“A horse can remind you that you can conquer your fears. They do it every time you ask them for something new.” – Elizabeth Pearl
The stables where I worked in 2013 were a little further than I wanted to drive. But when I first made my way down the tree-lined driveway with the pastures enclosed in perfect white fences on either side of me, I was immediately romanced. The butterflies in my stomach slowly dissipated. A job interview is always nerve-wracking, even if the payments are in rides, not cash.
Alice the stable manager seemed genuinely happy to see me, greeting me with a huge grin instead of the wary up-and-down look I sometimes get. Hey, I may be short but I can swing a bale of hay with the best of them.
“I received four calls for the stable-hand position and you’re the only one who showed up! Can you believe it?”
I hear that a lot. People like the idea of a free ride but there’s no such thing. Earning time on a horse is nothing short of hard, dirty work. She showed me around the barn as contented liquid-brown eyes gazed at us from the horses’ roomy stalls. That’s very important to me. I can’t risk my well-being working around high-strung animals. “Chores performed in exchange for riding” doesn’t include long-term disability payments if needed.
"OK, I like Alice, like the facilities, like the horses I will be cleaning up after, so far so good." I thought.
Then it got great. We rounded a corner to an outside stall and there was the most gorgeous paint with a beautiful white face and orange forehead making him look like his eyebrows were permanently raised in a “What’s the problem?” kind of expression. Sparks flew, angels sang. I was in love.
“After your chores are done, you can ride Jess,” Alice grinned at him, scratching his neck affectionately. And Jess and I had a joy ride that day and every weekend thereafter until Alice had to relocate, taking Jess with her. But for almost a year, Jess and I had a standing Saturday morning date together, come rain, snow, sleet or hail thanks to an indoor arena. He was the perfect date – he never stood me up and always behaved like a perfect gentleman. Nothing to fear there.