Today we welcome Judy Oldmeadow to Small Business Owner. Like many small business owners, Judy’s experienced the underbelly of self-employment: back-breaking hours, loneliness and isolation. She’s come out the other side as an inspiring example of persistence; today she shares her very poignant journey with us.
Last day of school holidays. It’s nearly dark as I push a heavy barrow round the horse yards. Forcing my overworked 53-year-old body to pick up the last of the manure.
Vaguely, I wonder if I could analyse people by their shit, as I can horses.
Calico dumped her piles by the gate as she looked for someone to take her back to her paddock.
Holly, the fiery Arab, spread hers fast and loose along the fence as she impatiently paced, neighing for attention.
Banjo, the slow-thinking beginner’s horse, deposited his huge pile under the tree where he patiently waited for something to happen.
Barrow empty at last. A final check for brushes and tack in their correct places.
I limp inside. Happy I’m alone at last, but sad I’ve only enough energy to shower and collapse into bed without eating.
For ten years I’ve been running children’s riding camps on my 22 acre property.
I know I can’t sustain this life of one camp after another, with ten kids in my one bathroom, no partner and only a teenage assistant and daily cook to help me.
At the end of each camp, no matter how tired I am, I always give each parent an encouraging report on their child’s particular skills.
Today I advised a mother to tell her nagging, blaming, attention-seeking daughter to forget horses and take up acting.
Time to stop.
A place in the sun
I lie under a walnut tree on a stunning 240 acre property, surrounded by contented Morgan mares and their foals while my imported stallion stands watch.
I smile as I watch lead mare Tanjil and her filly Yve. Tanjil’s mothering skills never cease to amaze me. Within three hours of Eve’s birth, Tanjil pushed her over to my LandCruiser to let her investigate it. Next, she nudged Yve to me and kept her there with her body, letting me touch her all over.
For three weeks Tanjil did this with all new human visitors, occasionally pushing Yve away if a person wasn’t to her liking. Now Yve is allowed to make her own choices. She’s curious, confident, friendly and respectful. Horses could teach people a lot about parenting.
I hear my husband Miles slashing the paddock ready for the fire season. I allow myself a moment of pride for our achievements.
Our Morgan herd comprises a stallion, five purebred mares, two partbred mares and three other breed mares in foal. This year we have five foals at foot, seven yearlings and one two-year-old running in the hill paddock with the nanna mares. All but one sold.
We provide agistment for the horses we breed until they’re two. This gives them the best environment for sound hoof and bone growth in a herd that develops confident personalities. We’re succeeding beyond all expectations.
Our cottage lets owners get to know their new horse in a safe environment. This month, our first two-year-olds have gone to new homes in three states – well mannered, confident, barefoot and sound.
I work with my horses to teach communication, assertiveness and self awareness while having fun.
I’m living my dream.
How did I do it?
All my life I’ve not made changes until things got bad enough. I saw myself as tough – nothing could make me cry.
Then my closest friend fought a long, heartbreaking struggle with cancer. One of her coping mechanisms was to plan her own funeral.
She designed an amazing mural for her coffin, chose the music and asked mourners to walk to the cemetery. She asked me to ride beside the hearse leading her mare Tinto – saddled, with her boots backwards in the stirrups, military style.
I agreed, thinking it’d be a lovely way to say the inevitable goodbye. At the cemetery I tied my horse to a tree and led Tinto to the grave. In the silence after the service, Tinto called and my horse answered.
A huge wail rose in me. I cried for weeks. In the supermarket. At the doctor. With visitors. Alone. Years of suppressed tears.
Worried for my sanity, a friend suggested internet dating. I didn’t even own a PC! She set me up on a hand-me-down.
After three months, I was over my depression and happy to live alone. Then I got an email from Miles Oldmeadow. My deceased friend had worked with his mum and we’d met several times.
We had much in common and many mutual friends. Two years later we married. I sold my farm and began building my new teaching facility at Samaria.
I was used to aching knees; they’d both been dislocated and lacked medial cartilage. But in our second year of marriage, my pain was everywhere. I tried to work through it, but sometimes I spent days in bed – exhausted by an hour’s work.
After a merry-go-round of tests, specialists and medication, a rheumatologist finally diagnosed fibromyalgia.
My research into managing this condition included meditation and reading about post traumatic stress. I noticed I was almost pain free when relating to horses.
Early one morning, with pain preventing sleep, I decided I’d breed safe, friendly, comfortable-to ride Morgan horses for families.
I was thrilled when Miles embraced my idea. In November 2006 we began our journey by purchasing two purebred mares.
I no longer have fibromyalgia symptoms. My depression has lifted and I’m breeding sensational horses while coaching animals and humans into harmonious relationships.
Life got bad enough. I did something about it.
Judy Oldmeadow , Owner, Samaria Creek Morgan Farm