If I don’t use this snow day to update the blog, I can no longer call myself a writer. Despite the weather, there’s been so many exciting things happening around the farm and I can’t wait to tell you all about them.
You probably knew this already, but we have a remarkable herd of horses at Bramblewood. Just as winter and the holidays hit in earnest, we welcomed a new school horse named Penny. This big grey mare spent the first years of her life as an Amish cart horse in Ohio and then she made her way down to the Landrum area where we discovered her through Erin Gambrell. Geldings have always made sense to me with their steady, constant reserve and tendency to sigh at my high energy. I’m pretty sure I’ve witnessed a few geldings rolling their eyes, either at me or in response to a rider trying to get it right. Not so much with mares.
I’d been trapped into the myth that mares and I were too similar and consequently, that chemistry was a recipe for disaster. But starting with the arrival of the little black Trakhener, Sheba, last winter — I’ve learned that nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a mare convert. Mares ebb and flow. They use their brains. They remember — oh, goodness, they remember — and because they remember, mares remind me to be mindful of my every move, mood and reaction. Mares take us back to the essence of horse, which is why we do this thing, slogging buckets of warm water back and forth to the barn every morning, afternoon and night when the faucets are frozen. They’re the reason we break up the ice in their buckets and watch their every move for a change in habit or appearance or any small detail that warns that something is not right with these fragile, huge beasts. Mares keep us mindful and thankful.
Many welcomes to Penny with her huge hears and constant, alert demeanor.
Penny handled her immediate initiation into the lesson program with good grace as we geared up for the Wofford College Interim riders in January. We had a great group this year with many beginners and a couple riders who had shown in the A’s and the Finals. Our theme for the month was: Forget everything you thought you knew about horses. Riders worked with their instructors to devise a small training goal for the month and explored the theme through five mounted and one unmounted lessons.
We said goodbye to a wonderful friend as Emily Isles made her way back to the UK mid-January. Emily lived and worked at the farm for several months in preparation for taking her British Horse Society teaching exams when she arrived home. We’ve heard that Emily just secured a post at a stable in her region near Wales.
While Bramblewood has always offered apprenticeships, we’re getting ready to take that concept one step further. Sarah Boudreaux and I have been utilizing all of these freezing cold off-days to develop a program of extended horsemanship studies for existing and future students. Without Sarah’s permission, I’m calling the program Horse University until we develop a better working title. Our inaugural Horse U. meeting will be Saturday February 15th from 4:00-6:00. Any current student is welcome to attend. See your instructor for more details.
Here is what Horse U. is all about in Sarah’s words:
This program is designed to give both adult and young students a solid base of knowledge that will allow them to talk intelligently about their passion as well as help increase awareness and help with critical thinking and problem solving. It is designed to give students a sense of accomplishment and growth outside of the riding arena and, no matter their ability, it will give more tools to every rider.
In our ongoing, singular goal of farm life being a haven that riders carry with them as they venture out into real life, real universities, and careers of all sorts keep in mind that this program and many others at Bramblewood can be utilized on resumes and applications. We’re always eager to write recommendations for engaged students and I have edited more college entrance essays than I can count. We want you to use the farm to build life skills. Horses are so much more than an activity or passing passion. We want you to think outside the box and allow the farm to fire your creativity.
Because that’s what it does for me. While I’m longing for spring with every fiber of my being, this southern introduction into actual winter has gifted me with time to make some serious headway into the first draft of a novel. The concept is still a jumbled mess, but every frozen pipe and tardy hay delivery and broken fence and truck that fails to start, every lame horse and icy bucket, every day when the rings are too frozen to ride, teaches me that solutions come with time and patience. The farm has taught me, time and time again, to not give up, to take a very small concept and nurture it like a seedling until it grows into something bigger than myself.
With my ability to kill mint plants (I’m serious) I probably should use a better metaphor. But I’ll keep growing the mint until I get it right. I’ll keep a better hold on my frustrations until I can hear what mares are telling me. I’ll keep writing the same chapter over and over until the characters speak for themselves. I’ll learn how to not end my sentences in prepositions (though I’ve filed that more or less with the mint). I’ll keep learning the rules so I can break them and relearning the rules again to keep them intact.
I’ve never forgotten that teaching a beginner rider is a task that is intrinsically filled with more responsibility than putting an advanced rider through their paces. Armed with this knowledge my goal for 2014 is to approach everything like a beginner. I want to see a horse for the first time and forget the past and future while I focus on the now. I want to see where the characters take me.
Join me on this journey.
What things have you seen with beginner eyes? What things do you long to see?