Where cooking and horses collide.. and not in that way!

Five years ago I did the unthinkable. I quit my job and moved into the loft of a barn. I had just accepted a job working for a horseback riding trainer. I was excited to leave my first office job and looked forward to spending time doing something that I really love. At that point I was already trying to escape the office as much as possible – getting changed into riding clothes at 5pm so that I’d be ready to leave straight to the barn 30 minutes later.In a lifetime full of experiences, there are a few that standout as being extremely formative. The eight months I spent working for my dressage trainer is one of those experiences.

My days consisted of getting up early, administering any minor medical care such as poultices, grooming the horses and getting them tacked up for their rides, and any other miscellaneous stuff that might come up each day. The day largely depended on my trainer’s schedule – if she had a lesson to teach offsite in the afternoon, it meant that the morning would be busier. A few months later we packed up all of the blankets, bandages, supplements, tack, and buckets to take down to Florida for the winter showing season.

Although I had already been working for her for four months, these next four felt like a boot camp. I was suddenly in charge of running an eight stall facility, with two more horses down the street at another place later on. It is here where I learned and cemented the organizational skills that help me in my day to day life. I had trouble selling traditional offices on the things that I learned while working with horses, but the skills I learned were invaluable.

Running a barn meant creating a list on the whiteboard, of items that we needed to buy, as small as a replacement carabiner for a water bucket to more feed, managing a turnout schedule to make sure that the horses got enough time outside without getting nutty, and helping to schedule which rides should come first. When we went to shows it meant packing up all of the required items, which included emergency supplies like needle and thread in case of a wardrobe malfunction along with the bare necessities. And those bare necessities are the most important – as it happened, my sister once forgot the pad that went under her saddle before a 50 mile ride – something she only realized once she got to Maryland, a four hour drive from where her saddle pad was.

West Palm Beach Dressage

In front of the barn in West Palm Beach with Faye

Today these skills help me in the obvious way at work – how to manage calendars, book travel, etc – they also help me at home. I’ve become better at creating organizational systems, although I don’t always follow them! But it helps me to cook too. There is a methodology that you have to learn to appreciate when it comes to cooking. When I was in Florida I learned to appreciate the simple, albeit time consuming, task of raking the entrance to the barn. In the kitchen I have to take the time to watch an onion slowly caramelize instead of rushing it. Or when I do the prep work, I have a bowl for trash in front of me, to save time and to keep the cooking area clean.

The methodology to cooking is something that I am still learning, but definitely appreciate. But while I feel like I have learned the basics, with each recipe there is something slightly nuanced to learn. Whether it’s sautéing spices or not overworking a pie crust dough, with each recipe I learn how to be more deliberate in my actions. I don’t get to ride anymore since we live in Brooklyn, but I’m grateful for those eight months and all of the time preceding it when I was able to take part in something that I’m really passionate about – and that I was able to learn immensely from my passion. In honor of that, I’ve inserted two photos of me in Florida – where I loved every moment of the warm weather in the middle of winter!

Working Trot - Dressage

Riding Faye in West Palm Beach


About Ania K

Writing, cooking, and eating in Brooklyn.
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