Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lesson Interrupted

I was having technical difficulties at work, so I decided to take a 20-minute break to test out Bombay and Gabbrielle in the round pen. It's been a while since I've worked with either of them, and I was especially interested in seeing if Bombay was fully recovered from his leg injuries.

While lunging Gabbrielle all was going well and then she suddenly shut down on me and just stopped listening to my cues. I looked around to see what was distracting her, and sure enough, my nosy neighbor came driving up the street onto her lot. A door flew open and this child came racing out up to my fence yelling questions at me.

Is that your horse?
Is that the horse that scares me?
Is that horse running?
Why is that horse running?

I looked at the child and thought, "If I answer one question I'll have to answer a thousand, and this is the first 20 minutes I've had in weeks to work with my horses. I know the child doesn't understand how precious my time is, but I can't encourage this behavior. I'm on my private property, I only have 20 minutes to spare, my horses are in desperate need of exercise and schooling, so I'm just going to pretend like this child isn't there."

I know. I'm the Wicked Witch of the West.

My other issue is simply that I had gone outside in part to escape the over-stimulation I get while working at my desk. All day long I've got multiple people talking to me all at the same time: Some via phone, some via email, some via instant messaging, some via text conferencing. It's overwhelming. Each person doesn't realize that I'm talking to several other people at the same time and it is very stressful for me to have to field all these conversations at once. I feel like an air traffic controller. Therefore, I was counting on having complete silence while I worked with my horses in the round pen.

I looked over at my neighbor, and she was just sitting in the driver's seat of her car with her legs hanging out the door with the engine and air conditioning running staring at me. It was bizarre. The kid was obviously bugging the crap out of me and I obviously didn't want to have anything to do with him, and she just sat there observing and doing nothing.

Then she suddenly woke up and said, "Billy, don't ask questions. Just watch."

I let out a sigh of exasperation. I wanted to yell, "NO! DON'T WATCH! This is my private property and I need some privacy. I need to keep my full attention on my horse and I need my horse to keep her full attention on me. You are ruining the only 20 minutes of free time I've had in weeks and making this lesson worthless."

I know, some of you are going to say that dealing with distractions is a lesson for the horse, but that was not the lesson I planned. Having to change my goal every once in a while is okay, but when you are constantly being interrupted by your inconsiderate neighbors and always having to make every lesson into a lesson on handling distractions, then life starts feeling like it is way too short. This is kind of the same feeling you might get when you hit road construction on every route you take and you find yourself losing hours of time each week either sitting at road blocks or taking detours.

The woman was still sitting in her car with the loud engine running, so I knew she couldn't hear anything I yelled anyway. I decided to give her two minutes to get that kid out of my hair, and then I was going to motion her over to the fence for an enlightening chat about property lines and privacy and how I feel about being watched all the time.

This lady's only job is babysitting this boy once every few days. She is a professional shopper and hoarder who spends all day driving to and from stores and walking to and from her house and car carrying bags filled with junk. She has so much time on her hands that I don't think she could possibly relate to what it is like to work three jobs at 60 to 80 hours a week and be desperate for some free time to spend with her horses, to do something -- anything -- that she enjoys, and to get some rest. Her entire life is one self-gratifying playground of marshmallows and whipped cream.

You know how kids are always blurting out what the adults around them say? Well, this boy shouted out, "Those horses sure do a lot of doodie! Your place is a mess!"

That was the last straw for me. Here I was trying to enjoy my spare 20 minutes with my horses and this little kid was pointing out all the manure that needed to be cleaned up. Nothing makes me angrier than when I try to take a break from work to do something for myself and someone has to come along and in one way or another tell me to get back to work. Was I put on this earth to do nothing but work? Am I not allowed to have 20 minutes of alone time to do something I enjoy?

Here's the deal: I clean the manure when his babysitter is away, so that I can do it without being stared at. If his babysitter wants me to keep a cleaner paddock, then she and her staring, drooling husband need to stay inside their house or take a long trip somewhere to leave me alone so I can get some work done. Just because I am outside doesn't mean they have to come running outside to watch me. Also, I may have a lot of manure, but his babysitter has junk piles and junk vehicles and trash and weeds over every square inch of her acreage. Plus when she boards horses, she never cleans up after them. She makes her boarders come in and drag the paddock to mix the manure in with the dirt. I don't think she can speak about whose place is a mess.

And if the kid wasn't repeating something his babysitter said, but perhaps something his parents said, then I suggest they stop parking right up against my fence if it bothers them so much. The way they park so close to my property, one would think they are attracted to the manure.

My irritation must have been bubbling to the surface, because my nosy-neighbor-who-was-doing-a-lousy-job-babysitting hopped out of the car and quickly took the boy indoors along with her bags-o-junk, allowing me to finish my lesson with Gabbrielle. The news with Bombay is good. He made it through his entire exercise session without breaking open any wounds, so he's ready to ride. Now I've just got to find the time and space to do so.


fernvalley01 said...

Teaching a horse to deal with distraction is only possible when the handler is not in fact being driven to distraction.These neighbors of yours obviously get you upset esp when you are already suffering sensory overload. You seem to have great restraint in not walking up to them and giving them what for.Glad Bombay is on the mend.Maybe you need to set up a motion sensitve sprinkler system , and when they get too close you could hose them down.

Leah Fry said...

Ooh, I like the motion-sensitive sprinkler idea!

Breathe said...

You need peace and quiet for a week. I know I do too. I think many of us have a level of burn out (with everything in life) that it's difficult to manage...

Glad Bombay is doing so much better - time for those trails!

Promise said...

I love Fern's idea...let's get some sprinklers set up!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

"Sensory overload" is a the perfect way to put it. I do desperately need a vacation and I do have one coming up in a couple of weeks. It can't get here soon enough. I just hope my neighbors don't ruin it by either starting construction projects (which one already has) or being in my face all the time. Perhaps I should start looking into horse hotels where I can take my horses and vacation some place quiet. I realize I'm being overly sensitive, probably because everyone in my family is on vacation right now except for me, so I've had five people coming in and out of the house while I've been trying to work out of my home office, and of course my boss decided this week would be a good week to set a deadline for a big project that wasn't anywhere near ready to be completed, thus forcing me work harder and faster. Hopefully, things will settle down soon.

duffylou said...

I recently had an event in my life that made me step back and take a look. A long look. I am now trying to live for today and the moment. I realize that responsibilities and bosses and college and money are driving forces behind hurrying. Enjoy right now. Tomorrow might not be what you expected.

Cheryl Ann said...

Oye vei! I go with the sprinklers idea! You need some personal and horse time and without nosy neighbors!