How can a former rider living in a busy city connect with the animals that helped shape her? Find out in this episode of Barn Stories.
[Laurie] Welcome to the Barn Stories podcast. I’m Laurie Prinz, editor of EQUUS magazine.
[Christine] And I’m Managing Editor Christine Barakat.
[Laurie] This podcast features our favorite essays and articles published in EQUUS over the past 40 years. Although EQUUS is known for articles on horse care and veterinary research, our editorial mission has always been guided by the bond that exists between horses and people. And each issue has featured a real-life story that celebrates how horses enrich our lives and touch our hearts.
[Christine] We’ve searched our archives, chosen the stories that resonated with our readers and given them new life in this audio format. Longtime subscribers may recognize some of their favorite pieces. And if you’re new to the EQUUS community, these stories will confirm that no matter what sort of saddle you sit in, a deep emotional connection to horses is something we all share.
[Laurie] This episode is unusual in that it doesn’t feature a horse at all. In fact, the entire point of this essay is how people can retain their deep connection to horses even when it’s been years since they’ve been in a barn.
[Christine] I think this experience isn’t unusual. Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to horses at every phase of their lives. In fact, it can be very difficult to stay involved as careers and families take you in other directions. Sometimes you can circle back to the horses later in life, but for long stretches of time, your equestrian identity may only emerge briefly when a sight, sound or smell triggers a memory of your days with horses.
[Laurie] In this writer’s case, she returned time again to the place that triggered those memories, just to stay connected to the animals who saw her through a tough time in her life.
[Christine] So let’s listen to “Echoes of Hoofbeats,” written by Lana Hall and read by Taylor Autumn. [Note: The audio to this episode can be found at https://bit.ly/BarnStoriesEchoes or on your favorite podcast platform.]
Five years ago, I moved across the country to pursue a career in journalism, leaving behind a childhood shaped by horses. I had spent a decade riding in the hunter/jumper ring. The barn and my two mares provided refuge from the acute pain of adolescence.
Now my life is made up of deadlines and subways, all-night coffee shops and ill-fitting shoes. I love the urban chaos and the city’s strange combination of grittiness and beauty, yet something is missing.
One of my best friends is a competitive sprinter who lives and breathes the track. When he bursts in, always half an hour late for our weekly date, saying, “Sorry, I ran late at the track,” I am resentful. Not at his tardiness, but because I envy the feeling of having a passion that takes priority, that engulfs one’s attention so fully. What I wouldn’t give to be able to blow someone off, saying, “Sorry, I’m still at the barn.”
And small reminders of my former life lurk in the shadows: my old mare’s flash noseband that I still wear as a bracelet, a black-and-white photograph tacked to my fridge. And somewhere, at the bottom of my dresser, beneath my skirts, is an old pair of jodhpurs.
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One day I take the subway to the north end of the city and get lost in an unfamiliar commercial district. As I wander, I stumble across the city’s only tack shop, an unassuming storefront wedged between a flower shop and an all-day breakfast place.
I go in with some trepidation. Touching the overloaded corkboard, I can barely believe the places advertised on these business cards exist. The words evoke fields of timothy hay, peeling fences, horses in stalls crunching on feed—all the things that now seem to belong to a foreign, faraway world. I buy an old book of horse photographs and a bridle from the $20 bin for no reason.
The owner tells me to come back soon, and I do, until eventually it becomes a habit. I go around touching the worn leather of old riding boots, reading the free magazines and doing weird things like sniffing tins of saddle soap.
The owner and I are often the only people in the store, so we chat under the dim bulb as she sorts through boxes of old tack. She asks about my old mares and tells me about the horse that she’s rehabilitating at a barn an hour west of the city. We talk about agriculture politics, remembered thrills and spills, and our plans for the future. Her kindness overwhelms me.
At this point, I cannot say whether I will ever own a horse or even just ride again. People, animals, even whole communities come and go from our lives all the time. Some stay for a while; others barely register. And sometimes we don’t know what kind of an impact these influences will have on us until many years later.
And yet, the more I talk about the horses who have been in my life, the more I recognize how they shaped who I am, and the more I realize I have learned from them. The longing and the memories remain deeply ingrained, and as I grow older, I have no doubt that they will continue to have an impact on my life. In the meantime, I’ve found my salvation in this tiny piece of the horse world.
[Christine] Thanks for listening to Barn Stories; we hope you enjoyed this episode. If you have a favorite article or essay from the EQUUS archives that you’d like us to feature in a future podcast, let us know. You can reach us at [email protected].
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The Barn Stories podcast is a production of the Equine Podcast Network, an entity of the Equine Network.