Horse Show Mornings

A friend on Facebook posted a picture of the laneway down to the paddocks at the facility I ride at.

It was a Saturday morning, she had just arrived to start her day showing one of the horses, and it was such a beautiful shot of the mist still lingering around the trees and fenceposts. Silent and peaceful ahead of the cacophony of a show barn on show day.

I sat and stared at that picture for awhile. The ache was not full force, but right then, I wanted to be there, experiencing the bustle of the morning. So many sensations worked their way through my memory, weaving in and out as I fell into the rabbit hole of the past, especially of the farm, and my horses.

I loved the walk up to the barn in the morning, seeing my horses gallop up through the mist when I called them for their early breakfast. They would careen through the loafing-shed pen, freshly coated in a healthy layer of dew. They would nicker and revel in post-gallop full body shakes, sending droplets of water in all directions, eyes bright in anticipation of their grain.

I used to stand at the gate, coffee in my hands, my own eyes heavy from a short night’s sleep, and let them blow their grassy breath on my face, jostling for position until we brought them all in. Happy snorts would fill the air in the barn. My herd knew when it was a horse show morning, because they were all in the barn late while the lucky candidate was braided (after dark) the night before. Horse show mornings meant early grain, and excitement as one of them got to leave for the day.

Those first few moments of quiet and peace, seeing the mist rising in tendrils off the pasture, hearing the early songs of birds from the big Oak trees, and feeling the first frisson of anticipation for the day was one of my absolute favourite things. Sometimes I would stand in the big rolling doorway once we opened it, leaning on the doorframe, just breathing in the moisture from the air, centring my mind before I had to get moving.

So that picture, in a heartbeat, brought memory into sharp focus, in contrast to the gossamer edges of the foggy fence lines and sand ring it captured.  It brought a wish for one of those “this is why I do it” validations that scatter through the effort and craziness that is showing horses.

Maybe someday I’ll be standing in the doorway again, having a Horse Show Morning moment. It won’t be exactly the same, of course, I don’t own my own horses or take care of my own barn anymore.

But I have a hunch it will feel very familiar. 

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Sharing Me

This week has been hectic, and I am ready for it not to be. Meetings, dentists, yoga, running, epic groceries…One last stop at the LCBO tonight… heh…

Despite my hectic week, and the longing glances at my couch and iPad, this weekend I have done some scheduling for us. I am sure husband has that “Grumpy Bear” face on because I am all efficient and wonderful planning our weekend.

Yup. He never mentioned wanting to do much other than cut the lawn and go for a long run so… Give me an inch, pal, and here you go! Your itinerary! Colour-coded and cross-referenced for travel time! Would you like it laminated?

Eh… Heh… yes, I am aware I have a problem.

However, If my husband (and my inner lazy girl) had his way, we would spend the weekend at home, and while I am ok with that, I know by Saturday afternoon, I would be going bonkers, and so would the kids. We need to do some stuff, activities, get out, be social. The dishes and laundry and lawn mowing can wait until evening. Besides, I have a tendency to want to “lounge about” on weekends in my comfy pajamas, and end up kicking myself when I don’t get done what I want to, or feel guilty when the weather is nice and I wasn’t outside being productive.

Yes, I used to live on a farm, why do you ask? *facepalm*

So… Out the door we go, family, so that we can be active, create memories, keep moving , and not waste this weather!

Saturday morning I am headed down to Carleton University (Early! gotta be parked by 7:45 am) to watch a friend compete in her first Triathlon. It is a cool event that has a “Try a Tri” category with shortened phases, to give you a taste of what the deal-io is. If I was a better swimmer or owned a bike…Right, like I don’t have enough on my fitness plate already… Another friend is running an 8k closer to noon, but husband already mentioned he would like me not to be out all day. Hmph. Ok, I understand. So I may not be able to see her and give her a “good run” hug. *sadface #1*

But I am getting ME TIME! MEEEE TIME! *happydance #1*

Sunday we are headed out to “The Farm” to see the garlic that has sprouted, decide what we are planting in our weed patch this year, and to go see my old horses. Well, one of them, anyways. The other one has shipped off to a boarding stable, perhaps to be reintroduced to saddle. That leaves two at home, which is an easier number than three to care for, for my Dad. Then it is off to a friend’s place for a run with her, and then some good food on the barbeque while our combined six kids crate havoc. My friend has just started running, and I am really, and I mean really, looking forward to putting shoe to asphalt with her and encouraging her. Also? I want to crush on her Kinvara 4’s. So pretty. So not for me. *sadface #2*

Ahhh social time and running. Excellent.

I am anticipating Monday the most, though. I am going riding! With friends! Husband is coming with the kids too, and we are headed to Captiva Farms for a get-together and some social time. There is a petting zoo and pony rides, and we are going to bring an epic picnic lunch. Hopefully my husband and the other husbands left on the ground when us ladies take off get along, and have fun. The kids will have a blast, I am sure. How can they not? Countryside, fresh air, sunshine (I hope!) and animals.

To say that I get to share this day with some friends is making me *happydance #2*. But the secret is, I have another reason I want to go. My children have never seen me on a horse, and this has bothered me for some time.

Something about getting up on a horse, and having my kids actually see me astride makes me kind of emotional, and excited to share “what mommy can do” with them. Horses were my world, my career, my passion… And I took a break from it all in 2005, when my horse died. So my children don’t know this part of me. My husband doesn’t really either.

I met my husband a few short months after my horse died, and by 2007 I was pregnant with our first. By then, horses, riding, competing, teaching, training… It just wasn’t part of my world anymore. I wanted it to be, but after a few failed attempts (and a very strange stint trying to volunteer for an equine sports group that left me kind of perplexed and disappointed) to get back to it, I accepted that with young kids, I had to alter my expectations. It is also harder when the person you live with doesn’t particularily like the equine species. We try to do recreational “stuff” together as a family, and he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to do that.

I find it a mix of strange and delightful that I am so excited about going for a simple (what most horsey folks would say) trail ride. It used to be that I rode every day, sometimes more than one horse. It used to be that hacking was part of the conditioning plan. Galloping with deer in the back fields was a regular occurrence. Colourful pieces of wood cupped together to jump over was every day, common-sight furniture. My world was eat, sleep, breathe horses. It was my first education, my grounding force, my savior, and my paycheque.

Which went right back into horses. They’re expensive, yo. $$

There is not a day that I do not sit down at my office, and wish to trade it for a “desk” made out of hay bales, muck forks and tack. I miss it so much. I miss the knowledge I had being put to use by my hands and head together. I miss the smell of a clean barn, the sound of happy horses munching hay, or listening to the cadence of a horse cantering. I miss the dirt-crusted sweaty skin, the horrific hat-head hairstyles, and even yes, the Spring shed. I miss the feel of muscle bunching for takeoff over a fence. The way whiskers feel on my neck. Or how much pride enters my emotional sphere when a good, hard day’s work is done.

I am planning on finding a place to take lessons once I can figure out how to afford it. I don’t want to compete, but it would be wonderful to school, and regain some of the skill I know I have lost. I want to present the opportunity to both my children. If they don’t want to, it is ok.

So now I have to dig out my gloves, my helmet and see if I still fit into my paddock boots and half chaps (I have had two kids since I wore them with any regularity, uh oh). I have no breeches that fit anymore, they have all long since been given away or turfed.

A long weekend of sharing. I am looking forward to it. All of it.