|My schoolie, Dreamer, shown here in sunnier times. Photo: Leslie Potter|
So, how’d the end of the world go in your neck of the woods? Pretty low-key? Here in central Kentucky we had rain, sleet, snow and severe wind, and it almost did feel like the world was ending.
Minutes later, it happened. Everything went black.
Step One: Assess the Situation
For that split second before my eyes adjusted, there was nothing. Just darkness. A flash of lightning outside the arena windows showed that there was, indeed, still an arena. Alright, not quite an apocalypse, but a pretty good drill.
Step Two: Get Your Feet on the Ground
The power was out, which happens during severe storms, and if it doesn’t flicker back on right away, it’s probably going to be off for a while. I made that realization, then remembered that I was sitting on a horse. He hadn’t moved, but it had only been a few seconds.
“Okay, buddy,” I said, mostly to remind him that I was up there, and dismounted as quickly and gently as I could.
I’d just like to mention here that if the world is going to vanish, it’s better that it happens when your horse is standing still and not when you’re, say, two strides out from a jump. So I’m glad this outage happened when it did and not a couple of minutes earlier or later, or this might be a very different blog entry.
Step Three: Have an Escape Route
You may not be able to outrun the apocalypse, but standing still won’t do you much good, either. The other rider in my lesson was on her own horse, so she had to take him back to the boarder’s barn out one side of the arena while I’d have to make my way down to the lesson barn with my schoolie. My instructor used her phone to light the way as much as possible, but it’s amazing how any illumination from that little screen disperses in a big, dark arena. Fortunately, I was next to the wall, so it was easy enough to just follow it to the exit.
Step Four: Be Brave
We made it out of the arena and had a brief respite from total darkness in the ambient outdoor light. It was still dark, to be sure, but I could at least see. In fact, I could see the trees in the darkness bent over sideways in the loud, wooshing wind. My schoolie, Dreamer, is a pretty unflappable chap, so he didn’t do much more than raise his head and look around at the blowing landscape.
We reached the door of the barn and looked in. The doors at the opposite end of the barn were closed to keep it from becoming a wind tunnel, but that meant there was almost no light at all.
“You ready, buddy?” I asked just before we stepped back into the darkness.
Step Five: Know Your Territory
Whether your apocalypse is due to extreme weather, zombies or the day of divine judgment, it’s always good to know where you’re going. As we walked slowly down the barn aisle, I realized I did not. I swung my crop back and forth ahead of me like a cane to make sure I wasn’t about to run into anything. I couldn’t see much at all except the silhouettes of horses against the dim light of their windows. Occupied…occupied…occupied. I stopped at the first empty stall and said, “This one’s probably yours.”
On a normal lesson day, I guess I depend on the name tag on his stall to put him in for the night. Without being able to see a name tag, I just sort of had to guess.
Step Six: Ingenuity
Once I’d removed the saddle and bridle, I went out and parked my car by the doors, facing into the barn with the headlights on. It’s a technique some of the riders there use when they’re the last to leave at night; the switch to the overhead lights is at the other end of the barn, so if you don’t want to stumble out in darkness, the headlights help.
Of course, the headlights didn’t illuminate the inside of the stalls, much less the tack room, but I still managed to get everything put away, give Dreamer a quick brush, and put his blanket on.
Step Seven: Think Like a Horse
More specifically, think like a laid-back, reliable schoolie. Sure, Dreamer was a little concerned at first when the arena vanished, but once we were in the barn, he was fine. After all, it is his home and he spends all of his nights there. In fact, he was probably pretty satisfied knowing that the apocalypse had shortened his lesson burden for the evening by ten minutes or so. He had some hay he was eager to get back to. Even the end of the world has an up side.
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