When asked to describe my job to a friend not involved with horses…
It’s like being the manager of a sports team, except the athletes are 1,600 lbs, emotionally unstable and don’t speak English.
Some of them are suicidal and have to be talked down off the edge several times a week. The injuries they sustain from failed suicide attempts must be treated, and they passionately resent medical intervention. “The struggle is real” would be a gross understatement.
On the upside, the injuries you personally incur from struggling to keep the suicide squad alive can be looked at by your local veterinarian, and though you can’t afford decent health care, you become versed in utilizing equine remedies, though not really approved for human application.
Have a little Surpass left on your hand? Rub that stuff right in. Think you’re above licking Robaxin dust off the lid? You are not.
Vetrap and duct tape can be used to treat a vast variety of medical maladies and it is predominantly the material holding your vehicle together.
Some pros of the job are
• Six weeks off a year! (If you injure yourself severely enough to require a cast.)
• You stay relatively fit, or die trying. Generally you’ll have the arms of an Olympic rower and the beer gut of a 65-year-old committed alcoholic.
• A lot of professionals at some point earn a new set of teeth! Who can electively afford veneers? Just get that grill kicked in and you can get them for FREE. You probably won’t have benefits, but a job that has good workers comp is basically the same thing right?
“But you must get a great tan from being outside all day,” your idiot friend points out, while flagging down the bartender, regretting having ever asked about anything…
Yeah I do, but it’s the kind of tan that makes you appear to be wearing a white t-shirt—all of the time. At the beach, your significant other may ask you remove your shirt so they can spray you with sun block. “It IS off, &*^%$,” is the appropriate response.
At this point, your non-horse person friend is probably wide-eyed and frantically ordering another drink. Sensing their discomfort, you usually grumble something along the lines of “but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
For the most part you know this is because you are unemployable anywhere else. As much crap (literally and figuratively) that you encounter as a professional horse slave, somehow you became good enough at crap management to get paid for it. Though the reality is, more times than not, you just picked a barn, showed up and started working until someone felt guilty enough to start paying you.
At this point your friend is pretty drunk and might say something ridiculous about how your connection with the animals must be “pretty magical though?”
If you consider being unceremoniously dumped on your butt in the middle of the forest because your magical mount may or may not have seen some pterodactyls and has left you as a sacrificial meat offering, then yes, the connection is “magical!”
At some point during the conversation, you yourself may begin to feel disenchanted with the whole thing. You’ll start reflecting on your impulsive life choices, attempting to pinpoint the particular day it all went south.
You start to reconsider the lifestyle you’ve chosen, start trying to re-evaluate what these idiotic animals really mean to you, and if the broken bones and hearts were all really worth it.
This, however, is an exercise in futility, and in general, a complete waste of time and alcohol. You know tomorrow morning you’ll get up before the sun rises, eat a handful of aspirin, shove your broken toes into some boots and do it all over again.
And again the day after that, and the day after that.
Because you love it.
Or maybe that’s just the tequila talking.
Alice Peirce was raised as a self-described “feral horse farm child” in Howard County, Md. She’s made efforts to leave the horse world over the years but always comes back and has worked for a number of people in various disciplines. Currently she’s riding young racehorses and training foxhunters in Monkton, Md., where she hunts with the Elkridge Harford Hunt.