Brrang, brrrrrang. I’m wondering if I could make it if I hit snooze—just once. Knowing the answer, I get up and stumble my way to a pile of clean clothes. I dig around and find a pair of jeans that have holes in them, a pair of socks that don’t match and a fleece-lined hoodie that used to be white.
Days of the Week
They always say that for a rancher or a barn worker, it doesn’t matter what week day it is; the work is never-ending. You don’t go home until every single task is done and all the animals are 100 percent taken care of. There’s no room for mistakes because a mistake might cause suffering for a living, breathing being. The work is demanding and the pay is, well, poopy. The clientele is another story, though.
It’s very important for a barn worker not to get too emotional. If one of your clients is bleeding or colics, be sure to keep your calm and assure his human that it’ll be OK. It’s also a big plus if you’re able to mind-read your trainer, boss and the barn manager. I have managed to gain valuable experience (while staying fairly sane), and I guess shoveling poop has grown on me over the years.
And for me, the day of the week does make a difference. I’m ridiculously fortunate in my line of work to get weekends off. I could also be considered a bit of a weirdo because my favorite day of the week is Monday.
I walk into my slightly stinky office and hear about 20 low-pitched greetings from my hungry clients. Some of them are tapping their breakfast plates, hoping it’ll make me move faster. I wait for the lights to stop flickering and make my way to the grain room.
As I fill one breakfast order after another, the demanding racket starts to subside. Soon enough all I can hear is satisfied munching from all around.
After their breakfast, I kick all my clients out into green fields. I rake through a dozen zen gardens and give everyone fresh, clean bedding to sleep on. I make sure my almighty customers all have a late afternoon snack waiting for them once they decide they’ve had enough fresh air and are ready to return into their full-service hotel rooms. My body doesn’t hurt and I’m full of energy. Time flies by, and soon enough it’s time to pry off my muddy boots and wait for tomorrow, which always arrives with a hint of back pain and aching shoulders.
By Friday morning, I’m a tired, walking zombie. On my weekends I usually stay in bed, trying not to move. Or I lay on the floor with handful of tennis balls placed under my back to massage away the endless spasms. But come Monday morning, I can’t wait to start it all again. I’m not 100 percent sure if there is something wrong with me. Am I addicted to chronic pain? I’m sure I would go insane without physically demanding labor. It kills my body but also makes me fall asleep the second my head meets the pillow. It stresses me out but also keeps my mind straight. It makes me question my sanity but also makes me more honest and straightforward as a person.
Photo courtesy Teija DeVere
Sometimes I miss a comfy office chair and neat, clean clothes. Some days I think I was nuts to have left my 9-to-5 marketing job. But then I go back in time and visit my Monday mornings. There was no excitement for the new week ahead, no body full of energy and strength. I guess my strength lies in self-torture. My simple mind secretly loves the spasms and aches. I’m a barn worker. I dare you to try and seduce me with your Excel spreadsheets, conference rooms and marketing plans. I dare you to tell me how terrible Mondays are.
Teija DeVere is a 30-year-old Finnish horse professional currently living in Maine. She has worked at dressage facilities in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California. To support her career with horses she works as a copywriter and a translator.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!