Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

What it eans to work in a stable

May 5th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Now for the nuts and bolts of being a stable-hand…it’s not easy, it’s slightly painful, but completely worthwhile. The typical day on the job begins at 630 with my alarm clock. I’m then picked up by Mr. Tibbles at 7 at the Earlham Road bus stop and then on my way to the yard. The trip is normally only 40 minutes, but its morning rush hour so it can take over up to an hour or so. And I must say, I do not like British traffic jams, mostly because every time I’ve been stuck in one I’ve also been in a roundabout. That’s just no fun at all and slightly scary. Once at the yard, the first task of day is feeding the horses. After that comes my least favorite part of the day-skipping out stalls. This means getting a wheelbarrow and pitchfork and scooping horse poop. There’s typically 10 or 11 horses at the yard which means on most days I would be responsible for skipping out anywhere from 5-8 stalls. Once the stall are cleaned, I would have to pull out the horses’ hay nets and refill them. This was somewhat tedious and not good for my allergies. After the stalls had been cleaned and hayed, it was time to exercise the horses. On an average day we would exercise ride 3 to 4 horses each out on the country lanes and then school one or two horses in the ring.
The riding portion of the day was by far the most physically demanding. Each exercise ride through various fields and lanes lasted roughly 40 to 60 minutes and covered roughly 3 to 5 miles. These rides typically started and ended on country lanes and in between consisted of various fields, woods, and streams. The riding in the ring was normally about 30 minutes per horse and dedicated either to jumping workouts or dressage practice. Normally the rides were broken up by lunch. After finishing the rides, I would be responsible for cleaning all the tack while Mr. Tibbles was giving lessons. Let’s just say cleaning anywhere from eight to eleven bridles, saddles and girths in one go is tiring. With the horses exercised and tack cleaned, the only things left are one last skip through the stalls, refilling the hay nets and sweeping up the main aisle.
That’s it for the responsibilities, but normally before we close up the yard there is a visit from the farrier for one or two horses to have their hooves trimmed and shoes fitted. This adds about an hour or two to each day, because Nick, the farrier, is quintessentially East Anglian. He loves a good bit of gossip and a cup or two of tea. Some days vary from the normal pattern and responsibilities such as with farrier visits. Other variations include going with Kelly, a fellow stable-hand, to other neighboring yards and exercising the horses there and at other times include going off the property to help with lessons. Overall, it’s rewarding work. It is tough, demanding and exhausting, but it provides me with the opportunity to keep riding and also to experience a part of East Anglia that not everybody gets to experience.

Tags: Kimberly

Agreeing to be Paid with Food and Horses

May 5th, 2010 · No Comments

For the experiential portion of my final project I worked at a stable on the outskirts of Bungay, Suffolk. This is a bit removed from what I am writing about in my final paper, the Norwich Strangers, but is personally the best way for me to experience East Anglia outside of our program. I am sure I’ve mentioned this to most everybody on the trip at one point or another, but I am an enthusiastic equestrienne. I have been riding for nearly 13 years and can really not imagine a life for myself without some part of it being dedicated to horses and riding. Luckily, I had a connection with a horse trainer here in Norwich. Mr. Tibbles has been to Carlisle before to give riding camps and workshops and I was taken to these by an old riding instructor for multiple years in high school. And last June, he was once again back in Carlisle giving lessons for a few weeks and I managed to attend a few and talk to him about riding in Norwich. He told me just to send him an email once I was settled at UEA and then we could arrange something.
So, I had made contact for riding in Norwich, but didn’t know what I had signed up for until September. Once I was here at UEA, I got in contact with Mr. Tibbles and set up a schedule for what days I would be able to ride. In the first semester, we agreed that I could ride on Mondays and Thursdays. Now though, the question was how would I get to the yard(that’s what the Brits call a stable)? See Bungay is a good 35 minute drive from Norwich with no real direct public transportation between them. So, if I would go out I would have to go out with Mr. Tibbles. This meant that every day I wanted to ride, I would be at the yard from 8 until anywhere from 5 to 8. So we quickly came to the conclusion that I would work as a stable-hand for Mr. Tibbles in exchange for lessons and lunch. Yes, I got paid with pretty ponies and good lunches.
When I realized I had agreed to work one to two days a week with up to 12 hour days, I thought I was little bit crazy, but I do love horses and riding and I would be experiencing the country life and people of East Anglia firsthand. So obviously I thought it would be a good experience of the country without the influence and safety net of my fellow Dickinsonians. And being out at this stable in an area with more country lanes than actual paved roads and where the only thing I could see for miles was fields with crops or animals broken up by only few farms and old farmhouses and the odd wood here and there, really placed me perfectly for getting to know the people who live off of the land and its animals in East Anglia. In my other blogs, I will detail the tasks and schedules of my days and some of the experiences that helped me to understand East Anglia and its people a bit better.

Tags: Kimberly