I finally registered Chloe for horseback riding lessons after 8 years (so, since the day she was born) of repeatedly telling me we’ve ruined her childhood because a) she doesn’t have a dog and b) she doesn’t know how to canter.
I’m going to suggest many of you who love horses, farms, barns and mucking stalls (yep, mucking) are going to find the following confession both insulting and deliberately hurtful. This post may in fact be friendship-ending. I can’t change who I am. Walk away from the computer now, Barb Mustard. Walk. Away.
The first week, I sat outside the barn while Chloe joyfully cleaned out a horse stall before ever seeing an actual horse. I realize this scenario is universally understood and accepted among horse people; you pay for a lesson and within that lesson, you first– clean up a dirty horse stall you have yet to use, second–ride a horse and third–clean up the dirty horse stall before leaving it for the next person who cleans it, rides, cleans again. Cha-ching!
It is the swim Mom’s equivalent of arriving at the pool, cleaning the staff washrooms, watching your child swim a few lengths and then wiping the ladders, starting blocks and lane ropes with Lysol on your way out. Bizarre. Bizarre. Bizarre.
Chloe’s coach (who could not have been nicer) winked at me and suggested I should help Chloe retrieve her horse from the field and help her prepare the horse for the lesson. Wink noted. Right back atcha.
I assumed she was kidding about me helping prepare for the lesson. This really is Chloe’s thing. I want to help fuel this passion but I also hate everything about the smells, fecal matter and general horsiness of this place. Hard pass on the helping. I’ve got a Scrabble game going on my iPad in the car.
When we arrived for week 2, Chloe’s instructor looked confused as to why I wasn’t in my mud-mucker boots or rain gear. I wasn’t in a gown, per se but I wasn’t really dressed for what was about to be thrust via leather belts in my direction.
Chloe and I (along with adorable horse lady) hoofed our way through knee-deep, wet mud to find Chloe’s horse. I was wearing low to medium, ankle height Skechers and jeans that touched the ground, now with a band of mud resembling a decorative, four inch hem.
I stopped at the first gate and pretended I didn’t know what language anyone was speaking and bolted back to the car.
After a couple of minutes of ducking behind the seats and trying to remain as quiet as possible, I saw Chloe appear with her horse, sharing stories of her day with her instructor so I slunk back into the barn pretending I had just finished an important call when really, I had played an awesome triple word score and was feeling a burst of excitement that this particular word didn’t resemble a made up generic drug like many of my words had recently. Gilytol, Winthrocip, etc. Etc.
I stood near(ish) Chloe and her stall and listened to what I was being asked to do. But I couldn’t hear because Chloe’s horse started barfing and it took everything in me not to vomit all over my soiled Skechers.
“Oh, looks like someone’s been into the buttercups.”
Yep. She sure has. If buttercups make you barf up gallons of bile while flinging your head from side to side making a line pattern on the dirt resembling a decent Scrabble board.
The instructor said, this would be a good time to show me (ME!) where the wood chips are that “we” throw on the vomit and then scoop it up. As good a time as any, I suppose.
Someone yelled, “Door!” which is horse-speak for “I’m about to walk past you in a dangerously close and invasive way with a beast the size of a circus elephant that wants nothing more than to stomp you into the ground and spew buttercups on your confused, unconscious body.” I leaned into the buttercup bile pile (freshly mulched) and prayed for death.
Then my eyes started to get red and my neck got itchy. I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to fear having no known horse allergy symptoms to-date but no one is going to believe me now because I already checked “No” on the waiver.
I watched my ecstatic, helmet-wearing, 8 year old make dirt swirls on the side of a horse with a brush I use to clean the grout in the shower while she smiled and hummed with delight.
Just before wrapping up week two, she told the instructor her Grandparents used to be horse farmers and that her Dad grew up on a horse farm. That is of course, false.