The barn is a community—like-minded people sharing a very important part of their lives. In the last two weeks, there have been two serious incidents at our barn. During the first incident, what was to be a totally chill walk about turned into a serious medical emergency.
On a beautiful day, four of us set out to walk around the property: me, Mary, Barbara, and Paula. Paula’s horse was acting up a bit, jigging (he is an older, soon to be retired fellow) so she decided to split off from our little group. She headed into the open field a few hundred yards away from us to do some circles. The next thing I knew, she was motionless on the ground. We all dismounted and Mary handed off her horse and ran to Paula. I went as quickly as I could back to the barn, trying not to excite the 17.2-hand horse I was leading. Another barn mate was halfway between me and the barn, and as I rounded the corner, I ordered her to go back and call 911 as she would be at least 60 seconds faster than me.
Emergency vehicles arrived; horses were caught, went a bit nuts, then were settled. Paula was taken to the local hospital and then put on a Med Flight to a larger facility. It turns out, the doctors suspected a stroke as soon as they put her on the backboard and saw her symptoms. In fact, she had an aneurism, and is now in a rehabilitation facility but doing well. Her pony did not likely have any responsibility for her fall or her aneurism, and my friend was very, very lucky that she hadn’t gone out into the field on her own that day. Yet just as we were coordinating get-well gifts for her, a second incident occurred.
Out of the blue, Brenda, another barn mate, suffered a compound fracture of her lower leg when her normally calm horse spooked. She was taken to the local hospital and also transferred to a bigger hospital facility for surgery that night, meaning we’d soon have a second barn mate at a rehab facility.
Now I’m a person who believes that everything comes in threes, and I was thinking that maybe I wanted to be a little extra careful at the barn for a while. That is until I remembered that yet another barn mate, Karen, is already in rehab after having shoulder surgery two weeks ago. So I am calling that three. Although the injuries were not all horse-related, they all happened to my barn mates.
Our barn community is dealing with these blows by getting creative. Everyone at the barn—owners, boarders, staff—wanted to do something for their friends. A massive floral display was sent to Paula as soon as we got word she was out of the ICU. When we heard that she would be in the rehab center for a while, I decided that she needed room decorations, and the idea for a banner was born. Everyone got into the act, having their picture taken or providing a photo for it. I even got a picture of Paula’s horse holding a sign saying he was sorry. The banner spelled out “we miss you” which seemed a much better sentiment than “get well soon.”
For Brenda, who was coming home right away, a flower delivery was sent to the house. Karen, on the other hand, was out of commission and isolated at home, and needed some socializing. So several of us obliged, spending a very late night eating, drinking, and telling stories at her house.
You might think that being an adult rider is just about finding time to ride, spending time with your horse, and being cordial to your barn mates. You might think that what happens at the barn stays at the barn, but it is far more nuanced than that. You know that whatever happens to one of you could have happened to any of you. And behind the visible support, like flowers and banners, there is also a bunch of people looking out for your horse back at the barn, making sure he gets exercised and has treats.
I don’t want to have the occasion to create more banners, or send more flowers, but I know for certain that if there is another occasion, we will all come together to support one another. The barn is your community, and it isn’t always completely about the horses.
About the Author
Laura Strassman works in technology marketing and lives in the Boston suburbs. She has a long and checkered history with horses but currently owns a wonderful TB X Percheron named Fezzik. He is 17.2 hands, so aptly fits his name if you know the reference. Laura enjoys taking photos and creating video both for work and on her own free time. Her favorite subjects are food, and of course, horses.