My first time a horse farm.

On this page I am presenting my first experiences on a horse farm, and with horses and first time riding, during my summer break.

 

My first time working on a horse farm.

 

This is the continuance of the article about choosing my profession.
The first two days are imbedded in my memory more likely for the rest of my days, as they were to some point fairly dramatic to me at that time. Now when I look back, I have to laugh at the entire life experience, and of course I thank God for that.

  I guess I should start with the most embarrassing part of my arrival, which was in a government limousine, and it was not a good thing for sure. My dad then worked and had some higher position at the Interior Ministry, where he had to his disposal the use of a limousine, and since my parents did not own a car, it was more practical for my dad to take the advantage of the limo service, where he paid only for the gas. He could have put me on the train, but more likely my mother pushed him to go with me, as she was obviously concerned with my safety and well being, and wanted my dad to make sure that I would be looked after, as I was not yet 15 years old.

The Czechs lived in extreme social prejudices, at least they were at that time, the city folks looking down at the country folks, seeing them as uneducated primitives, and the country folks seeing the city folks as fools. And so there was certain animosity between the two people, and my arrival in a limo did not help, as you could imagine. Since the folks at the farm did not know that I have spent much of my life in the country among the farmers, I was more or less perceived by them as some spoiled city child of some elitist, and a communist at that. At the same time most folks on that farm kept their distance from me, since my father held a fairly high position in a governing institution, and was a genuine communist.

After we were taken for the tour of the farm, I was put up with another boy that too, just arrived for the same reasons as I. We shared a room where there was nothing but two beds, while toilet and shower was shared by all employees of the farm, of which most lived on the farm. One could imagine it, as in the old days, the cowboys, living at the ranches sharing one room, one, two, or even three to one room.

Nothing else sticks to my memory from that day of arrival, except what I've mentioned in the previous article.

The first working day is memorable for sure, starting with breakfast before 6:30 am, as we had to present ourselves for work at 7. The breakfast alone pointed out the hard reality of what my life will bring, as we received only the fake coffee (Cikorka), which was made out of roasted grains flavored with chicory, and bread, no butter but some marmalade. We were getting this every day, except for Sunday, when we got butter, and milk for this "coffee".

The lunches were for most part without meat, the dinners did not differ much from the breakfast, usually bread with something and some tea, if one could call it that. And so we walk sometimes, when we had the money, about half an hour to the local guesthouse to have a beer and some salami, after 11 at night. Yes, we could drink at 15, and even though I was not yet 15, no one cared, as the Czechs were fairly easy going people, and saw things like this as someone's personal business.

After the breakfast, what else, but horse manure, and a lot of it. Since we were totally clueless around horses, which was more than obvious to those folks working there, my roommate and I were supposed to load the manure that was piled up in front of one of the stables, on a wagon that they placed next to it. This is sort of hard to explain since most folks are not familiar with it, but when people took the manure out of the barn, they piled it up outside alongside of the stable.

The piling up of the manure was actually systematic process, as it was laid in orderly layers, if you will, and that so it would be easy to load, since the manure would get often piled up, in a cubical like fashion, as high as a man could reach with the pitchfork, and so it got very compressed. Of course we had no clue, since the straw was used as betting we ended up fighting with the manure, tearing it from the pile instead of peeling off the layers. (The farmers know what I am talking about.) In short, a grown man would load the wagon in about one hour, but we did not manage it in the entire day, while both of us were downright fatigued, and of course got yelled at and humiliated in front of everyone.

I thought the day was over, and so I was looking for some very much needed repose, as I felt so exhausted. I still till this day remember my thoughts from that summer, where I would put myself to sleep with thoughts: "What is the worst thing that could happen to me? I could die. Well, that's not that bad.", and then I fall asleep.

Around 6:30 that evening there was a knock on the door, and someone said something like, "let's go, we have to take the horses out to the track". (This farm was breeding steeplechase horses). Mind you, I was never around a horse, and they did frighten me to some point, and so I was sort of both, excited and scared. They took me to the tack room and gave me a saddle and bridle and sent me to go to one of the open stables, to get the horse named "Hnedak", ("Browny"), and take him out.

