a day in the life of a horse trainer

Dirk and Samantha went on a field trip to do adjustments on some horses in another part of the country. I was left alone the whole day, and I worked six of their horses for them. Talk about making myself useful! I lunged Santiago first thing, then Constantine and Buschido. By the time I came back from lunging the latter, I found Santiago wandering around outside of his stall. Tsk tsk. I walked up to him and herded him back to where he was supposed to go, easy as pie. I think he was bored of his freedom anyway. With all sand and no grass, it kinda takes the fun out of escaping. I spoke with a groom about his pole being put properly across his gate, and we briefly made idle conversation. 

Next, I retrieved the Quarter Horse JB from his stall and took him for a walk. He must be lunged or ridden in a particular way to help his back heal, but he needed the exercise, so I took him for a 20 minute walk. It was remarkably similar to walking a dog. I walked him past several paddocks down to the river bed, then back up the road. He was excitedly smelling everything  and clearly didn’t get out much. I planned to walk him to the end of the road and back but he stopped and looked curiously at the turn that went to my house, so I acquiesced. I told him about the weaver birds who have a nest next to Sam and Dirk’s house, we had a good long gander at the boat which is a big as my house next to my cottage, and walked past the big house with the pool. He was a perfect gentleman out on our promenade. I already felt silly this week because I had spent much time walking horses from point A to point B, and that ain’t the cowgirl way. But this was not embarrassing, and I wish I could go walking with JB the Gentleman again. 

Speaking of, all of the horses ended up with nicknames from me. Buschido was Bushy, Constantine became Teeny (an ironic sort of nickname). I called Santiago either Sant (saint) or Iago (Shakespeare villain) depending on if he was doing well or behaving badly. Rakbah, as much of a scaredy cat as he is, just looked like a Rocky to me. And last but not least, Dodo. What do you do with a name like Dodo? I tended to say “Do-dee-doooo” in a sing-song and less than polite manner. There were others that they sometimes worked, including Certainty and Bonfire (the two new horses), a Friesian stallion named Tjerk (Tyerk became Jerk), an Arabian named Tareef called Kudu (like the animal), and the most sway backed creature I have ever seen called Buya. I didn’t work with them (except occasionally grabbing/brushing/treating with carrots one of the first two). I have never taken to renaming others’ animals the way I did in Namibia. Then again I have never taken to 6 animals the way I did there either. 

Remember how I said the dust kicks up in little tantrums here in the desert? There was one lunging arena which was terrible for throwing sand in the air. On this day I wore my long-sleeve shirt, cap, sunglasses, buff pulled over my nose (for the dust), gloves (for the lunge line), and riding trousers tucked into my boots. It occurred to me that I looked like a color-blind ninja who was prepared to sneak somewhere but was accidentally wearing bright clothes. Outside of my ridiculous wardrobe, the only problem that day came from Dodo. I began lunging him counterclockwise, a direction he took great exception to. He only behaved when I swapped sides and started going the other way first, a preference I did not notice before that day or after. I was halfway through working Rakbah, the last horse of the day, when I noticed the groom from earlier that day was watching me. I startled and said too loudly, “how long have you been there?!” I looked ridiculous with no skin exposed to the sun whatsoever, and I tend to have entire conversations with the horses while we work. Private conversations. An outsider might even say “Silly.” He replied, “not long,” and I spent another 8 minutes in a completely self-conscious state before retiring Rocky to his sandy paddock. 

After my own lunch, I fed carrots to all the guys, coupled with fly spray (to all except Dodo who lived up to his name and refused the helpful treatment). I washed saddle pads and girths, lounged by the pool, and generally worked up an appetite. Dad, you won’t believe that I spent 2.5 hours cooking (delicious) Mexican food for three, do you? I’m practically a grown up! Samantha and Dirk arrived too late to join me, but I lay my head down that night happy. I realized that I had spoken more words to horses than I had to people, and yet it was a great day. Namibia seems to be full of those. 🙂


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