A warm nose nuzzles my pocket and as I bat it away, it turns away with dismay. Immediatly guilt seers through me. I’ve become to business like in this job after only a few days, too keen to return home for a boxing day lunch with my extended family. I’d opened the stable door, walked straight up the the belly straps on the horse’s rug and started to undo them when the horse only wanted to know who was in its stable, what they were doing and why it had to go back out in the rain in a sodden rug after getting drenched on a miserable hack.
I lead her though mud a foot deep, her tail dragging as she plods up the hill. As I take off her headcollar I lift my hand to stroke her nose to say goodbye, but she turns and trudges off up the field, feet splashing in the puddles. That’s the problem with working at a riding school. So many time deadlines and things to do, you lose sight of why you’re doing it. I love working with horses, I really do. I even congratulated myself that I put in more of an effort than some of the other grooms, checking whether the horse was warm, picking out it’s feet and giving it a quick groom instead of just mucking out its box and putting it back in. When there are so many horses to do it’s easy to do the bare minimum.
But it shouldn’t be like that. The horses need someone to love them too, they work hard for the yard owner nearly every day of the year. People come to find a tacked up horse waiting for them, unless they are very expereinced and turn up early to groom and tack up themselves. But the grooms haven’t the time to take their time over grooming, they’re there to do the job. Then the rider gets on, has their lesson, puts the tack away and hands over the horse back to the busy groom, who throws a rug on it, dumps a pile of haylage in its box and starts tacking up the next horse.
Next time I work, I’ll take the time to give a mint to that old horse who has dutifully carried children for so many years. Look to why that naughty horse is kicking its door, instead of sighing and tying it up.
It is Christmas, after all.