The First "Why?"

“Why do you close during the winter?”

That’s a “why?” I get a lot.

There are several reasons:

1.   “Divots, demolition, and excrement.” Surely you remember this statement from an earlier blog? A handful of horses wreaks havoc on a paddock. Constant grazing and traffic denudes a field in record time transforming it into a dust bowl or a sea of mud depending on the skies. No green grass means forking out greenbacks from MMSC coffers for hay and feed. I don’t like that. Moreover, dustbowls crack feet; mud seas suck off shoes. Either way the farrier bill rises. Hence, best to let the pastures rest. And better yet, to nurture them, by aerating, fertilizing and sowing seed if at all possible.

2. Cold weather and frozen footing. One of the lovely things about getting older is that you have made so many mistakes, some of them, alas, more than once, that you have an idea of how to behave in certain circumstances. There was a time you couldn’t keep me from getting on a horse, no matter how foul the weather--North Pole temps, rain, or snow. No more. Aches, pains, and stiffnesses have set in to my body with a predictable familiarity. Like the irascible elderly relatives at the holiday dinner, I do my best to humor them to avoid unpleasantness. That means I stay inside when the temps drop below 40 or the wind or rain picks up. I want none of riding at these times, most especially not on a cocky youngster bursting with joie de vivre or naughtiness. Nor am I alone in this predilection: volunteers and interns, I have found, are scarce come winter.

3. Time and energy vortex.  It’s a fact (unless you have staff): For every hour you spend in the saddle, you spend three times that on the ground. Caring for a horse is like tending a two year old child: so many needs, so much vigilance. When the barn at the MMSC is full of horses, it is like being the parent of multiple sets of triplets and quadruplets, all under age 5. It’s time consuming and energy zapping. So much forthing and backing, so many meals, so much poop. It takes all day to get through the day. This is a problem because our mission is two pronged: Teach ex-race horses new skill sets; teach people how versatile and valuable Thoroughbreds are in new careers. Our doors are open to visitors and interns. Our calendars fill with open houses and seminars. We host school groups and volunteer orientations. This takes brainstorming and planning and come the eddies of spring when horses arrive on campus and the barn vortex starts churning, there is precious little time for thinking past anything other than daily survival. 

4. There’s a business to run. The MMSC is blessed with supporters who give their time and their services and when they can, their goods, without which we simply could not operate. I am very grateful for these gifts. But although the MMSC is, in many ways, a dreamy place to work, in the light of day, there are bills to pay, everything from the equine dentist to the water bill, the copier lease to the garbage pickup. You think a teenage boy can pack away food? Try feeding a young Thoroughbred! Your family footwear bill is steep? MMSC shoeing invoices run $500 a month! Therefore, until genetically modified plants start growing US tender or I reach the end one of the rainbows I have had the privilege of glimpsing, I must garner cash the old fashioned way: fundraising, one letter, one phone call, one visit at a time.

5. Last, but not least:  There are new friends to meet. I have told you about the vortex and survival mode. Neither lend themselves well to friend-raising. Yet there are so many kindred spirits out there: in and beyond the racing industry; people who love Thoroughbreds for all the right reasons--their beauty, nobility, strength and vulnerability. I want to invite these people to become friends and family members of the MMSC  and I need time and freedom to find them.

Which is why the MMSC is “closed” during the winter, although it could be argued that our dormancy is when we are most open to what the new year will bring.

Cheery bye,