Monday, August 29, 2011

Yo! Where's Your Anagnorisis? Lost in Your Peripeteia?

I wrote the bulk of this prior to the visit by Lady Irene, East Coast Hurricane of the Century, and it applies even more as cleanup begins on horse farms across the East from the Carolinas to New England.  Nothing screams "Diry Job" like hacking up fallen trees and swishing away septic water that has sought and found its level in your front paddock. We may not all agree on anything (ever), but we're all in this one together.  Fire up that genny and muck on!

Mike Rowe is a favorite of mine, so you can expect him to pop up in my blog whenever I can find something with his brilliant touch that highlights or applies neatly to the world of horsemen.  This particular lecture from TED is about as pointed and important as anything I've seen to date.  Hot body notwithstanding, Mike Rowe has a firm grip on what's wrong with our society and a sane suggestion to make it better, starting with the de-villianization of hard work.

If you have horses, hopefully you've already tipped to the idea that there can be joy in dirt and sweat and smells that are not quite acceptable in polite society.  If you haven't; if you're among the elite who rarely touch a horse that hasn't been groomed and saddled for you and who wouldn't begin to know which end of a muck fork does business in the barn, this isn't for you.  It will make you itch.  You should stop reading now and go watch a video on interior design or French cooking.  Really, you'll be much happier.

Irene's Leftovers:  Dirty jobs number 1 through 27

For the rest of you, are you still hiding your ability to sling manure from your co-workers?  Do they know what you do on the weekends, or are you pretending you have hirelings for that unacceptable stuff?  Does your family ask you not to discuss horse anatomy and quality of equine fecal matter at the dinner table?  Have you seen a stallion gelded, or are you holding on to the fantasy that some horses just come that way from the horse store?  Can you give an injection?  Debride and bandage a wound?  Flush yucky goo out of an abscess?  Do you pride yourself on how well you wield a chainsaw or do wheelies on a farm tractor, or is all of that part of a life you barely admit to?

Part of what's wrong with the US is our disdain for manual labor.  And part of the downhill slide of the horse business is the unwillingness of some riders and owners to give up the Black Velvet fiction and grasp the Into the West reality of our relationship with horses and what it takes to really maximize that.  Some of us are missing the best parts of the real "us".  We keeping our eyes closed to who we really want to be, and that's just sad.  

Last night I watched what could be the worst horse movie ever made.  The Long Shot, my watch-it-now pick from Netflix for the evening, was a superficial sap-fest about overcoming obstacles.  The fact that the dressage ring was its locus--not the usual cowboy or racing fare--got me all a-twitter.  My twitter-pated interest gave way to disgust at how technically crummy the story was.  How it lacked all the reality of horsemanship and portrayed the dressage rider as a blithering idiot and retraining a blind animal to competitive level as a simplistic, made-for-TV game instead of the amazing but standard fare episode some horse owners enjoy.  That the two horses--the beautiful warmblood performing the dressage moves and the elderly, blind grade horse that stood in during the "Let's Get Fuzzy" scenes--didn't even look alike didn't help.  

No fear of dirt and hard work here! 
Hire two-year-olds!  They know what's important.

But more impressively, the main character managed to work at a barn in California, mucking stalls, giving lessons, riding, grooming, and presumably coming into occasional contact with filth is never once shown sporting so much as a smudge on her pristine breeches or perky nose.  No sweat, no dirt, no purple smear of Thrush Buster or yellow Strongid stain anywhere.  Somewhere some horses had to be shitting, but never in camera range.  

Seriously, Hollywood, is this the best you can do to help us get right with the real world?  Do we find work so aversive that even the horse biz is free of it?  

Rectal exam?  No problem.  No job is too dirty for Doc Dillon.

Time to man up and admit that you have met yourself in the dark, and your self craves dirt and muscle-wrenching work that makes you glad to hit the bed at night.  It's time for the New Equestrian to rule the roost.  Even if your taste for dirt only runs to weekend forays into making sure your rented stall at the boarding farm is spotless and your horse is parti-colored from the dabs of various boo-boo meds you've dabbed on, if you let yourself, you may find something deep inside that's near death and could use a little fresh air.   


Susan Schreyer said...

Great post! Love the video with Mike. I had no idea the infrastructure jobs were losing new apprentices. Eye-opening.

Joanne Friedman, Freelance Writer, ASEA Certified Equine Appraiser, Owner Gallant Hope Farm said...

Thanks, Susan.

Yeah, just ask your farrier, plumber, contractor...mine tell me all the time that they don't know where the next generation in their trades will come from because "kids today" don't want to work those jobs. It's a little scary. We're going to have to become one highly independent, self-sufficient society in a hurry!