Humankind are herd animals and as such we tend to sub-divide into groups of like-thinking people who share a common interest.
Horsewomen are a breed apart and the camaraderie we share with each other, and our mounts, is quite unique. Our sport is one of few that our means of participation has a pulse and as such we have a responsibility far greater than to ourselves.
We are the peacemakers and caregivers not only to our offspring, if there are any, but equally to our animals. Our horses are not simply something to do to stay fit or a reason to wear classy clothes—our horses, and everything about them, are truly a part of our chemical makeup. The smell of the barn is intoxicating and the velvet soft nicker your horse whispers as a greeting is music to our ears.
For several years my dearest friend Lauren, the CFO for a distribution center, and I, a retired art teacher, were the only two members of The Over-30 Club at our barn. We stood strong but were clearly out flanked by the 18 and under sorority of High Standards Farm.
All of our younger riders are well mannered, intelligent, and fun to be with but they don’t have jobs, financial worries, or occasional chosen partner troubles to stir into their day of concerns. Equally they have no fear of broken bones, the height of a fence, or the mirrored reflection staring back as they admire the fit of their new breeches.
This reality reduces our exchange of conversation to a somewhat limited handful of topics and, considering that I am old enough to be their grandmother, what could we really talk about. Harry S. Truman was president when I was born and they would need to Google that name for clarification. I learned to fly across the keyboard typing “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country” on a manual Royal typewriter and the one television we had was black and white.
However, I am personally thrilled with their technological skills as I am often at their mercy to resolve a mess I have made on my cell phone or the computer system in my car.
About a year or so ago, a clear change in the demographics of the barn was evidenced by the addition of two new horses to the barn and the conversation that followed. Catherine Tucker, our trainer and owner of the farm, told Lauren and myself all about the new lady and her horses. We tempered our excitement with guarded caution as our club of two was about to gain a new member.
Clubs and women are a funny lot at best. Lauren and I had been the only members of our self-named group for a long time. “Who is this new person, will she like us, will we like her?” were all questions playing hopscotch through the grey matter of our brains.
In short order Missy, a retired interior designer, happily became the third member of The Over-30 Club. It was great fun to have another adult on board and any flames of trepidation were quickly extinguished. She was far and away a more experienced rider than we, but that was neither here nor there in terms of friendships.
Kathy, a CPA, became the fourth name on the roster of our growing club. She had ridden and shown quite successfully for all of her childhood, but like many of us, put that to the side when she married and started a family. Her daughter rode at HSF from a young child until graduating high school so she has been with the barn for a long time but only now had the opportunity to rekindle her love for the ride. From her first lesson she sat her horse like it had been only yesterday since her last ride and instantly regained the joy she once thought to be gone forever. We all laughed that she sent her child to college, kissed her goodbye, and now rides and shows her daughter’s horse.
Our group of four remained just that but not for long. Late one Sunday morning, Catherine was walking down the aisle of the barn with a woman who obviously knew her way around horses, explaining the ins and outs of HSF. With a curious face, Lauren asked if I knew the lady visitor and I replied with a shrug of my shoulders and echoed her question.
Skyler, who practices financial law, rode several horses that day explaining that she had not ridden in quite a while and would be paying for this exercise in over indulgence tomorrow. But, without taking a breath, added that the pain of sore muscles couldn’t hold a candle to the joy of riding.
After a few weeks of trial and error she found her mount of choice and became the fifth member of The Over-30 Club.
Soon the sixth spot on the list of club members was occupied by Erin, a pediatric ophthalmologist. She too had ridden extensively as a child but again the demands of early adult life took the place of horses. Recently her second grader expressed an equestrian interest and luckily they came to HSF. Lucy was thrilled to be taking riding lessons on Ferbert the pony but self-admittedly, Erin could not get out of her daughter’s space.
Clearly there was only one solution and she went to work setting up her own barn time followed by a trip to the tack shop for breeches and boots. She also finds her way to the barn on her lunch hour especially when there is a very long work afternoon ahead.
Pam, a retired real estate agent, gathers up the reins for membership number seven. She is the newest addition to the club and finds herself fully immersed in her return to the equestrian world.
At this point, she is scheduled for one lesson a week but just recently came for a second ride two days post the first—it had something to do with her teenager and the need for some serious stress relief. In unison we moaned and, in an effort to lighten her load, recounted some stories from the teenage years of our own children. Wishing her the best and thrilled that we had survived those years, we whispered a heartfelt Thank God realizing that this too had passed for those of us with older children. All the while acknowledging the benefit of the ride and the cure being the horse.
