My life changed drastically on March 13, 2018. That was the day that I got hurt. To know me, you have to know the person prior to the traumatic brain injury (TBI). Today, I want to give you a glimpse into a day in my old life.
Prior to my TBI, I got up early, every day. Not because I wanted to, but because my dogs wanted out! The dogs get what the dogs want, so I would let them out as soon as I heard them stir.
My mornings were the most relaxed part of my day. Since I was up early, I never had to rush to get myself ready to face the day. Not to mention that facing the day when you work at a farm doesn’t take much. Just putting on temperature appropriate clothing and pulling on some sort of boots!
I checked my weather app on my phone to make sure I put on the right number of layers and of course the correct boots. Then I was ready to head outside.
I have lots of boots. Tall rubber muck boots, short rubber muck boots, English paddock boots, and a wide array of cowboy boots. Short cowboy boots, tall cowboy boots…you get the picture, I have a lot of boots.
Before my accident, I was not primarily responsible for routine morning chores. I did help with them a lot of days, but the horses weren’t waiting for me to be fed and turned out.
The first thing I always did outside was to feed all my “other” animals. The “other” category includes goats, rabbits, miscellaneous types of poultry (I even had two emus for a while). The actual feeding of my other animals (the act of giving them food and water) was the quickest part of the whole process. The best and most time-consuming part of the whole process was the time I spent watching the chickens peck the ground and taking cute pictures of the goats and rabbits. I love all my small critters, just as much as my horses and my morning ritual with them was one of my favorite parts of the day.
Generally, after I finished up with my “other” animals, I would join my mom and Aunt, and help finish up cleaning the stalls in the barn and the donkey’s paddock. My mom is very particular about our standard of barn keeping and just as much time was spent sweeping and raking as mucking out the stalls. If the barn does not look like horses live in it, that is living up to my mom’s barn cleaning standards!
Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons
Occasionally, I would have a morning lesson during the school year. Most of my clients though are kids, so our barn doesn’t get busy until after school let’s out. During the school year, the barn would come to life at around 3:00 and would be going strong until 9:00. In the summertime, I would teach from 8 in the morning until lunch time, and then pick up again at 6:00. I always avoided teaching during the heat of the day, I didn’t think it was fair to the horses or fun for the riders.
Also during the summer, we do 4 weeks of summer camp. These 4 weeks usually had 10-15 kids, from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. Talk about tired! Camp weeks were brutal, long hot days. Camp had its fun moments as well as it’s “I can’t wait for this to be over” moments. Whichever type of day it happened to be, it was a long day.
Time for Me to Ride?
Why, you ask, have I not mentioned myself riding yet? That is because I never got around to getting on to my personal horses until after I finished teaching. There were many nights where you could find me out in the ring riding under the lights at 9:30 or 10:00 in the evening.
Sometimes it would take a lot for me convince myself to tack up after watching everyone else ride for hours. It was always worth it though. I loved my late evenings in the barn with my horses because it was nice to have those few hours that I didn’t have to share my farm with other people. Running a lesson program with 70 plus students doesn’t leave much quiet time at the barn.
For most of the day, even though I just walk out my front door, I felt like I was “at work”. It is hard to describe, but it was almost like in the evenings when things quieted down I was in a whole different place. It was nice to have those few hours a day where I felt like a “regular” horse owner, instead of a professional horsewoman. Not that I don’t enjoy all my horses. or teaching, I definitely do! The evenings were my time to just be a horse lover and remind myself why I want to do this job in the first place!
On the weekends, you could find me running around sticking animals in cages to go on the road to birthday parties. Also loading up ponies to go to backyard parties or community events. We basically do a “have farm will travel” sort of deal.
We also host birthday parties at our farm. Having the public come to my backyard made me appreciate the quiet time even more. Even though I didn’t get it until a hard days work was done.
I didn’t normally teach many lessons on weekends, just because I was running all over the place with my petting zoo and pony ride ponies.
Running the Business
Before I got hurt, I was responsible for every aspect of my lesson program. I answered every phone call and email, scheduled all my own students,
Our business is definitely a family farm. My mom and dad both work hard at the farm all day long, every day of the year. Just like me, they are there taking care of things no matter what the weather. The lesson program though was a one-woman show, and that one woman was me!
I tried to keep lessons going to the best of my ability, year round, without an indoor ring. I planned three on-farm shows a year for our students. In the busiest parts of the year (fall and spring), I worked 7 days a week without any days off. We spent 8 weekends in the fall at the Maryland Rennaissance Festival, giving pony rides. That is 8 weekends of 12 hour days filled with knights in shining armor and things to scare the crap out of our ponies. Every time we loaded up the ponies to head back home without any incidents, we breathed a sigh of relief.
I’m sure you get it now. My life was all horses all the time. If it happened on our farm with our horses, I was doing it or participating in getting it done. Horses sun up to sun down. My life revolved around my lesson horses and my barn. It was exhausting, but the only way of life I could imagine (it still is, I just have to live it differently).
What I would do to go back in time and teach lessons in the hot sun and freezing cold! I would teach crying kids and talk with demanding parents. Take my petting zoo somewhere every day and have parties on the farm every weekend, all without complaint. I would do anything to go back to that.
Take it from me, you don’t realize how lucky you are until your luck changes. For me, that was on March 13, 2018. It was a stupid accident that could have happened to anyone, with any horse. That stupid accident, that started out as a long night in the ER, and me thinking this was “just” another concussion, turned my life upside down. Actually, that doesn’t describe it well enough. It turned my life upside down, sideways and backward. Everything changed.
My life was my lesson program, my horses, and my farm for 19 years without interruption. I had a broken bone or bump on the head every now and then, but nothing like what I’m going through now. The sort of rehabilitation I’m going through now is the sort of thing that I never considered could happen to me.
Have I made myself clear enough? Prior to my accident, I was not just a professional horsewoman, I was a horse crazy kid turned horse crazy grown up. I still am! Day to day life just looks a lot different now. That is another post for another day though!