First, I married into horses. I didn't spend my formative years learning the intricacies of horsemanship. I spent them as a Navy brat whose family of four consistently moved every three years until my father finished his eighteen year enlistment and we resettled near Oklahoma's panhandle, also the place of my birth. Consequently, the closest we ever came to owning a 1200 pound animal was an egregiously overweight feline named Hobbes fellowed with an eccentric hamster named Calvin (both titled after a beloved boyhood comic series to which I related most). The only exposure I had with the equestrian field before I met my future betrothed was scant, at best. Nevertheless, since meeting my wife three years ago and opening Pandora's equine box, I have learned much from her as well as from my current employers.
The first impression I had of Avalon Equine when I started last year essentially mimicked the first experience I had in the military nearly sixteen years ago. Of course, it didn't follow that of the basic training experience that every military member has when they first enlist because I went to boot camp nine months after joining my unit, like many Army National Guard personnel do. Contrastingly, my first experience I had with the military was that of a three day Live Fire Exercise (LFX) in Ft. Chaffee, AR attempting to perform a variety of tasks that were otherwise antithetic to normal civilian life in an atmosphere where everyone already knew their job. Likewise, my first workday occurred after the height of breeding season yet still in the thick of it when dozens of broodmares were being managed and several stallion collections were being conducted aside from the normal daily operations of any horse ranch.
To put this into perspective, my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) involves emplacing and firing 105mm howitzers into an unseen area within any given theater of ground operations. It essentially amounts to aiming and shooting an oversized rifle except the rounds are only expended with an outside observer's guidance considering the intended target's distance, unless the howitzer crew can see their target such as in the rare direct-fire situation. So, as you may imagine, firing a howitzer is more complicated and requires the coordinated effort of far more people than simply aiming and firing a rifle. I quickly learned during my first LFX in 2001, this same type of realization encompasses my first impression of Avalon Equine. Ultimately, throughout my first days of work, I was impressed with the coordination and knowledge each member displayed, including the seasonal interns that were working there at the time. Everyone knew their specified job during each task, such as stallion collection, mare management, and general horsemanship activities.
Certain aspects of mare management were also revealing and somewhat confusing, at first. Watching Kathy expound on the intricacies of the mare reproductive system via ultrasound was somewhat daunting. I still occasionally struggle with what I'm seeing on the monitor as I watch her ultrasound mares, but I have a far better understanding than when I first began observing. I'm always relieved to be on the eating side of the horse while she conducts ultrasounds considering all of the feces that has to removed by hand before the procedure can be conducted.
I was also intrigued by a few aspects of my new employers' unorthodox management style. Like Kathy always declares: "We try to make it fun around here". Case in point, she has a tendency to purchase inflatable outfits that depict the wearer as riding some kind of animal like a horse or an ostrich. Tutus are also another favorite. Of course, I haven't partaken in any of these shenanigans-not in fear of the opinions of any innocent bystanders who might see such a scene-but simply because I worry for the safety of every horse on the property and such a sight might just put them at too great a risk. Ultimately, tutus and inflatable costumes are just unsafe for both horse and human, alike. Safety first.
In final, my first impressions of Avalon Equine were promising, encouraging, and enjoyable (a statement which was in no way coerced by my Editor-in-Chief).
Happy Foaling, Everyone!