I pulled up to the barn in regular fashion, granted I was about thirty minutes late because I had spilled a cup of soda in my car on the way and had to stop to clean up the mess – this probably should have given me a clue as to what type of day I was going to have. Even though I didn’t plan to meet anyone at the ranch, and didn’t technically have a schedule to keep, I like my “barn life” to be orderly and “by the book”, so to speak.
I stepped out of the car with jeans already stained and wet from the “soda incident” and noticed that the door to my personal tack room was open; had I left it unlocked the day before?
The next ten minutes were spent searching my tack room to make sure that everything was in place and nothing had been taken, and all the while, my horse had her head out of the stall door with a look that was growing more intense by the minute. She could sense I was frazzled and somewhat frantic from thirty feet away, and knowing that she could sense that made me even more frustrated. Nothing was missing – that I could tell – save my green lunge whip, so I spent another few minutes walking around looking for that. Time was ticking by, so I decided to forget the whip for the time being. I grabbed my mare’s leg wraps from a hook on the wall, muttering to myself under my breath, and headed toward the cross ties to start rolling them when I stepped wrong on a little rock that had been left in the aisle way of the barn and went straight down to my knees – I could have sworn I heard the horses snickering at me. “Okay, we’re making this a turn out day”, I said aloud, almost pleading with the Universe to just back off!
We All Have “Those Days”
See, we all have “those days”…you know the ones where our best laid plans simply go completely off the rails and we’re left questioning our sanity. It does something to our minds when a series of events sets into motion a state of awareness that sometimes we just need to step back, take a breath and gather ourselves. On the particular day that I mentioned, I decided not to ride…it wasn’t worth it to me to transfer my mental frustrations onto my horse and get into an argument in the saddle that would cause more harm than good. I simply put on my mare’s wraps and turned her out in the big arena to blow off a little of her own steam while I sat down and gathered my thoughts – and doctored a scraped elbow with a little equine antiseptic (oh, come on, we’ve all done it). This was the best course of action for me on that particular day, and I had the awareness to really “get that”.
Sometimes, we can’t just decide not to ride when we’re having a bad day; we may be at a show, or heading out for a trail day with friends that can’t be rescheduled. Even so, we always have the time to sit down, take a moment and breathe; to calm ourselves before doing something we’ll regret. I was chatting with a friend who relayed a similar story about a day at a show where it seemed like the Universe was conspiring against her from the moment she woke up. She was late feeding at the showgrounds, forgot her “show jeans” at the hotel and had to go back for them, which left her with no time to lunge her horse, who ended up being extremely fresh when she did manage to get tacked up and ready, only to find that her classes had been postponed until after the lunch break, which meant untacking and undressing, only to have to do it all over again about an hour later… She shared with me how her frustration built and built and how her horse also began to build his own frustrations, and then she told me that after putting her gelding back into his stall for that “lunch break” she made the best decision she had made all day by taking a walk by herself, sitting under a tree and just relaxing for a few minutes. She refocused herself, and was able to salvage a decent day of showing.
A good horseman (or horsewoman) understands that in order to have a good ride, training session, whatever, emotions have to be checked at the stall door.
Horses are some of the most intuitive creatures in our lives, and if we’re frazzled, chances are that they will be too. If we’re having a bad day, we need to be able to re-evaluate, redirect or change plans on the fly; we need to be able to maintain our composure, and if we can’t, we need to realize that staying out of the saddle isn’t always the worst option. Sure, I could have ridden on the day I described above; I may have even been able to salvage a decent ride, but by just giving myself, and my horse, the day off, I was able to ensure that I wasn’t going to do something regrettable.
Turn The Day Around
My unfortunate day began to turn around as I watched my mare happily trotting circles in the arena and throwing a few bucks here and there. I relaxed, I puttered around the barn doing little chores I had been putting off, and by the time I put my horse away, I was happy and the day looked just a little brighter. I even found that pesky green lunge whip just as I was leaving the barn…it was leaning against my horse trailer looking at me as if to say “see, sometimes losing something helps you to find something else”.