The budding equestrians at Cozy Y were routinely disappointed that no one got to actually ride a horse during a riding lesson. The fine print included in the multi-page contract noted that “handling” and “associated activities deemed appropriate by the Manager” were included in the $75 per hour group Riding lesson fee.
The associated activities included an array of back-breaking barn chores distributed to students in a hierarchical system placing the youngest and newest firmly at the bottom. “Manure management” was in the category of associated activities. Students paid to rake, shovel and wheelbarrow horse shit.
Other tasks on these bottom rungs of the barn “intern” ladder, as it was fondly called, included cleaning saddles and bridles, sweeping the aisles, assisting with fence repairs, opening gates - everything except touching a horse. This had the cumulative effect of further fueling desire. New students would furtively caress any horses close enough.
Those advancing to subsequent levels of horsemanship began assisting handlers with grooming. Then they would learn “ground work” - the term encompassing every single thing except riding. Only after about three or four lessons, depending on the judgement of the Manager with an eye to insurance risk, could a student with no previous experience actually ride.