And so I asked another man, that was getting a horse ready in the same stable, which horse it was, and he pointed out to a brown horse that was already tied up. I kept looking at the other man what he was doing, but could not for nothing in the world figure out the maze of the leather, called bridle. And so I put it aside and came to the conclusion that putting the saddle on would be easier since it did not look so complex. I still remember deciding what was the front and what was the back, and so I tried both sides, but could not decide. As the man next to me was finished, he came over and bridled and tacked up the horse for me, without saying a word, except, "take him out".

When I took the horse out there were several, if not all, riders already mounted, including my roommate. The man that helped me to saddle also helped me to get on the horse, which I cannot recall at all, or how I got up, but I clearly remember the feeling once when I got up. As the man was ready to let go of the reins and let me on my own, I said something like: "You are not going to turn me lose, are you?" I remember the feeling that if the horse would move I would surely fall off.

Anyway, the man turned me lose and we went for a ride to the track that was located about a half an hour from the farm. It was a very nice track, all grass, about a mile long, and it was in the woods, where it looked more like some recreational park. This track was solely for training purposes and so there were no stands and such, just beautiful park with a turf track for riding horses, which of course included the steeplechase course besides the flat course.

Now, only folks that are familiar with horses at least a little bit can imagine what I've lived, as this was the first time not only on a horse, but also the first time I actually touched one. It is very obvious that the folks there knew what they were doing, as they gave me the right horse to ride, as well as to my roommate, since no one fell off the horse that day.

As we started off, I do not remember much of the surroundings, but I remember the feeling of doing my best to stay on the animal, especially when we started to trot, which was pure horror, but the horror was overshadowed by the voices and words of the young men that I rode with. "Look at that fool!" Did you ever see anything like that?", which then was accompanied with hearty laughter. Well, not quite so, as they were using much more "colorful and humiliating words", which I would prefer to leave out. In reality it was a good thing, as the humiliations kept me from any fear what so ever, as I did my best to look and behave normal like the others.

After about 15 minutes we stopped trotting and then we walked, thank God, and then arrived to the track. We gathered around in a circle, and the trainer, who was also riding a horse, gave some instructions, which I did not understand. Then we all walked to the track, started to trot for a little and then we went into a working gallop of a racehorse. This was another experience that I will never forget, as it was much different than trot, and every gallop jump by the horse popped me out of the saddle. The only thing preventing me from falling over the neck, was the horse's neck itself on which I landed, often with my face, which then threw me back into the saddle again. I was attempting to stand up, since I was constantly urged not to sit in the saddle but to stand up in the irons, hence the back and forth, obviously. And so I went this way all around the track, being mangled between the saddle and the horse's neck, like some tennis ball between two rackets.

By the grace of God, I have managed to stay there for the duration of the ride, and when we pulled up, we went back to the circle and were debating who will jump, and what. I thought to myself that there is no way I could survive that, and as I thought that, the boss told me to dismount and hold his horse, while he would then jump the horse I was riding. Thank God for his Grace, and mainly for putting me among horsemen that not only knew the limitations of their horses, but mainly mine.

After the horses jumped, I mounted back up, and we went for a slow walk home, which included some ten minutes walking up a sandy creek. When we got home, I was shown how to take care of the animal after riding, and the day ended around 11 pm, only to start with getting up at 6:00 am again, to do the whole thing over again. I do not remember much after that, as all the days there after, blended as one, and nothing memorable had happened, except for the daily hard work, especially when the hay was getting cut, as there were no bales and all the hay was handled lose.

That summer job was a great experience for me before I entered the school, and one could say I was a little ahead of the game, as some kids entered the school without any experience with horses what so ever.

When I entered the school at Kladruby stud in September 1961, I was not yet 15 years old, but I have learned, only to some extent, to understand what I was getting into, and how to work like a man.

The school at Kladruby Stud of those days, and my experiences from there, is another subject that will be presented separately.

The Kladruby Stud School arrival parking lot of that day, as it is today.

The students were then housed in the chateau, left of the chapel.

Written by Ludvik K. Stanek   March 14, 2001

 

 

 

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Personal website of Ludvik K. Stanek. A horseman by God's grace.