I was debating who I should introduce next, and then I realized that I’d never actually properly introduced myself.
I’m the Shit Slinger In Chief of a little hobby farm deep in the bowels of New Jersey. I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember, and have been working with horses my entire adult life. (“Adult” being used in its loosest definition, here)
As a kid I grew up riding western. Many generations of my family have competed in gaming and rodeo, as well as some endurance and trail riding. When I was teenager I saw a picture of a dressage rider in a magazine, and thought it looked kinda cool. So, I found a dressage trainer (no easy feat in 1990’s Louisiana) and began taking lessons. I was immediately hooked.
As luck would have it, I ended up going to college in New Jersey. Finding a dressage trainer in NJ was ridiculously easy, finding one I could afford on a college student’s budget was another matter. Thus began a series of working student positions, which then lead to barn management positions, riding sale horses, assisting trainers and even training a bit myself. The horse business is a lot like crack, one hit leads you down a slippery slope to addiction and doing questionable things for money.
My brush with horsey professionalism ended when I was 25. In that fateful year I had a nasty riding accident that resulted in a fractured spine and was also diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, an auto-immune disease that has progressively ruined my joints and intestines. It wasn’t my best year.
At this point it became clear I was never going to be a professional rider or trainer, so I decided to finally apply the college education I’d gotten and went to work for a local university. I had majored in biology with an emphasis on animal behavior and was able to work in labs until my auto-immune disease reared it’s ugly head again. I had to begin taking immune suppressant drugs to slow the progression of my disease. My line of work required working with bio-hazards, and I couldn’t do it with a compromised immune system. So, I retired from my 9 to 5 job and “bought the farm”.
Living with a chronic illness means that I have good days and bad days, and sometimes my bad days last for months. As such, I have my farm set up to make everything as easy as possible. The horses live outside with access to shed row barns so I don’t have to clean stalls daily, I just pick as needed. I can easily get my tractor in and out of everywhere, so I don’t have to push wheel barrows or carry heavy bales of hay. It’s not what you’re going to see in fancy boarding barns, but it works for me.
My training progress is often slow and intermittent. The slowness doesn’t bother me, as an amateur I really have nothing but time when it comes to reaching my goals. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, just that I don’t have owners and sponsors breathing down my neck for results. If I have a shitty show year, it’s my shitty show year and not my paying client’s. It’s very freeing.
The intermittences bother me, though. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that consistency is a foundation of the training process, and I often struggle to find a way to offer that to my horses. I also struggle to find a way to make this an interesting thing to write about, hence the intermittences in my blogging.
I want to try to work on that, though. In the past, blogging has helped me get motivated and keep myself accountable and on track. My trainer is in Florida right now, and will not be back until May. I’ve set myself a goal to have both my young horses be civilized, or at least not embarrassing, by the time he gets back. As part of that goal, I’m also going to write more.
As a result, quite a bit of the content here might be boring as hell. It can be pretty hard to spin, “Today I felt like rancid donkey ass, so I fed my horses, then laid on my couch watching Mythbusters for eight hours, then fed them again and went to bed”. But, that’s not going to stop me from trying to make it interesting.