Life lessons by Bess

Jan
2014
20

posted by on Barn tales

My first barn.

My first barn.

I know how to barrel race… sorta. I was taught how when i was just barely a teenager. I can do a clover hitch pattern and i always knock my barrels down when entering a ring to just ride on the flat. Its a habit or rather a custom i was taught. I’m sure i suck and i haven’t attempted to run barrels since those teen-aged days. Though i bet it never leaves you, i suppose id still remember a little about it if i gave it a shot for fun today.

Bess and Mamma

Bess and Mamma

I was taught by my barn manager Bess Chaney a barrel racer with some notoriety in CA before I even owned a horse. When I was taking lessons and riding at my local barn in Pasadena California so long ago its hard to remember. It was in the days of no bike helmets, when kids were told to play in the neighborhood and be home by dark. Back when you only got a prize if you won not like today when people get pampered and told how special they were for showing up. Or as i like to call it the olden days. I used to work at my local barn for ride time. I would work all summer, like a dog. Saddle horses, grooming horses and doing anything i was told to do, to chalk up ride time and lesson time. My barn was owned by a cranky old bitch. The same cranky old bitch who taught me to ride. Hunt seat. Lessons that old bat taught me stick with me today. She was mean as shit and surely and cranky but she taught me how to really ride. She taught me proper position, she taught me how to jump. She taught me how to care for horses. She was also old and needed an actual barn manager. In came Bess Chaney. Bess was a barrel racer and thats a strange addition to a barn where we all rode hunt seat. Bess was awesome. She was fun, funny and knew so much about horses and she really made being at the barn a fun place to be. Gone were the days of constantly being yelled at for doing EVERYTHING wrong and in were the days of fun, hard work but fun. You wanted to work hard for Bess and I did. As a result she taught me things, she taught me how to barrel race and pole bend and when my horse went down because i turned her to sharp on a pole it was Bess who yelled at me “Get back on that damn horse and finish!” which is exactly what i did.

My lovely Mare Mercy

My lovely Mare Mercy

Bess also did the best thing she ever could for me, she sold me my first horse. Mercy. I was 13 or 14 and i would beg my mom for a horse. She’d always tell me no, buy your own horse i’ll buy you a car when your 16. Thinking i’m sure that i would never be able to accomplish it. So i got a job. At 14 i went to work everyday at the local Italian restaurant. I was the salad girl, i made salads. Id go after school and work until 11pm or midnight.  On the weekends i still worked at the barn. I saved my money. One day while making an anti-pasta i got a phone call at work. It was Bess. She had never called me at work before. “I’ve got a horse for you, meet me at the barn at 9am”  i was kinda in shock. I had recently asked the cranky old barn owner about buying a horse of hers that i leased a lot, a lesson horse named Kismet that i really loved riding. I was told no, she wouldn’t sell her to me. I was kinda devastated by it as only a teenager in love with a horse could be. I took the bus to the barn  the next morning bright and early. There she was, a 15.2 bay mare with a blaze. She was beautiful. Bess had bought her for board from some girls who were not taking good care of her. She said i could have her her for 500 bucks. She also added that if i didn’t buy her she was going to auction and likely to the killers. Who puts the hard sell on a 14 year old like that.. Umm Bess. She wanted me to have this horse. She knew it was the right horse for me. I bought her. I wrote Bess a check for the 500 (yep, i was 14 with a checking account) and then i told my mom i bought a horse. Yeah it was like that.

The horse had issues, lots of issues. She hadn’t been treated well in her last place, she had the hardest mouth out of any horse id ever ridden, she had no whoa and she was all go but she was mine and it didn’t take long before we were a bonded pair and my 500 buck horse started to shine. She knew things Mercy did and as i worked with her they started to come out. She would do flying lead changes, leg yields, shed jump anything i pointed her at, ANYTHING, she was traffic safe, bomb proof and loved water. She had heart and she had soul. She was my first horse and i will always love her. Bess knew she was a good horse and that i should have her. Bess changed my life.

Bess Chaney 1975

Bess Chaney 1975

When i made the decision to get a horse out here in MD so many years later, i tried to look up Bess. I wanted an OTTB and all the rescues wanted references. I didn’t have any having been out of horses for years and years and on the opposite coast. It didn’t take long before i found her. Or found out what happened to her. Bess had been in an accident. Not a horse related one but none the less she was not okay.  It was a freak accident, she had fallen and broken her neck. There was a web page and an email address. I wrote her a long letter telling her how she changed my life, how i would never forget her and that i would always be grateful to her for all she taught me. I never heard anything back. I like to think she got the letter. I don’t know. I think about her all the time and how she changed my life. How she made working at the barn fun, how she taught me all kinds of cool things, how she treated me like an adult, how because of her i had Mercy.

Bess touched a lot of lives, a ranked barrel racer (5th in 2013 according to the Google) was coached by Bess when she was starting out. Much like I was but i was coached in life not barrels thorough because it was Bess barrels were thrown in for good measure.

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    • myexracer

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