Our club, which began as two, has grown by leaps and bounds I’m happy to say. The Over-30 Club of women who ride and show at High Standards Farm are truly an eclectic assortment of personalities and professions and that is what makes us so interesting and happy to be together.
Realizing that between the seven of us you can receive; tax advice, clarification on property issues, suggestions concerning the health of your eyes, general understanding of legal terms, recommendations on educational topics, decorating tips and ideas, and a direct line to Coobie bras. What could possibly top that? Only one thing and that is, as different as we all are, we share one common bond and that is the love of horses and our sport.
Often we find better than half of our membership riding together during the week and there is never a shortage of conversation. Between the tackroom, the arena and the wash stall we create an atmosphere of friendship that embraces almost any topic and suggestions for solutions, some of which we could repeat and those that are sworn to never leave the barn.
It’s true when we say The Barn is therapeutic and as soon as you drive through the gates your troubles melt away. Never fear, they’ll be waiting for you on the way out but the time in between is priceless. The relationship between horsewomen is hard to define with any degree of accuracy but it is a very real thing. We would help each other with almost anything and do so expecting nothing in return.
Many times Catherine finds it difficult to start a lesson at the top of the hour—not because someone is late but because the barn conversation has yet to be completed. The topic of the day may be ungrateful children and their inability to harness their tongue or emotions. “How can anyone who was the sweetest little child be so difficult now? Where did I go wrong and how did this happen?” are questions that dance through the noonday air.
We all decide that hopefully it’s temporary and must be an inherited trait from the sub-par gene pool of a distant relative or perhaps a result of all of the hormones in today’s food.
Another hot barn topic of women over 30 is riding breeches and undergarments. Seriously, the older you get, the more relevant this topic becomes. Most of the club members work and change into their riding clothes before leaving the office or at the barn. It is not uncommon to hear a large moan coming from the restroom when someone realizes that they forgot their riding undergear, their socks, or some other essential piece of clothing.
There is also the issue of low-rise pants versus mid or high-rise breeches. Finding just the right fit to accommodate: longer legs, shorter legs, narrow hips, wider hips, any sort of muffin top, the aftermath of female surgical procedures, and gravity is not as easy a task as one might think.
Bras are a necessary evil and they are very important to the overall success and comfort of our sport. Too tight, too loose, too much material, too little fabric, not necessary at all, or extremely necessary come under serious scrutiny when selecting a riding bra. Aging is a crazy thing and puts even the most physically fit woman in a perplexing situation from time to time. The clothes of our sport hold no secrets and tell no lies capitalizing the phrase, WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET!
“My husband or my other half is driving me crazy! I cannot believe he did ………….” comes up occasionally as well. This is a topic that must be quickly reviewed before we can get on task. “I have to leave a bit early to pick up my child,” or “Catherine will you please hold my horse I need to go to the bathroom, I left my water in the tack room, or I can’t seem to find my other glove,” are all clearly in the top five.
Once all is ironed out, we are set and ready to go. Everyone is completely relaxed and free from frustration and then it happens, using the 45 remaining minutes of the one-hour lesson our wonderful trainer puts us through the wringer. By the end of the lesson we have accomplished what seemed to be the impossible but can hardly walk. Interspersed with reviewing the need for Advil, Arnicare Gel and a massage, you can hear voices asking to jump the course just one more time.
Rarely are we all present at the same time unless we just happen to show up around noon to free-ride. Those are absolutely the most fun hours. Nothing in particular to do and nowhere to go on a beautiful day with everyone just working lightly is the perfect scenario for a great ride and fellowship.
At the end of one of these days, someone asked Lauren and myself if they could steal a treat or two for their horse. This is funny because the two of us are known as the queens of horse treats and have several different varieties in our tack trunks at all times.
Well certainly, was our unified response and we went a step further asking, of the four available choices, which would their horse prefer. No fewer than four faces looked at us with expressions ranging somewhere between delight and alarm. “Those are so cute. Where on earth did you find these?” were two of the top responses to our tasty offer.
There was nothing to do but come clean and confess that we were members of The Treat of the Month Club. Adding with haste and a smile that the treats are delivered to your door, which is a real plus, and that there is a monetary savings if you join for the year.
After a pregnant pause, one of the four said with a curious tone, “So, they are delivered to your door and you save money as well? That really is a plus. I don’t ever seem to have time to shop for horse treats. How much money are we talking?” A howl of laughter rose from the crowd and I think The Treat of the Month Club now has at least two, perhaps three, new members.
Belonging to things is an essential part of humankind’s natural herd instinct and overall inner happiness. I dare say there are thousands of organizations to which one may belong and I find myself proud to be a member of The Over-30 Club at HSF.