As my horse Shadow drove away in the rickety trailer, I bawled my eyes out, and my mom and dad hugged me tight. I didn’t know if the world was going to set itself aright again.
Not very long after Shadow left me…. perhaps a few days, Mom and Dad contacted a barn that boarded horses and gave horse back riding lessons. This barn was different from the barn that I had been boarding Shadow at.
Honestly, I am not sure how my parents found out about this barn. But this barn, proved to be a lifesaver for me.
The barn was only about five minutes from our house, which was a lot better than the barn that Shadow was boarded at. It took about 20 minutes to go and see Shadow.
We arrived at “the barn”, as I fondly began to call it later on, near sunset. It was warm, but there was a slight cool breeze. “Joe” (name changed to protect innocence) was a lady, and she was the lady that owned and ran the barn. She had a tough exterior, but an extremely soft heart.
She showed us around the barn and introduced us to all of the horses. I was shy, but she didn’t seem to mind. Then we walked up to her house and sat on a picnic table outside…near the lesson arena full of hard Georgia Clay. Seeing the clay reminded me of happier times in Georgia.
Joe listened to my story about Shadow, and then pointed across the pasture to a far away corner. She told me that her horse, her very first horse, was buried there. She told the tragic story of how her horse died, and gave me a hug and told me it was going to be all right. She told me that life would go on, and I would feel much better in time.
This was one unique lady. I did not feel this way towards any of the “barn owners” that I had come to know through the years.
First, there was the barn where I first started taking lessons at. And although she was “nice” she didn’t seem to connect with kids as I look back in hindsight.
Then there was the lady who helped me find Shadow. Although she too was nice, she too did not seem to connect with children.
And then, when we moved and boarded Shadow at the barn where he became sick at… the lady who owned and ran that barn didn’t have much to do with anybody.
But this lady was different. She cared.
This barn was FULL of children. Children were everywhere it seemed. And they were there almost all the time.
Mom and Dad started me in on lessons right away, I believe. Not a week or two after Shadow was taken away. I was given a stubborn pony to ride, named Cracker.
It felt soooo good to be back in the saddle again! Ever since Shadow had gotten sick, I had not able to ride him. It had been several months since I had last rode a horse. Joe worked with me, and taught me some new techniques.
Every week that I had a lesson with Joe and Cracker, my heart would feel a little bit better about Shadow. I began to make friends with the kids at the barn as well. When I was at the barn, I was free to be me. I could escape the drama of my brother’s life, and drown out the loneliness of missing my best friend.
I would show up early to my lessons, and get Cracker ready to ride. I would be ready and waiting in the arena by the time Joe came out of her house. After the lesson, I would cool Cracker down, and clean the saddle, and just hang out.
I loved smells of fresh hay, and old horse manure…they just seemed to be the perfect combination. I know that sounds so weird, LOL! Hearing the horses munching on the hay, with an occasional happy nicker, brought a bit of peace to my soul.
Like I said before, Joe had a tough exterior. She was not a mushy type of person. But she had a heart of gold that really cared deep down inside. She did not believe in one being a”whimp”. If you were going to ride, you had to be “tough”. She didn’t like one cry for no good reason. But if you so did start to cry, she would listen to you. She would reason a bit with you, and then say, “Well lets get back to riding”!
Even though she was tough, her praise for any *little* “achievement”, was excessive. She made sure you knew that she was pleased with any small amount of effort. She would clap loudly, and make a shrill whistle. She would say “That was awesome!” And anyone passing by, she would make them stop and watch me do it again.
She pushed one to overcome their fears, and weaknesses. She made you believe in yourself. She encouraged one to see the bigger picture. She was good at what she did.
Being at that barn, became a lifeline to normalcy for me. I was accepted among all the kids there. We all had different backgrounds. I was homeschooled. There was a kid there that was on juvenile probation, (Joe was trying to get him on the right track) there were public school kids, and “rich” kids. Kids who worked for their lessons, little kids, Big kids etc. We were like a family there at “the barn”
There were Christmas parties, Pool parties, birthday parties, camp outs, trail rides, picnics, horse shows, game days, work days, you name it. If you were part of “the barn” you were part of a big family.
During this time, my parents were out of church. We had stopped going to the “Seeker Friendly” church. We were now in church limbo.
During this time, I had changed my mind about the Amish. I wanted to be Mennonite. I decided that the Mennonite’s were more “graceful” than the Amish. Their following of the Bible was more realistic to me than the Amish’s weird rules of barn roof pitches, phone booths outside, straight pin’s to close blouses instead of buttons, etc. Besides, I couldn’t very well live like the Amish, when I lived in the city. We *had* to drive cars. So my passion turned to the Mennonites.