Weekday mornings are usually pretty busy at our house. My first precious cup of coffee is consumed while feeding humans, feeding dogs and cats, feeding the mare, packing lunch for me and snacks for our boys, making sure their back packs contain books and homework and helping my husband get them to the bus on time. I get to enjoy my second cup in a more leisurely manner, sitting in front of the computer, letting the caffeine kick in while I read my e-mail, cruise my favorite websites and - as I was doing Tuesday morning - checking my blog stats.
One of my favorite stats is the "traffic sources". For those of you who don't have blogs (or don't check your stats), it shows which web sites are helping people make their way to your blog; you can click on the link and see which post they're mentioning, what people are saying and who's saying it. That morning, the top referring site was the Horse and Hound bulletin board, so I clicked on the link. Someone named "Keeky" had asked about gel pads, and someone else had referred them to my Mud Season Grumps post, in which I detail the depth and breadth of my loathing for those miserable things. Keeky replied ... well, you can read it for yourself here. When I read, it, I nearly re-routed my coffee through my nose, then whooped and cackled so long and so hard that my husband asked me if I was laying an egg.
First, I'd like to give Keeky props for doing her best to spell "psychopath" correctly. She came damn close - all of the correct letters were there, even if they weren't quite in the proper order, and that's a lot better than many people can do. I'm also extremely gratified to find that my writing so accurately reflects my true nature. Keeky, I'd like you to know that no one has killed either of my cats, and my husband is (so far) unbitten (though I'm not quite sure how you came to the conclusion that he was the one in danger of being gnawed). My ranting sprang from the normal day-to-day frustrations that come with being a horse woman and saddle fitter - specifically one "of a certain age" who, thanks to her hormones, spends a lot of time playing on the Mood Swings; who lives in a very rural part of the world where mud does indeed determine the frequency, location, length and happiness of one's riding, and who, if she doesn't get to the dojo (or at least run kihon and kata) on a regular basis, probably should, in the interest of public safety, be kept in the basement on a very short, very sturdy chain. Now, I'm sure this probably isn't improving your opinion of me ... but aren't you glad you're not my neighbor?
That said, there really is a grain of truth in the psychopath thing. In reality, you have to be a bit of a lunatic to do this job - or to go into any equine-related field. Most jobs in the horse world involve long hours, hard and dirty work, inclement weather, and - often - dealing with other lunatics. And in a purely fiscal light ... well, just let me say that I don't know too many independently wealthy saddle fitters. There's more truth than poetry (as Ma used to say) to the old joke: "How do you make a small fortune in the horse world? Start with a large fortune."
As a fitter, I have to deal with difficult customers, difficult horses, Self-Appointed Experts, long drives to barn calls, people trucking in hours late for appointments (or not showing up at all), problem saddles, unrealistic expectations, zombie saddles, sheep manure and the odd pill bug. I work in an arcane, antiquated profession, in which a tiny number of the world's population have a good working knowledge. Most people outside the horse world (and a surprising number inside the horse world) have no flaming idea what a saddle fitter is, or what we do. On the rare occasion I attend a social gathering that is not horse related, and someone asks me what I do for work, there's usually a moment of dead silence when I say I'm a saddle fitter. It's almost as confusing as when I used to reply, "I'm a dressage trainer." Let me tell you, it's rarely a jump-starter for conversation (though given my rather reclusive, psychopathic nature, that's not necessarily a bad thing).
But the upside of this job - for me, anyway - is the challenge, and the fact that there's always something new to learn. And - though admitting it may put a little shine on my gnarly reputation - I enjoy helping horse and rider find the saddle that works for them, and seeing them ride away happy. As my co-worker Nancy says, we're not really changing the world for the better ... but I do think, in some small way, we may be making at least a small part of it better for the horses and riders we deal with.