Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, I was teaching in my classroom of little Junior Kindergarten children. I had a special event planned for them, and several parents joined us during the day to help out. You can imagine the fun we had - a room full of children, amazing treats and a bunch of put-a-smile-on-yer-face activities to keep us occupied.
You can probably also imagine the mess that was left behind as the lunch bell rang and all the little bodies headed straight out the door for recess.
Lucky for me, a few parents stayed back to help with the clean up.
One mother, in particular, grabbed the class broom and started sweeping. I stopped what I was doing and took a long look, admiring her sophisticated grasp of the broomstick and the refined dust-flicking movements that magically made the floor shiny and new.
She caught my gaze as I was analyzing her mad sweeping skillz, and looked at me with a puzzled expression.
"Where'd you learn to sweep like that?" I asked.
Sure enough, turned out she had horses. And a barn. And no barn help!
We had a chuckle that day about the funny idiosyncrasies of horse people, and how you can spot one from a mile away - if you know what to look for.
Here are some clues, in no particular order.
1. Smell doesn't bother them.
Smell? What smell? In general, horse people have an easy time with the less appealing scents you might find around a barn or field - like the smell of rotting manure, dead rodents, or fermenting beet pulp. But don't be surprised if you catch them taking a deep whiff of air as they enter a clean barn, put their nose to a flake of fresh hay, or snuggle close to their horses.
2. They can clean up disgusting messes.
This goes along with the bad smells in the barn. After being in a barn for a while, they won't be nearly as disturbed by squishy, smooshy messes as the regular person. Clean out a few stalls, clear up a few corners in the barn and soon enough, there will be little that can turn them right off.
3. They have more empathy for all animals than the average person.
As keepers of a large animal species, horse lovers are known far and wide as guardians of those who can't speak for themselves. But for most of them, this love of animals transcends species. They learn to appreciate all animals more, thanks to what they learn from their horses. Be it cats, dogs, lemurs, or goats, they'll be there to give a helping hand or just a cuddle.
4. They can stay out in all kinds of weather.
Whether in rain, drizzle, snow or fog, the horses are waiting for food or care.
If the riders compete at horse shows, they'll soon become comfortable in all sorts of conditions - because the show must go on! Have no fear. They'll learn to dress adequately (not so much for fashion) and just go out and get the job done!
5. They don't bat an eyelash when lifting heavy objects (say, around 40 pounds??).
I'm thinking about feed bags, hay bales, full wheelbarrows or awkward horse-size blankets. Horse people tend to do what needs to be done - sooner than later. If someone is around to help - all the better! Otherwise, they'll roll up their sleeves and lift! Just bend the knees before picking it up.
6. They can drive a truck and trailer just as well as anyone.
And car. And bicycle. And four-wheeler. And anything else that moves.
Bonus! They can also back 'em all!
7. They aren't shy to use the right names for all the "private" body parts!
Young children never learn to be shy about using the correct body part terms, because in a barn, no one gets too hung up about giggling over words. When the health of their horse is a concern, they make sure that they are perfectly clear about what body part they are referring to. Funky terms like semen, sheath, vulva and teats just become common vocabulary.
8. They have many and varied (non-school, non-work) friends.
The barn is a non-discriminatory venue. The aisles are graced with the pitter-patter of young feet, the creaky-patter of the more finely aged feet, and everything in between.
Various levels of ability become less critical when one is sitting on the back of a trusty steed.
When everyone has a common interest, it becomes easy to cross any gaps - social, physical, age, and more - and find things to talk about. It gets even better when one riding arena is populated at once by children, teenagers, adults and old-timers - all in it for one shared passion - the love of the horse.
9. They can push themselves out of their comfort zone.
Don't kid yourself. Riding isn't all fun and games. Learning to be around horses necessitates a level of confidence and carefulness that teaches horse people to accept the fact that things might not always work in their favor. They will find themselves being humbled and challenged on a regular basis. Soon enough, they will recognize that stepping out of their comfort zone is valuable. That's where the real growth happens.
10. They STILL take a good long looks at the horses in the fields as they drive by.
That little kid inside them who was mesmerized by horses never really goes away. They might mature and develop over the years, work with dozens and dozens of horses - but one thing is for sure: their attention will suddenly shift to wherever there is a horse to be seen!
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