“I hate writing, I love to have written.” Dorothy Parker
Writing this blog, originally a writing exercise imposed upon me by my roommate, an avid birder that blogs daily at thebirdhousechick.com, has brought about many unexpected benefits and pleasures to my life. While it sometimes seems like a chore to sit down and torture myself with self-doubt and criticism just to get three paragraphs completed, once it is finished I feel a sense of relief and am usually inspired for my next topic.
In addition to the cathartic experience of sharing issues that are dear to me I have met so many other bloggers, and many other riders that stumble across the writings and share their comments and insights. Some of them are professional trainers and many of them amateur riders that are passionate about their journey with riding. Without the global reach of the world-wide web I would never have met these kindred souls that share my love of dressage or horses in general. The comments and e-mail I receive as a result of my small blog have inspired me and made me feel part of a community in which I have never felt included.
It was a great surprise and admittedly a source of confusion when I received an e-mail from Frances Keller, an organizer from the historic and distinguished Dressage at Devon horse show. The correspondence was an invitation to attend Devon as an “expert commentator” for the Prix St. George class held in the famous “Dixon Oval”. My first response was that the e-mail must have been sent to me inadvertently so I replied to Ms. Keller to inquire why I had been included in the group of experts that featured top judges and top competitors from across the United States. It seems she came across my website and blog while looking for Scott Peterson, a great trainer I have listed on my resume’. After reading the site Ms. Keller invited me to be a commentator as she felt that some of the listeners may relate to my point of view as a contrast to the great judges they have scheduled to speak. I am very humbled by the invitation and hope that her instincts prove correct.
Although I am nervous about the prospect of speaking to such a large audience without the time to edit and rewrite that I am afforded by writing a blog, I am more afraid of “flinching out” on an opportunity to be included in such an esteemed panel at such a dignified event. So Thursday I board the plane to face my fears and hopefully offer a perspective that remains true to myself and resounds with others.
If any of my fellow blogging friends, or others that follow the blog are going to be in attendance at Devon please let me know so we can finally meet. I consider you all part of my journey and wouldn’t be included if it weren’t for your kind words and inspiration.
Lots has been said of the horse’s life at a barn. Studies have been made to translate what each twitch and gesture communicates to the rest of the herd. An equal amount of less scientific study has been done to analyze the human residents at the barn as well. Most of these are comical in nature. EquineInks post yesterday is one of these studies that shouldn’t be missed!
It is a sad thing indeed, however, if while at the barn one gets too concentrated on the discipline of riding and the social opportunities at every washrack to enjoy the abundant nature reserve they’re visiting. A few silent moments is all that is needed to appreciate a conversation between the birds in the trees or the rhythm of the water in a creek. If you don’t have time to stray from the barn there is still plenty of wildlife all around you. Now is the time the barn swallows are building their nests preparing for spring. Some barn owners consider them a nuisance and go to efforts to discourage them from nesting in the barn, but I enjoy seeing the baby birds poking their heads out of the nests high above the stalls until they are ready to fly on their own!
Several barns I visit have barn owls which are more difficult to spot during the day but have made the occasional appearance, and their “hoot hooting” is unmistakable. Blue Herons are one of my favorite residents at barns that have bodies of water to host them. Care must be taken, however when riding by them as their sudden flight may startle a horse. Still worth having them around!
When catching your horse from his paddock, check the fence line for hawks, they sit very still and wait for mice and other small animals to move in the field before snatching them up and flying off for dinner. I have seen them carry away small snakes. These birds are but a few of the ones you can see and the hundreds you can hear if you slow down, listen and observe what’s already there.
Slow down when you have the chance and listen to the wind, the gossiping birds and the horses happily snorting and stomping. Experience life at the barn as your horse does, you won’t miss much if you take one less cellphone call to do it. Don’t let the pressures of everyday life hurry you into missing all of the glimpses into nature’s conversations that we are privileged to by virtue of our horse’s friendship.
Life as a horse trainer, at least the kind that works out of many barns, is a particularly transient one. Either because of the nature of my business, or that I grew up a military brat (I haven’t figured out which) I move every few years. Because I meet most of my roommates at the barns or stables where I work, I tend to live with dedicated animal lovers. As anyone who knows her can tell you, Animal lover, in respect to my roommate, Beth Wheeler, is an understatement!
Beth, the proprietor and namesake of the unique bird house boutique, The Birdhouse Chick, is one of the most dedicated stewards of the environment that I know. An entire blog could be written on her selfless acts of caring for stray dogs and cats, and her yard is a testament to her love for birds and other wildlife. Check out her website and daily blog, she is the one that started me blogging.
Beth also has a horse, Sweets, that she keeps at Moonlight Equestrian Center. While I was racking my brain for a blog topic, Beth was washing some blankets for an older horse at the barn. She suggested I relay what she does with the dryer lint and horsehair cleaned from the washer after we wash our blankets, saddlepads, etc.
Brilliant…Take a mesh produce bag- the kind you buy your horse’s apples in- and begin filling it with the hair, (body and tail), from the lint trap of your dryer, and from the inside of the washer and dryer after washing dirty horse items. You can also supplement the bag with mane and tail hair from your tail brush or from pulling your horse’s mane. When the bag is full, tie it off and hang it from a branch in a nearby tree. The birds love to use the hair to build their nests! I have picked up used nests at barns that were made entirely of horse hair!
I have attached a picture of a horsehair nesting ball that Beth made for our yard. We have the happiest birds around, and it is a joy to watch them in the morning before I set off to see the horses. Take some time to check out her website- the birds will love you for it!