First, lets get our terminology straight. A barn rat is a child who might answer an ad with the headline Horse-Crazy Girls Wanted. (Yes, almost always a girl.)
The Infinity Farm barn rat is 9 years old. Elana got here the usual way, begging and badgering parents who don’t ride. Through extended connections, she showed up one day for a lesson on Max- paid for with birthday money. The thank you note she sent had all of us in tears- the rest is history.
Sometimes the barn rat arrives to the news that she cant ride that day. Elana is just as cheerful about mucking as riding. She weighs a fraction of a full muck cart and grunts like a Williams sister at Wimbledon when lifting a shovel of manure. She is working off part of her lesson and if it is horse related, it is important.
Sometimes she helps me doctor a wound, applying the ointment with small, gentle fingers. Sometimes she holds horses for the farrier, examining hoof trimmings and old shoes. Last visit, Max got a bath that cooled all of us off. If you ask her to fetch something and there is a horse between her and the object- know that it will take her a while to get it done.
When it is time to tack up, Elana’s grooming process begins with a step I didn’t teach her. She stands at Max’s shoulder and places both hands -palms flat- on his shoulder and flank. She moves her hands in circles, swaying silently. Last visit, I timed this part- after 12 minutes I quietly suggested it might be time to start with the curry.
Finally time to ride: she speaks firmly, loves a trot and does her very best. I teach her that when her horse is good, she should reward him with a release; a kind word or a scratch on the withers. She does fail at that. Her release is nothing short of a full body hug on his neck. But the old horse whisperers say that the release should be bigger than the ask, so that is fine with me.
We are a barn of mainly adult riders. I notice that the quality of the lessons I give always goes up after a barn rat visit. Thanks for the lesson, Elana.
(Photo: Elana demonstrating the barn rat release on Max.)
3 thoughts on “The Barn Rat Release.”
I am forever grateful to have such a wonderful young lady help me in caring for Max! I was totally touched by this post, but not quite as moved as by the thank-you note from Elana. Thank you, Elana, for loving him like you do! (I do, too.)
Anna, you’ve got a gem there, and I’ve had a goodly share of barn rats myself over the years. Some still come around as full fledged adults!
Now, I can also tell you about the four footed furry varieties too, but that’s another story…
awww, brings back my own childhood memories!