BY LAUREN MAULDIN
I haven’t lived in the same state as my parents or any of my extended family for over ten years. I’ve gotten used to the distance. Although I wish I could visit home more, they’re a plane ride away, albeit a long one now that I live on the opposite coast. Still, sometimes I get a little lonely, especially now that I’m single. Even innocuous holidays can catch me off guard.
Easter isn’t a big deal to me, besides the fact that I can get Cadbury mini eggs by the batches, but I found myself feeling a familiar bit of melancholy when the holiday snuck up and I didn’t have plans—family or otherwise. After I rode my horse on Saturday, I lingered around the barn while people talked about what they were doing for Easter. Many naturally had family events to run off to, but a few said they were planning to ride and then stick around for mimosas.
“I will always show up for mimosas,” I replied when they asked what my plans were. “Shall I bring deviled eggs?”
And that’s how a handful of us spent our Easter with a little potluck at the viewing stand by the ring. Dressed in breeches, we flicked flies away while we ate ham, deviled eggs, and salad off paper plates.
Though we were miles from any church, this was a sacred space. We talked about the horses we had now, the horses we loved before. The family who wasn’t with us, crazy horse world drama, even crazier men. We laughed a lot. There was a forty-year age span between us, and that doesn’t even count the juniors, but the age gap didn’t matter. I’m sure we covered a wide range of political spectrums and opinions, but that didn’t matter either. Sitting there with messy helmet hair and a mimosa, I had my people. I didn’t feel so lonely anymore.
Driving home that night, I thought about what barn family has meant to me. It’s more than a phrase to encapsulate the group of people that I ride with. Since I left North Carolina, I’ve lived in three different states where I hardly knew anyone before moving. But at every barn, regardless of how expensive it was or the ribbons they won, I’ve been able to find my people.
If the horses are happy and well cared for, I’ve found that I genuinely enjoyed spending time with their owners. More than that, I’ve learned from my barnmates. The different perspectives they carry from the years of experience they often have taught me how to approach my own struggles, and I’ve used this insight just as much outside of the barn as I have in it. Through horses, I’ve met trauma nurses, documentary directors, bad ass sales women, livestock bankers, stay at home moms, entrepreneurs and countless types of individuals I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
My barn family has been my shoulder to cry on when things are hard, and my biggest cheerleader when hard work paid off. Despite having a wide network of friends met through school, hobbies, and elsewhere, I’ve never met a group more inclusive and supportive than horse folks. Our differences seem to fade the minute we pick up a lead rope.
Life will probably keep me far from my genetic family for the foreseeable future, maybe forever. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t intimidating at times being out this far on my own. But I know that as long as I ride and own horses, I’ll be within arm’s reach of the horse people. And no matter where I move or end up, I won’t be too far from family.