The shared life we live as horse people brings us together. There’s no doubt about that. How many times have you been introduced to someone, they mention horses and wham bam! You’re planning a trip to their farm to see their horses. Whether they ride English or Western, pleasure or not at all, the love for the horse brings us together. It doesn’t matter if they’re preparing for a competition, or if they have horses as companions for other reasons. As long as they have a velvet soft nose to kiss and gentle, soulful eyes, the horses will bring you together.
It matters so very little what you look like, where you come from, what your experience with horses is like. It’s like there is some sacred secret we all know from intertwining our lives with horses, and we can share it only with others who hold horses close to their hearts. As long as your hands are gentle when they stroke the neck of your horse, as long as your voice is as full of light as it is when you talk to your horse, we’ll have something in common. As long as you care for your horse, we’ll have something in common. The horse will ignore what you look like, what you sound like, and what you act like if your intentions are genuine. I will too.
A barn is so unlike many other niches in the world. Inside of its big, rolling doors live our four legged friends who we cherish above all else. You and I understand our love for our horses always comes first; that we can promise one another. We understand the magnitude of our companions, of what they give us. Every time you slip your leg over your saddle and around your horse, you depart to another world. Freedom, fearlessness, and a light heart replace your worldly worries. Beside you on my own horse, I find that sacred space too. There is very little that can come close to that feeling; we recognize it, and celebrate our shared understanding.
As children, we shared excitement in our group lessons as we learned to jump. For those two seconds our ponies left the ground over cross-rails, we held our breath like it was a looming oxer at the end of a difficult equitation course where we’d be in a few years. Each and every afternoon spent at the barn was spent together, sharing stories about school and friends who didn’t understand that we had to be at the barn every day to care for our horses. Little did any of us recognize we were caring for our lifelong friendships, too.
The first time any of us had a boyfriend, we would bring him to the barn for our friends to inspect. Did he pass the test of our horse? Of our horse friends? With a very long exhale, the kind that comes after a long ride when you gently pat your horse’s neck and tell him “Good boy”, our horse quietly approves of the boy. And when he is no longer in the picture because he didn’t understand where all of your time went and he was frustrated with all of the canceled plans, it is the other people in the barn who wrap their arms around you, and remind you that you are loved.
Competing against your friends can be difficult. They will win ribbons that you don’t, and they’ll win titles you might not. You’ll surpass their skill level, and they’ll watch you as you enter the show ring under spotlight. You’ll be surprised when their smile is bigger than yours after you win. You’ll repay the favor, with your whistle the loudest after their Adult Amateur trip. When the day is over, though… once again, that sacred secret, that all-encompassing kind of love lulls us away from competition and back into simple girls or boys who love horses. Above all else, that always remains the same.
With blisters on our feet from worn-in boots, and more likely than not shavings in our hair, it matters very little if we’ve known each other a life time or for mere moments. You may always borrow my hairnets, give my horse treats when I’m not there, and use my girth when you forgot yours at home. At the end of the day, we’re all little girls (and boys) who love horses enough to remember that there is something special about a barn. There’s something special about our barn friends. May you all remember Friday nights, old country music, and people who understand that something all horse people know.