As previously mentioned, dude stables tend to be very fluid environments. Employees come and go regularly. Sometimes they go open and honestly, sometimes they go in the middle of the night…with several saddles. But, there is always someone else, ready and waiting to give it a go.
About two weeks after the rather abrupt and mysterious departure of one of the employees, I arrived to see a a new face, or rather new hat catching horses. By this time I had begun to feel a sense of ownership of the horses and stables. So I was shocked at the unannounced addition. I literally spent most of my waking hours there, (literally because I was still so exhausted by the time I got home, all I had the energy to do was eat and go right to sleep.)how could I not know about this guy?
I took a rather ballsy approach for me and strode up to him before he could get to me. As we walked to meet each other he made a gesture I would soon use to define him. He put his head down, used the knuckle of his index finger to push up his glasses, then used it to nudge his black cowboy hat up, then used it to itch his nose. It wasn’t long before I decided it was his version of making the sign of the holy cross because he tended to do it most often when he was nervous.
We met between the rails and the corrals.
“I’m Louis Docter, you must be Chrissy. Pleased to meet you.”
He seemed quiet and shy. Very unlike the typical guy around this place. I kind of liked him.
It was explained that he would be the lead guy throughout the remainder of the summer as well as shoe all of the horses.
And so we went back to work catching horses. He was willing to work and was generally pleasant to be around so none of us really minded him. He could, however, be pretty bossy but he took the time to teach me how to tie a bowline so I guess that’s alright.
Now that I was a few months into my job I felt I had a firm understanding of the basics. One thing I noticed, but didn’t really know what to do about was that several of the horses were getting sores in their cinch area. Louis showed me how to doctor the sores, but no one would tell me why it was happening. If I drew attention to the sores, it was brushed aside as what happened to horses that worked long hard days. So, I did what I could to treat the wounds and make things a little better for them. I learned all sorts of ways to take the pressure off of a sore, but still, I wanted to know why it was happening so it could be avoided all together.
One day I came in from a ride and Louis and another worker were sitting on the porch. I got my people dismounted, waved my final goodbyes and began watering my horses.
As I walked past the porch I heard the tail end of the conversation.
“Cinching too tight.”
“Soring them up.”
“Doesn’t care.” were all phrases I heard.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! WHAT?!
I tend to appear to be a quiet, shy person. Most of the time I go out of my way to avoid conflict. But that little snippet threw me over the edge. I was LIVID.
I tied up my horse, walked over to the raised porch, put my hands on my hips and looked both of those dirt bags in the eye.
“If I’m doing something wrong, don’t just sit up there and talk about me. Teach me to do it right!” I growled.
I stalked off leaving them both dumbfounded. I don’t know that I had ever spoken more than a few sentences to either of them.
I spent the next half hour watering my horses, then worked my way up to the corrals to fill up troughs. I was so angry at them and at myself. I was doing this? I was causing these horses pain? I was creating the pink hairless sores that these horses so stoically lived and worked with day in and day out? And nobody had said a word to me?!
Once I had cooled off and dried my tears of anger I came back down to the horses to clean around the rails.
Louis appeared at my side.
“Come here, show me how tight you cinch a horse.” he said.
I tightened a loose cinch as tight as I possibly could. Remember, I had a very vivid idea of what happened with a cinch that was too loose. I wasn’t about to let that happen to a paying customer.
Louis looked at me, did his glasses, hat, nose, gesture and uncinched the horse, who gratefully gasped for air.
He then recinched it.
“Stick your hand underneath the cinch. Feel that? That’s right. Do it that way.”
I looked at him. I wanted to ask how come he had never shown me before but all I could get out is a muffled thank you.
It took me years to finally ask Louie that question.
His answer was infuriating.
He said, “Let’s just say I was led to believe you didn’t want to learn.”
“Well that’s not true! That’s never been true!” I snapped back.
He did his glasses, hat, nose gesture.
“Yes Chrissy, I know that now.” he sighed.
Once I quit cutting horses in half the sore started clearing up. It was that easy to make those horses’ lives a little better and I was happy to do it.
As soon as Louis figured out that I was willing to learn he had no problem showing me whatever I wanted to know. Things that had in a short time become seemingly mechanical took on a new light as I learned to do them better and more efficiently.
There have been many times in my life that I have felt horribly oblivious and wanted to know some small bit of information. I ask, pester, and cajole. The answer tends to get watered down, obscured, or avoided completely. If I ask a question, I want an answer, even if it’s, “You’re doing it wrong.”
Isn’t it interesting how that works? Ask a question and people are afraid to hurt you’re feelings. And yet how many of us as horse people are so willing to criticize or offer someone completely unsolicited advice?
Some of you may read this and think, “How did she not know that?!”
Well, because no one had taught me.
Even the top horsemen in the world had to be shown how to properly cinch a horse at least once.
We are all teachers and we are all students. If someone asks you something about what seems like an obvious basic, answer them! They will probably thank you, and even if they don’t the horses will!
Anyway, the horses were definitely thankful I learned something new. And Louie and I had survived our first pre-lovers’ quarrel.
It was and still is a steep learning curve. Every time I think I have a firm grasp of something I find I haven’t the slightest idea. Still, with good teachers, and determination I learn. Every day, I learn.