Horsewoman, A Computer Can Smell Your Fear…


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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This blog is free, and it always will be. Free to read, but also free of ads because I turn away sponsorships and pay to keep ads off my site. I like to read a clean page and think you do too. If you appreciate the work I do, or if your horse does, consider making a donation.

Anna Blake

36 thoughts on “Horsewoman, A Computer Can Smell Your Fear…”

  1. Oh dearie – anyone who “learned” computer-ease” whether its horse related or not has gone thru the same thing. The first one I ever used was a huge Burroughs monstrosity the size of a grand piano!! We used ledger size cards with it. Then they changed – size-wise etc.
    It may have been – well, I wont say easier – but – a necessity, in the years after that, learning it because I had to in order to continue working (incidentally so I could support my horse).
    I”m fortunate – my son is pretty much self-taught when it comes to computers – has built quite a few & re-furbishes others. So he solves my problems now.
    Just know you were and are not alone!

    • Maggie, you did start before me… and no kidding. It matters now more than ever. Thanks, we know each other because of technology.

  2. Good Morning Anna,
    I’m having computer growing pains right now as a result of this viral scourge, that feel as intimidating as when we were using dot matrix printers. I’m a public health nurse and we are currently supporting our clients with the aid of technology. A recent program staff meeting on Microsoft Teams seemed like pandemonium in Time Square. I am so much more comfortable easing the damp and partially frozen blanket off my ancient Saddlebred, so that I can put a warm dry blanket on the old guy to conserve calories. But, I am tenacious if nothing else, so I will fight the good fight in order to make technology a trusted partner. Please stay well, you are a precious commodity on this planet.

    • Oh Laurie. Thank you, I have so much respect for the job you do. Not your first choice, I’m sure, but through technology, you might be a warm blanket to those you help. Stay safe, you’re our hero.

  3. The best thing I’ve read all week. Bless you. Time for upping our virtual reality abilities to ride the most magnificent of horses, those with wings and wide backs. Broncs that go sky-high, and herds that surround us and whisper their secrets in a language we completely understand. And living room yoga? Wow, I’m in.

  4. Thanks so much for this today! The best encouragement I’ve read so far! Thanks for your wonderful (and hilarious) outlook on living with horses and in the world!

  5. Excellent and FUN post!! Am glad we have each other, and I will be here supporting all the blog posts I can! Long live horsewomen!! ❤️??❤️ ~Diana
    (I shared on Facebook too, am glad you are everywhere I visit too!! )

  6. Beautiful, heart-felt post, Anna! You know how to tell it like it is! Thank you for your uplifting encouragement in these uncertain times. Be safe, be well, and be in joy!

  7. oh my gosh, Anna; that is so timely for me. My cell phone is so much more savvy than I. Just yesterday afternoon, I was trying to just set up a short video…aye…..and one of my favorite trot songs was on, so I got too rushy, forgot to breathe and trotted off with my little mare wondering what the heck is the rush–we don’t do this! And she let me know it…choppy trot and swishy tail. I apologized, forgot about the video and did some nice transitions including big breaths and blows–I think I counted about 6 or 7 blows in a row. Good girl. We can play around with the phone & music another day when I get some tech help! Thanks for this today!

    • Nice job of riding and breathing, both of you. But I will never believe your cell phone is more savvy than you. Thanks Joyce.

  8. Loved this, Anna. I am in your same boat, hate technology but am glad to use it! The self-quarantine is difficult, it seems like e’thing I’m going to use, plan or go to is closed. Thank the Good Lord for friends & for our phones. Take care & stay well.

  9. Very funny, Anna!!!! But I get the message.

    It was quite some time ago, but remember purchasing one of those “we’ll fix your computer no matter what the problem is” programs. All I had to do was call, and somebody from Latvia, or someplace like that, would remotely connect in. Well, after several hours and no fix, the guy wanted to sell me something else! No thank you! Anyway, I dug down deep searching for the cure myself and found it! I felt so empowered. Just like when I rode my Appaloosa!!!

  10. Wonderful as always! Funny & sobering. I love it! I’m glad you’re safe and well, Anna. We are also, here in Flagstaff where the virus has just been known to have appeared a few days ago; I just keep breathing and being thankful that I still can. ???

  11. Thank you for this fun and wise blog. And for a previous blog tip on yin yoga. I had temporarily stopped my Iyengar yoga as I kept injuring myself. After reading your blog, I found a center that did yin yoga, restorative yoga and gentle yoga. And I loved it. Of course COVID has put a crimp in that, but they assure me they will have some classes online! Hooray for computers and online everything that will keep us all from feeling so socially distanced!

  12. As I stood in line for fresh organic produce at a farmer’s market, I breathed, breathed for the harried folk around me.
    If not for choosing to live as a hermit years ago, I’d have never taken up the challenge of learning computer speak, and then never met you Anna.
    Yes, disappointed not to see you this weekend but fully understand . It does give me a chance to do more writing tho, and not be redacted empty?

    • Miss you and the whole crowd this weekend… but looking forward to your book!! I think often when people are hating technology, that I would never have met so many amazing people. Thanks, Annie.

  13. This post put a smile on my face. And I really like this line- “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.” So true!

  14. Brilliant playing computer mastery off of our horsewomanship! Can’t wait to cheer and inspire my fellows with your reminder of our astounding commitment and resilience. I for one have no intention of surviving; I intend ONLY to transcend this chapter with more than I can imagine, and I can dream big, friends.


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