Rise and Shine (a horsewoman’s morning)

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It’s 4:30am in the morning, and I’m in my little five-stall barn tossing a scoop of sweet feed and a flake of hay at the horses whickering and stomping for breakfast. Trying to save time, I skipped throwing on my usual chore sweat pants and fleece and am already dressed in a work outfit. This means trying desperately not to get drool on my shirt or too much hay stuck to my pants.

Feeling even groggier than usual (damn Netflix and Game of Thrones), I try not to screw up the supplements for each creature. Who knows what a scoop of Regimate would do to my high-spirted dressage gelding?

Sienna, my daughter’s affectionate quarter horse mare wraps her head around my torso as I lean in to pour her ration of sweet feed in the bucket. A saliva string oozes out of her mouth. Ugh! Foiled already on the shirt. It isn’t even 5:00am and I am already filthy. No time to change, getting on the road asap is imperative before all the traffic makes the one-hour commute two or even three.

Giving the barn a quick sweep, my horses finish up breakfast and then I let them out into the pasture. Beau the big palomino flings a bit of manure out of his hoof as he hustles to get out and it plants itself on my calf before slowly sliding down to the floor. Groaning in frustration at yet another questionable spot on my professional attire, I run into the house, and grab a coffee from the Keurig (feeling a huge pang of guilt at my culpability ruining the planet). All this activity has to be done as quietly as possible, because my husband and daughter are still sleeping. They will get up at 7:00am and get themselves off to work and school. Grabbing my backpack, I charge out the door to start my commute to the city.

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The sky is pitch black and the drive along the long country road to the highway is never bad. The Mad Max stuff doesn’t start until the 404 major highway. Then it’s like a fight for your life all the way down to the city. Young contractors hauling trailers and raging commuters driving at 160km an hour weaving through anyone daring to slow them down.

An aggressive tailgater rides my bumper even though I am in the slow lane. Taking a deep breath, I envision what patterns I will work on tonight with Beau. He needs to work on a rounder circle. Imagining peaceful 20-meter circles in a nice frame always calms me down. No bucking, no bolting.  One can dream, right? I arrive at work usually around 6:00am, the worst of Toronto’s famous traffic jams avoided.

The nice thing about starting work at such an ungodly hour is that NO ONE is there, so I can rip off my sweaty drool stained shirt and pull another one out of the desk drawer to change right at the desk. The t-shirt is light blue cotton with orange rust stains on it from the well water. It also had a hole under one armpit.  Searching desperately in the bag for something else, all I can find is a swimsuit and a grey sweat shirt. Well, no one is going to want to see me in a bathing suit and the sweat shirt will be way too hot. Perhaps I am in peri-menopause because everyone else in the office complains about the air-conditioning and comes to work in sweaters and long pants.  I want to spend most the days in running gear because I get so warm. It ‘s either the change of life or the 40 extra pounds I’ve put on since my 30s. Thank goodness Beau at 17hh doesn’t seem to complain. But all that insulation keeps my internal temperature at boiling.

I do try to keep my work attire a step above gym wear, but it’s not a big step. I am now wearing jeans with manure on them topped off with a rust-stained shirt with a hole in the armpit.  No fashion awards for me today. The good news is I will be suitably dressed for my ride and chores after work. One more costume change avoided.

Quarter horse mare Sienna, thoroughbred gelding Beau, and pregnant thoroughbred mare Dolly wait for dinner. Photo courtesy of Angelique Fawns

The funniest (and saddest thing) about my outfit is that no one will notice or say anything. Either everyone is too polite to comment, or no one actually notices.  The rest of the women in my department wear tight dresses or super fashionable pant suits paired off with designer heels. Also, almost everyone else is at least 10 years younger.

I work as an on-air promo producer for one of the top networks. This means cutting the previews for shows before they air. “On the next Chicago Fire, things get hot in the firehouse!”. Or “Things are going crazy in the Big Brother House!” Sound on tape, dramatic clip. “It’s time to declare war!” obnoxious diary room exclamation from a contestant. “You can’t miss this one!” tag with day and time of next airing.

It was is an amazing job, because let’s face it, I’m being paid to watch TV all day, but media jobs are mainly staffed with the young, and I am an absolute dinosaur in the office. Funny how I got this job 20 years ago so I could afford to board my first off-track thoroughbred! I originally wanted to be an equine journalist, but the pay was never going to allow me to purchase my own ponies. My job now pays well, which is a good thing because I have a five-stall-barn and only four horses in it. And you’re never too old to stop dreaming. There’s no one in the office, so I click on a horse sales site. Chicago Fire can wait…

…Since writing this piece, the author now has SIX horses, and is trying to figure out how to fit another stall in her barn.

Angelique Fawns is a television writer/producer for Corus Entertainment in Toronto. She has freelanced for Horse Talk and Voice of the Farmer. She lives on a 50 acre farm with horses, cows, chickens, fainting goats a big dog, and her husband and daughter. She is a dressage and eventing rider, and her daughter is a champion barrel racer. Her work is showcased at www.fawns.ca

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