My so-called "Horse Life" didn't begin until 4 summers ago when I was forty-three. Like so many middle aged stories I've read, I put off my Horse Life until all the ducks were in a row, so to speak. My sons were grown. We had our property properly fenced and gated. We had built a suitable stable/run-in shed area. And, I was ready. I'd never had any formal training with horses. I'd just loved them all my life, read about them, and felt I wouldn't be complete until I shared life with one, or as it turned out in the end, two.
I readied myself for my Horse Life in the summer of '04 by working as a riding instructor and staff member at a local riding facility which catered to children. It was one of those right time-right place kind of things.
I had been taking riding lessons at the facility for a short time. I still did not own a horse. But, I had decided I was going to learn to ride. I had been introduced to the manager of the facility through #1 son, who just happened to be taking classes with her at college. Toward the end of my six weeks the manager was talking to me, in regular conversation, about her predicament of being in need of one more staff member for the summer camp season. I told her I'd be interested. I could tell she wasn't sure at first, but she knew I'd been a substitue teacher in one of my other "past lives" so being able to work comfortably with children would be a plus. She needed a staff member desperately, camp season was only 2 weeks away, so she decided to give me the job.
I knew I could teach the girls (it was a girl's summer camp) beginning riding but I was more comfortable working around the horses which was the highlight of my day. Hard work, grooming, tacking, then untacking-grooming,tacking again a couple of hours later. Catching the horses sometimes proved to be even harder work. These horses were leased from a place miles away from Ohio. Trucked in for the 8 week summer camp season. For the most part, all of them were decent school horses, but there were a few I had no idea why they were there. Not my idea of school horses. Hard to catch. Wouldn't listen. Spooky. Some of them only got riders we knew were somewhat experienced. Being my mature self, I was often concerned about worse case scenarios, but through the summer, we managed only to see a few stepped on toes, nothing more serious.
We taught begining riding to groups of girls ages 6-10. Simple things like leading, mounting, walking, stopping, turning and by the end of the week the girls could usually manuever a small obstacle course or take a short trail ride. They were always thrilled when that day came. I was thrilled to see their progress.
There were always two of us teaching but I usually let the other staff member teach while I worked with indivdual girls who seemed to be struggling. All the other staff members were young women in their late teens and early twenties. I was forty three. I could be their mom! But, they all treated me with respect, and I did likewise.
At times the summer seemed long. And I must admit, there were a few times, when tensions were high among my co-workers by mid camp, that I did not want to be there, and I told myself I really didn't have to be there. Naturally, my co-workers, being around the same ages, would have their disagreements and arguments. Bickering would ensue. I just stood back and observed. I was really only here as an afterthought, so didn't believe it was my place to interfere with the interpersonal problems of my 5 young co-workers. Eventually, they worked their problems out. When they were getting disagreeable with each other, I simply emersed myself in dealing with the horses.
Overall though, I think we had a good summer. I know I learned more than I ever could have learned about horses had I not spent my summer in this manner. Every Friday we would take a group trail riding up into the hills. Though I was inexperienced, I learned quickly. I am more than thankful to have had the summer at camp, as I like to call it, even though I was a middle aged woman. It's one of the things in my life most people would probably look at and shake their heads. I know a few people who thought I was a bit off my rocker, especially since I'd recently left a decent paying job as a branch manager/librarian. For once, I was doing something I really wanted to do.
Hard and dirty work, but I loved every single minute of it. Brought me to the realities of what horses are all about. I discovered, I did have a knack for understanding horses. I no longer looked at them as mystical creatures, but beautiful animals with their own set of herd rules. They had behaviors that could be translated, if one only learns the language. My summer at camp helped me come to an understanding that I have been able to use with my own horses.
Sometimes, if an opportunity is laid before us, it's wise to embrace it. I was able to do that, at the right time in my life. I never imagined myself working at a riding facility, teaching girls to ride and handling horses when I was forty three years old, yet there I was.
Sometimes, the stars do align, and the heavens smile down on us saying, this IS your time.