I'm sick in bed with a vicious little cold so you're getting an equestrian post with your Halloween and your World Series win. Even Gunny dressed up as a horse! What a day. We were supposed to be at an epic Halloween shindig in JP with our best pals, but I wouldn't be any rock 'n roll fun plus germs. I am also missing tomorrow night's Neko Case show, have had to reschedule Saturday's client, and more likely than not won't be going on a fabulous horseback ride through what's left of fall's colors in Great Brook State Park on Sunday. Grumble grumble.
Anyway, get nice and comfy. This one has a lot of words!
That's Sundance up there giving me some premium equine side-eye. He came from a dude ranch in South Dakota and he's got kissing spine, but he's wonderful on the trails and can handle a nice walk/trot.
When I started taking riding lessons three years ago at the historic and now very sadly defunct Folger Stables, I didn't have a clear goal in mind. That was the goal, come to think of it: just get back in the saddle. Last fall, I spent a little while at a nearby barn training to become a riding instructor for their children's programs and lessons. Why not? The horses were amazing. After working primarily in offices all my life - from little shared nonprofit spaces to a swanky Embarcadero high-rise - the super physical work almost entirely outdoors was a radical change, but I genuinely loved it and I learned a lot really fast.
My heart wasn't in it with the kids, though, and they deserved someone who enjoyed them at least as much as the horses. The sad part is that I was great with them; they loved me and the folks who hired me could see that. Alas, there was no way to sugarcoat the truth, and I parted ways on good terms and with one very silly little kitten in hand - that's where Gunny came from, the poor sweet rascal. So much for a career as a riding instructor! I had a newfound respect for their unending patience, that's for sure.
But in January, a couple of local femmes who knew me from the queer Boston style scene/internet reached out to see if I'd be interested in taking some regular riding lessons and the occasional hack with them as part of an awesome little "femmequestrian" gang. Well, that was a no-brainer, and while M was briefly concerned that I was breaching a ban on internet friends, they are the best riding buddies ever and we've been going strong at Canton Equestrian Center for a while now. We're jumping and who knows what all next, but I'd look out if I were you!
That's us! We are post-ride disheveled and sleepy-faced because we ride early, but boy are we happy campers. Some people like to run or go to the gym or box or ride bikes; we prefer our boots in the irons.
And then this fall I went nuts and decided I needed a half-lease on a horse before the year ended. I wanted to be able to practice and perfect what I'm learning in my lessons every other week, and any extra saddle time is pure gold. I needed more of it, and everyone knows that leasing a horse is excellent practice for what comes next: horse ownership.
A half (or even quarter) lease is a lot of things, but more or less when an owner charges a lessee a monthly amount in exchange for access to the horse a set number of days per week. The monthly fee generally helps the owner subsidize boarding, farrier visits and routine medical care costs, but leases can vary widely. Some permit showing and taking the horse offsite, others don't. It very much depends on the owner or stables. You can expect a half-lease to be roughly the same as a car payment (with respective degrees of basic vs. fancy models), but once in a blue moon you might find an owner giving 'em away for free, or close to it.
While on the hunt for a lease, something even better happened: I found a lovely woman 20 minutes away who has three geldings at a private barn with 15+ acres of trails, a huge open field, a few rings and not enough time to exercise them all, and would happily give me all the saddle time I wanted in order to make sure they're all healthy and fit and looked after. I think there are four of us gals total, including a really badass 65-year-old who does endurance training. Talk about a dream come true!
Before our trip to SF this month, I found myself on a horse without a single soul around for the first time in my life. No instructors, no fellow trail riders, no big, busy, bustling barn life around. Just me and a big old retired carriage horse from Prince Edward Island and freedom. It's the first time I ever went into a field and caught a horse on my own (I actually brought four of them in at once, plus a miniature donkey), raced through a forest on my own, including a few jumps over natural obstacles - my favorite (totally lost my Ray-Bans), given a horse medical attention alone, and every time I get the horses out of some kind of trouble they've gotten themselves into it's an awesome teaching moment that most leases wouldn't be able to offer.
I'm incredibly lucky to have found this situation not just for the riding time and practice on three very different horses, but for how hands-on it is when it comes to learning how to care for them all 24/7. The more of a taste I get for horse life, the harder it is to feel the same way about old priorities; I will now turn down a spontaneous shopping impulse because I'd rather spend the money on tack, I think about riding when I'm on vacation, and riding gets first priority after work and family when there are open spots on my calendar.
One last story: Last week I sleepily offered M a ride to work, and she misunderstood and thought I meant for us to go on a horseback ride together that day. She said something about how she wished she could, but she had a big meeting - maybe in another week or so. We eventually figured it out what the heck the other was going on about, but it was beyond adorable that she thought I was trying to get her to play hooky to come and ride with me. (Not such a bad idea, actually.)
How punk rock is the mini donkey? I love him. So ridiculous. Skittish and very clever, and a sweet note upon which to end this lengthy post.
Breeches, Dover Saddlery Vintage duck hunt sweater, Ralph Lauren Vintage leather equestrian bag Equestrian vest, Ralph Lauren Paddock boots, Ariat Half-chaps, Ariat
Have a safe and happy Halloween out there tonight, y'all!