Day 9: Hot Walking 101 – A primer

So, what exactly am I doing?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot. So, let’s break it down into the KPIs of my new hot walking job:

  1. Show up on time (5:20am)!
  2. Walk (cold) horses to their bath.
  3. Hold horses for their bath.
  4. Walk horses around the shed row until they are dry.
  5. Put them back in their stall.
  6. Repeat, until all the horses have done their job and returned to their stalls.
  7. At all times: Don’t get hurt. Don’t let the horses get hurt. And don’t get in the way of someone else doing their job.
  8. NOTE: As horses start to come back from their workouts, they will be “hot” and thus the job title “hot walker”. Horses that just walk without a workout are known as “cold” (and they are much, much harder to walk).

How Does it work?

There’s a rhythm to all of this. The music is written by the trainer and the tempo is set by our exercise rider. The trainer posts “the list” the night before so that when we all arrive it tells us the order of the horses, and from there we sort out who is doing what. The tempo is set by the exercise rider and the grooms are the drumbeat (says this totally not-musically inclined person), as they prep each horse in order, while cleaning stalls while the horses are out, and being poised & ready to bathe and care for the horses when they get back. At the end of the line, you find the hotwalkers. We wait and we walk.

Except sometimes. Sometimes we find ourselves in between horses. That’s when things get a little dicey (at least for me). Waiting is really hard, and when there’s so much work to do, it always feels wrong. However, with my limited experience there are really not a lot of things I can do to be truly helpful without possibly screwing something up. So far, I’ve found just a couple “extra tasks” that I feel confident about: cleaning buckets (water & feed), filling & hanging the water buckets, and pulling manes (which only happens after all the morning work is done).

and then there are all the many things that happen…

More on this later, but suffice it to say there are a lot of things that can throw off the perfectly crafted plan and/or just a myriad of ways in which the simple harmony can go off key. Some of these reasons are equine, many of these reasons are human, and a bunch of them are just random variables….

I’ve heard a saying that goes something like “music is the sound between the notes” and I think that this captures a lot of my job.

My job is, at its best, when the horse and I are happily, peacefully and quietly walking around in circles. It is peaceful when we are doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing, doing it quietly and until we reach the end. I am investing a good deal of attention and energy into being aware of these moments – watching for them little gems, noting when the sun is shining, soaking in the velvety calm of the happy & relaxed horse, and feeling grateful when we’re just “humming our happy tune”.

Vuelta por Vuelta.

More soon!