Early morning at the barn

I’ve spent the last week hacking Gina out in the hay field in preparation for this weekend’s hunter pace. I usually like to spend lots of time hacking out and not a lot of time in the arena; this just isn’t possible when I arrived at the barn around 7 PM after work.

Sometimes, when my bed is warm and it’s pitch black outside, I don’t feel very motivated to go ride my horses. When my alarm goes off, I want to roll over and ignore it, and snuggle against Johnny’s warm back. But most of the time, I lay awake, quietly calculating time in my head. If I leave by 6, I’ll be there by 7, even if the traffic is stupid in Owasso. Figure 30 minutes to groom and tack up, 45 minutes to ride, an hour to get to work…Ugh, I might as well get up now.
The sunrises almost make up for leaving my warm bed.

It’s quiet at the barn when I arrive. Some horses are napping. Some are beginning to nicker for breakfast. The barn dogs bark and whine a little when I get there but settle down once they realize it’s just me. I check all the usual places to see where Richal’s hidden the tack room key; a couple of months ago, I had to text her to ask. Now I know.

It’s cold, so I leave my car running with the heat set on defrost. I grab Gina’s bridle and toss it in my car, making sure the bit is on the dashboard so it’ll get warm while I groom her. 
As I pass his stall, Moe greets me with bright eyes and a whicker. I can’t resist giving him a few treats. I step into his stall and make sure his blanket is straight and smooth. I slip my hand underneath it; he’s warm and has no rub marks. I pat him, reassuring him that breakfast will be here soon, that I will ride him next time. He watches me, alert and happy as always.
Gina greets me at the gate; she’s been out all night with another mare, Dee. Gina seems glad to come in, or at least to eat a few cookies. I take off her blanket, give her a cursory curry and brush and pick her hooves. I retrieve her bridle from my car and hang it on a gate while I saddle her. I like to think she appreciates the warm bit, but I’ll never really know.
Gina’s unimpressed by the half-frozen pond.
I hand-walk her to the hay field, opening and closing gates as we go. I mount clumsily and we’re off. I set my watch for six minutes. For six minutes, we walk. Then it’s ten minutes of trotting. Back to the walk for three minutes, then on to the canter for five. Three more minutes of walking. Five more minutes of cantering. Ten minutes of walking to cool out.
Just loping along.

When we’re out in the field, just ourselves, I can’t help but smile and laugh for the sheer joy that comes with the freedom of hacking out. I marvel at Gina’s behavior: perfectly calm and beautifully forward at the requested gait. No anxiousness at being alone. No ugliness about wanting to return to the barn. No over-excitement at being out of the arena.

I dismount and loosen Gina’s girth and noseband. I walk her back to the barn, where I feed her several cookies before she’s even untacked. As I remove her saddle and bridle, I keep up a nonsensical chatter, assuring her she’s the best mare there’s ever been. I curry her and brush her; I take care to carefully brush out all the saddle and bridle marks. She stands quietly, ears flicking back and forth while I talk. I put her blanket back on and turn her back out with Dee. She takes a big drink of water and wanders off into her paddock, ignoring my admiring stare.
Moe whinnies at me again as I pass by his stall on my way out. I pat his nose and fish around in my pocket. There’s an uneaten treat. I feed it to him, and he munches it gratefully. 
I am not a morning person, but early mornings spent at the barn are enough to make me wish I was. 

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

7 thoughts on “Early morning at the barn”

  1. This was so well-written, Steph! Gorgeous. Almost makes me want to rouse my lazy self and get to the barn when it's still quiet. I love that you know both kids' personalities so well.

    Ps. Got your package! THANK YOU! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. New to the blog and stumbled on this post. I loved this so, soooo much. This is just what my mornings were like when I worked at a tack shop too. Thank you for refreshing the memories. 🙂

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