The Barn on the Hill

When I was little and working on the farm where it all began, I used to take horses out on the trail to get them accustomed to the environment so kids could ride them safely. The farm hosted a camp where kids came every summer, which was how I learned about the place to begin with. One pony that no one aside from me ever rode would never be a children’s mount, but I still liked to take him out alone when I had some free time. He was underworked because he was over-stupid, so he was a personal project and always willing to leave a few miles behind for a while.

The farm was hilly landscape with the main pasture being one giant slope bordered on the left by a road and behind by a wooded area. The path to the land behind the pasture was typically too washed out to take children on, but with a little encouragement and careful guidance, my pony never had a problem racing up it. Because trail groups rarely went up this way, local wildlife frequented the area. My over reactive mount would jump sidewise at every sound, but still we went on. The terrain only got steeper as we continued and it was always hot. I remember feeling my jeans stick tight to me and smelling my pony sweat as we climbed the hill. I’d stand in my saddle, leaning forward to give him the benefit of my weight as we ascended the slope, broke through the trees and found ourselves in a large open pasture. Anything large and open seemed to look like a race track to my mount as he would dance in circles beneath me and toss me about trying to resist my restraint. I just wanted him to stand still for 5 minutes to take it all in.

Climbing the hill revealed the beautiful farmland of New York. New York never gets any credit for its lush green farmland in the spring or the violent reds and sharp yellows of the trees during the fall; people only ever think of Broadway. Looking out over this hill, though, told the truth about what we have to offer. Looking across to the opposing hill was a red barn with a silver silo. It was too far away to make out any animals that live there, though today I know it’s a thriving dairy farm. To this day it’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever had the chance to see, even though the impatient pony didn’t let me fully appreciate its wonder. Not that I minded much, what with getting the chance to blast across the open field on my painted lightning.

Looking back, I made a lot of choices then that I would consider dangerous now. Though I always had my phone on me, taking a wild pony out on my own was probably not the most intelligent decision I’ve made. Neither was riding him bareback and trying to get him to jump over things, which he loudly protested. I came off of him numerous times, but it was a short fall and I never got hurt much.

That’s not to say that I never got hurt on the farm. No one should ever plan on working at a farm and expect to never get hurt. I’ll never forget going to get the wild pony out of his separate pasture down behind the barn. He was kept with other ponies, mostly because when they were in the herd they hustled the other horses away from the gate and caused more than a few horses twice their size to come in limping at feeding time. But the pasture they were in was a bit makeshift and the gate had to be lifted and dragged. The job was really meant for two people and, being impatient, I had tried to attempt it on my own. I lifted the gate to drag through the grass when three ponies convinced they hadn’t been fed in days bullied their way through the gate causing it to snap and me to go down with it. I came home that night with hoof marks in my leg, one that would never completely go away, and bruises the size of grapefruits. My mom was pissed. My pony was grazing next to me.

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