• Alice Whaley

Last Stop Before Sanlúcar

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Tomorrow, I go to Sanlúcar la Mayor, to start work in a picadero. I’m nervous, but excited, and I have no idea what to expect. I’ve never been to this picadero, nor any picadero, for that matter. A ‘picadero’ is a catchall word for a place where horses are kept and exercised. The same word is used for small schools where kids learn to ride, and for serious centres, like the Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre in Jerez, where world-class riders train, and exercise their horses. As yet, I’m unsure where my new home sits on the scale.

I bought new boots which will do for both working and riding, and I’ve done my best to make them a bit scruffy-looking, but I think it will still be pretty obvious that I’m new to this.

I’m looking forward to getting into my new work. Even though I’ll be in a new place, and dealing with horses in the Spanish way, there are certain things that’ll be familiar: the sound of hooves on concrete, the smell of hay and of horses.

Last night, I didn’t feel quite ready to go inside after riding, so I cleaned my tack. That means taking an old cloth, and rubbing some oil into the leather of your saddle and bridle so that it doesn’t dry out – a bit like moisturising your skin. I haven’t cleaned my tack in a long time; so long that the process made me nostalgic.

When I was growing up, we would always clean the tack on the Saturday night before we went show jumping or bloodhounding, as there’s always an early start on Sunday morning. We did most of our eventing over the winter. The single halogen bulb in the tack room would be the only light while my mum, my sister, and I, cleaned our tack. The stables were always quiet while each of us concentrated on the task at hand. The silence would only be broken by a horse turning in its stable, and the gentle sweeping of cloths across leather.

The smell of leather and oil reminded me of those winter evenings while I stood quietly in the tack room last night. I hope I’ll be tasked with cleaning tack in Sanlúcar.

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