Friday, July 1, 2011
Common Threads: Life at Wood Lane Stables by Missy Miller
I’ve decided to stop starting my blog posts with the usual intro of “Well, since my last post things have been the ultimate of high to lows”. Because, as also previously stated that is typical of life with horses. I’m not sure what to be expecting after this summer or for the remainder of it because lately I feel like even though I had the heartbreak of retiring my fantastic advanced mare, TSF Amazing Grace, things finally seem to be on a slow, uphill climb. Of course I have been trained to be wary of this but it is hard for me not to get excited about the possibilities being put in front of me, and for that, I have Gracie to thank and everyone else that has supported me.
Because of growing up in the eventing world, I can’t help but always find ways to keep myself busy, be them productive or not. So after I had Gracie settled into a new home and headed into a happy new chapter of her life with my other mare, I started sorting out exactly what they would be doing and working on something for me to do as well. Luckily for me both of my horses can be bred to hopefully produce exciting young prospects for me down the road, or as my mother will see it, new members of the ever growing Miller family. While I was starting to solely focus on my education I was at the same time becoming like a little girl longing for a pony all over again. Every time I saw ANY horse anywhere (including the carriage horses in downtown Savannah) I wondered if that could be my eventing superstar. Scopey jumper? Decent mover? Who cares, I’ll take what I can get. Seeing this, some friends suggested I get a job riding over the summer so I didn’t go even more insane. I jumped at the idea and sent e-mails, text messages, facebooks, twitters, morse code signals, etc to everyone in my contacts list. Then the suggestion came that I go overseas since I’d always wanted to and for once, I had no serious obligations keeping me in the good ole U.S of A. So the list grew and by some stroke of rare luck, I received a response from William Fox-Pitt, offering me the opportunity to come work at his yard. Yes, I did think it was a cruel prank at first, but I have been here for two weeks and Ashton Kutcher hasn’t jumped out of the bushes yet to tell me I’ve been punk’d.
One question I keep getting asked is what made me want to come work at William Fox-Pitt’s farm. And to be completely honest, it continues to floor me when I am asked. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Isn’t that what we do in this sport? Or any chosen profession for that matter? Go to work under someone we respect that has been successful so hopefully we can learn to emulate their habits and if all the stars align and we work hard and luck is on our side, we can also have similar success? So my answer is, why not? For the first time I can remember I had no horses needing my constant attention/annoyance and could take the jump across the pond like I had always wanted to. I have been beyond fortunate enough to work for many successful competitors and horsemen. Every time I have started somewhere new I make a habit of doing extensive stalker like research so I know who I’m working with, which for the most part makes me even more nervous about my first day. When you first arrive at a new farm it is much like anticipating your first day at a new school, a high mix of nerves and excitement. First days you feel lost as you try to figure out where things go, what your “schedule” is, who is who, and what to do when.
No matter how many successful barns I pass through, every single time I expect to uncover some well kept secret to the success of each professional. I watch them feed, are they putting golden Wheaties in for supplements? As I muck, I check to see if the stall mats are tempurpedic? As I watch them work with their horses, is their a secret handshake and exchange of bribery? Is the vet a magic witch doctor? Does the farrier put Nike Shox in the horse shoes? I haven’t found any of that… yet… But one thing I have found is routine, routine. Every barn has a schedule that is played out religiously day in and day out. Being here at Wood Lane Stables has proven to be no different. Everyone is always in a pleasant mood (maybe the British accents help to portray the cheer), and I think part of what makes it such a pleasant atmosphere is the lack of chaos and confusion that can sometimes accompany such busy competition barns. Before William left for Luhmuhlen with Mary King and Pippa Funnels horses hitching a ride you would have thought that they were leaving for a vacation weekend by their behavior. I wondered to myself how they could be so relaxed and nonchalant before leaving for a 4*??! Was this part of their madness that made them such fearless competitors? The more I become integrated into the routine I discover that when you have a good team working at home and a routine that has yet to fail, there really is no reason to stress. Yes, maybe it helps that all of them have done a 4* or two this year alone. After thinking about this for a while I realize some of the most successful barns I’ve been fortunate enough to work at all have this blanket of pleasant and calm over them. No barn has the same routine through out the day, but every single one has found one that works and sticks to it religiously.
Since I’ve been at Williams I keep discovering more and more that has brought back the pure joy of working with horses every day and reminding me “Why we do this”, which I had pondered heavily after boughts of bad karma. While I’m bringing in one of Williams current top competition horses and watch as Mr. Stunning eats away in his huge pasture, you forget about the show approaching and just feel thankful to work with such amazing animals on a daily basis. And that is something I don’t think anyone here ever forgets.