Best of HN: Barnhomeless, Once Again

Welcome to my pity party. I’m homeless, once again. The fantasy farm where I have been relishing my lessons for two months is closing. This is the second time in six months. Just when I nest and get to know everyone’s name, the saddle pad is jerked out from under me. I feel sick. The sight of white four-board fencing makes my insides crumble.

Attendance to my party requires that you don’t house a horse on your own property or board at a facility that will never, ever shut down. You will get priority seating if you don’t own/lease a horse and that you, like I, ride and have loved a series of lesson horses.

The book I wrote is called Horse Sluts because I don’t own or lease — I rent/school. I will do almost anything to grab a ride. I had a quick succession of mismatched schooling barns when I found a home at the Equine Training Center near where I live south of Nashville, TN. It was heaven with a barn. We had well-cared-for horses with levels to challenge my skills as I improved. I had access to the large, pristine outdoor arena; a covered arena with fans and lights; fields on which to trail ride and a swimming pool. There was no 59 minute time clock. I could ride and fuss with the horses as long as I liked – all for $20! I always left more in the riding fee cookie jar.

Candace and Jag at ETC. Photo courtesy of Candace Wade.

My horse needs were sated at the ETC for six years. Then Jan, the owner, told me the property was for sale. The family was moving – away. The property sold, the horses went to a kids’ camp and everything else was auctioned off. What was to become of me?

Samantha, my darling horse friend and polo instructor, introduced me to her friend who used to ride with Cavalia Odysseo. She might take me as a student. Wow! A door slammed and a really cool door opened. The Cavalia-girl agreed to take me.

I punched the code on one of the most desirable equestrian properties in Middle Tennessee. Owned by retired CEO of Dollar General, Green Pastures is one of the most slathery-beautiful 550 acres for equestrian activities. Wow (again)! I landed in the cream. Enter charming, patient and knowledgeable Emmy and her divinely beautiful and patient horse, Quiebro. I would be allowed to ride this snowy Spanish Purebred who was also retired from Cavalia Odysseo.

Yeah, this horse:


The fee was (ouch!) much higher and I was subject to a clock, but beginning dressage lessons with these two? I was thrilled.

In spite of the chi chi address, the boarders and staff at the bustling barn welcomed this gypsy schooling rider. “Hi, I’m Roberta,” “Pretty morning. I’m Nicole, are you riding with Emmy?” I had to keep notes on names so I could respond in kind.

Emmy brought me along quickly to a much more secure seat, more reflexive legs and responsive hands that did not jump in before the other two. Quiebro danced with me as I tried working him “at liberty.” We even tried the “Spanish Walk.” I was home, home, home.

Candace and Quiebro. Photo courtesy of Candace Wade.

Two weeks ago, Emmy’s face was grave when she met me for my lesson. The facility was closing. My new “friends” were scrambling to find places for their horses. A few had to give their older horses to retirement farms. My stomach plummeted as Emmy told me she and Quiebro were going to move out of state to be near her fiancé. Except for during Cavalia, they had never lived in the same city. I swallowed my sadness in order to be happy and supportive of her new adventure, but my equestrian fantasy bubble lay flat at my feet.

A quiet, empty stable is a sad place. Many of the kind, welcoming women had already moved when I came back for my last lesson. Two were in the process of loading the horses whose noses I had caressed. Emmy, Quiebro and I immersed in my “canter and stops” so I wouldn’t succumb to sadness.

Part of my sorrow was the loss of this lovely, young woman. I get emotionally attached to my riding instructors. They bring joy into my life. They make me who I am. In this case, with Emmy, she’s a poised, strong young woman who touched some ancient memory of my youth.

I hugged Emmy good-bye. I stroked Quiebro’s muzzle and thanked him for lowering himself to work with me. Then… I drove out the gate… for the last time.

I am barn-homeless, once more. Yet, when it comes to horses one must be patient and keep trying. I have found two promising places that offer English schooling. I plan to check one out in a couple of days. Plus, Samantha has a few ideas. In the meantime, I will take beginning polo lessons – at age 62 — and undo the dressage demeanor that Emmy taught me. I will be on a horse again.

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