“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” — Winston Churchill
There is a quality in the air of a barn full of horses that relaxes and disarms us. This environment is unlike any other. I began spending time in barns about 10 years ago when I started taking riding lessons. I go to visit the horses after my lesson, give them treats, and take photos. It is like I am the grandma with all of the fun, bragging rights, spoiling, and none of the work or expense. I just come once a week, go for a fun ride, give them treats, take their pictures, then leave all of the hard work to the barn staff and volunteers. I have framed photos of many of the horses I have ridden over the years hanging in my home like any good grandparent.
At the end of my lesson this week, I noticed how unusually close the friendship with my instructor seemed. We’ve known each other just a few years, but I think having the barn atmosphere as the setting for most of our interactions has fueled a much more intimate level of conversation. I noticed we so naturally discussed things that are usually reserved for very close friends rather than a teacher/student relationship. There isn’t much we leave off the table. She knows many details about my marriage, love life, my role as a mother, health, family dynamics and social life. She has shared same with me.
I became similarly familiar with a long time volunteer at the barn over several years. She moved out of state, but we have kept in contact.
The barn smells like hay, horse manure, tack and stinky horses. When the farrier is there, it smells like burning hair as well. It is generally quiet save for the ker plop of horse hooves walking through or anything the horses may have to discuss with us. We do indeed talk to the horses as if they understand every word. What is in the air of the barn? I’m not exactly sure.
I imagine the women I have met in the stable are more accustomed to this air that seems to foster such close comraderie since most of them have been hanging around in barns for much longer than I have.