the experience…desperately.
Working with the horses has taught me a lot and I am really starting to enjoy them. We have these little inside jokes now, like when I get complimented for how quick I’ve become at cleaning stalls and the Dutch Warmblood (Z) decides to urinate all over the clean, bare floor, right before I return with a wheelbarrow full of fresh shavings to put down. When I ask him why he walked back into his stall to pee, when he could have just stayed outside, he just looks at me, like a giant guinea pig. He’s the same horse who defecated in his watering dish the day after I learned how to clean them all by myself. I love that guy.
Z is actually the first horse I was trusted to work with, aside from the 32-year old Chestnut who just needs a person to escort him between his stall and the paddock as a formality; he pretty much puts his head collar on himself and hands me the lead rope. Z isn’t quite that well-trained, but he’s even-tempered and responsive. Probably because 1. He is a dressage horse (he does fancy tricks in a ring and has to pay close attention to his rider) and 2. His owner/rider is a kid. If only all horses could be as well-behaved and gentle as a child’s dressage horse…
Which brings me to another one of my favorites, a Thoroughbred, relatively fresh off the racing tracks on the East Coast. He got his leg caught in a fence he was jumping and is undergoing a lot of physical therapy. Being in so much pain, he can be a little prickly about doing his exercises, but so far, we’ve come to an understanding. I talk to him constantly about how much stronger he is getting and how I’m going to let him take a break and graze on the wildly appetizing dry Colorado grasses as soon as he is done with each set. He plugs through, probably because he knows I’ll stop talking when he is all done and I’ll let him eat grass. When I told the other volunteer how much more responsive this horse has been lately, she said it’s because I’m more confident and he feels it. I winked at her and said, “It’s because I whisper to him. That’s like a thing with horses, right?” She just told me I’m going to make a great vet and sent me out to pick some paddocks (scoop poop).
I’ve had a fantastic time working with the rehabilitation horses so far. The people I work with are both patient in explaining things to me and liberal with sharing real responsibilities, which makes me feel like a quick learner and a competent adult. In addition to all the basic horse care (feeding, cleaning, grooming…) I’ve also given medicine, wrapped legs and talked to….equestrians. Horse people are notoriously difficult to work with at times (if you are not a horse person) but, I’ve found enthusiastically jumping into the steep learning curve, keeping a good sense of humor and gently reminding them that everything they learned to do when they were 5, I’m learning now….and I could probably kick any 5-year-old’s butt when it comes to mucking out stalls and scrubbing the auto-waters.