We are horsewomen. We muck 13,505 pounds of manure a year… per horse, and you know we don’t own just one. That doesn’t count stacking hay in small places or wire and twine fence repair. Do the math; we are amazons, we will not be trifled with. When my tech-person was talking about designing my website, she assured me it would be easy to navigate. I told her it wasn’t that we don’t understand technology; we hate it. A different challenge entirely.
My first close call with technology and horses was in the early 90s. Every year we chipped in to get our trainer a Christmas present. Someone suggested this expensive gadget where she could talk to riders through a radio mic and headset. I had never heard of such a thing, but the next year at championships, I was riding in the warm-up arena, crowded and intimidating, with her calm voice literally in my ear. She wasn’t waving from the rail or yelling over the hoards. Her voice was conversational as she gave us transitions that settled us down. It was like we were alone. When my ride was called, I handed the headset to her next client, and I rode a better test. But I’m a horsewoman, so I still didn’t like it. That was back before the revolution. I didn’t have a computer or a cell phone. Egads, Zuckerberg was ten years old.
This is now: my arena mic is weightless and immortal. I play music loud enough for the whole arena from a speaker that fits in my palm and charges overnight. I video parts of lessons on a tablet so my client can see her ride in real-time. I’ve had the thrill of giving a riding lesson in an arena that overlooks the inconceivably beautiful coast of New Zealand. And later today, (see photo) I will be sitting in my office in a snowstorm, giving a live lesson to a client starting her lovely young mare, also in New Zealand. She’ll be able to focus on her horse instead of struggling to hear me across the arena. From Colorado, she’ll hear my voice in her ear. Pigs fly.
Is a long-distance lesson difficult? You need a cell phone and someone to hold it. That’s it. Maybe the real challenge with technology is the terminology. Let me translate.
Old-timers had a word for horses that looked okay on the surface but weren’t. They called the horses counterfeit. Well, that was my first computer. Sour as a snake. It would spook, seize up hollow, and bolt any direction, like a deer in headlights. I’d flinch and yell, slamming keys and muttering curses that would embarrass a sailor. Danged thing bucked me off… and it hurt. I went to the emergency room, you know, the helpline, dozens of times. I’d wait on hold, stewing my grudge.
I reminded myself that I fought the typing class requirement for girls in my high school because I was not born to be a secretary. I hated this stupid contraption; I was a woman of substance. I rode an Appaloosa, for crying out loud, and I was just as stubborn. Some kid would finally pick up the line, make me read a few dozen tiny numbers hidden on the backside of the tower, heavy as a bale of hay. When I’d jumped a few oxers, he’d tell me to reboot the danged thing. What? Give it a boot? It wasn’t even paid off. A too many trips to this emergency room for computers, and I figured I was smart enough to reboot it myself.
A month later, I gave up the city life and moved to a little wreck of a farm with two horses, two cattle dogs, and a green-broke computer. Both horses pulled-up lame in no time. My new farrier told me my bay horse had an affliction I’d never heard of and you know this: some farriers know everything and some just act like it. I went to my bookshelf, bulging with thick books on all things equine. I couldn’t find a trace of what he talked about and I was ranting again: Isolated. Scared. My horse in pain. I would’ve called for help if I knew anybody in the county.
I did what any reasonable horsewoman would. I cracked a beer and went out to stare at my horse until he looked lame on all four. Then it came to me; Google was a year old by then. Computers can be like cats in haylofts. I finally found the darned page and typed in the obscure ailment. A dial-up minute later, a list of articles from universities and vets around the world appeared. It’s the moment you look at your mare and realize she was right all along.
I remind you, not only did I ride an Appaloosa, but my other horse was an Arabian. Not likely breeds, but we worked up the levels in Dressage. The finest achievements in the horse world matter to no one but you. Your horse doesn’t care. It took everything you had, but in the end, there is something to hold in your heart. A secret pride of not just surviving frustration and failures but rising to become a partner with a thousand-pound flight creature. Horses don’t change who they are, riders must make the change.
That was when I decided that no matter how many times that computer bucked me off, I was going to pull up my breeches and climb back on. I was going to ride that bloody computer up the levels.
Today, I’d call this horse-of-a-computer stoic. He isn’t lying; it’s just smarter for him to shut down in a panic. I was afraid of him, he could smell it on me, but he was just as scared of me. I’d slouch down in front of him with a grim furrowed brow. I never did that with horses. I was patient and kind. Smart, even. I’d rehabbed rescue horses. I’d even trained donkeys, say amen, sister. This boxy thing would not get the best of me. Like a rank colt can become a trusted champion, technology has beeped and hummed into being my long-term partner.
It’s easy to blame a horse or a computer for our human failings. With either one, we get out just about what we invest. When I shared my first blog on Facebook, I hyperventilated and had to take a beer out to the barn again. That was 1200 posts ago. Then I schooled up a level; I learned new software and screwed up my fear/courage. Five books later, I have found a use for that typing class after all.
This isn’t a silly fairy tale, it’s our horsewoman heritage. We are tough and smart. We can accomplish anything we want, professional horse training or pretty much anything else your folks thought was a bull-headed idea. We don’t expect free barbeque, horsewomen earn what they have. And if you ride a happy Appaloosa, you’ve already persisted beyond things much more complicated than technology.
The world is pretty dark these days. Horsewomen could start to feel isolated, worried about loved ones, or how they’ll buy hay. Self-care matters. Our life is a prayer. Say thank you. Then hold your nose, reach out, and try something new. Lonely for introverted horsewomen like you? Join an online group, The Barn or another virtual place, but come in out of the cold. We’re stronger in a herd.
And you most certainly know what we do if a neighbor needs a hand. Should you feel a bit threatened, cock a hip and put a wry smile on your face. The world needs pioneers again. Horsewomen were born for this.
PS. It’s day #16 of self-quarantine, but I’m of-an-age, there’s yoga, so I persist. Tracey teaches breathing just like a horsewoman… online. Support your friends, support small business. Please, take precious care of each other.
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
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