“How much will it cost if you do the whole thing?”
“About $150. I’m just doing this to pay my way through grad school.”
“Uh huh. Sure. We’ll see you back here next weekend….”
That is the conversation that I watched be repeated most weekends during the winter. The weathered old men eyeing me up and down as I saunter down the shed row. The cat calls from the young grooms and the dirty looks from the women.
I enter the establishment layered from head to toe, but quickly remove the layers as I do my job. First the jacket, and then the fleece. My arms begin to ache, and my lower back burns from constantly bending in ways I should never bend.
As I sway to the music pulsating in my ears, acknowledging that I hate every minute of this ridiculous dance, I remind myself that if I just finish this one, I can pay for that event. If I do 3-4 more, I can pay for that clinic. And if I keep going and come back weekend after weekend, I might just get that saddle I have been eyeing.
But with each arrangement made, and each wad of cash handed, I acknowledge that I hate every moment of it. And I acknowledge that this is no way to live, constantly hating what you do.
But that is the life of a clipper.
I am broke. A graduate students salary doesn’t exactly cushion the pockets in a way that would be beneficial to an equestrians lifestyle.
I live on ramen so that my horses can eat alfalfa. I wear hand me downs so that my horses can get new blankets. And I cut my own hair so that I don’t have to cut my budget.
But I am scrappy. I clip, braid, pull, and trim my own so that I can pay for that one show or that weekend clinic.
And slowly, somehow, people began to notice. The clean lines and the even spacing. A well turned out horse standing next to a gaunt girl who looked like she would do just about anything for a bottle of beer instead of a can.
So I fell into the rabbit hole, and began to pursue a life of clipping.
Most patrons assume that we do this because we like it, if that is even possibly. But how we could ever like being struck by our patrons as we dance around them, attempting to just finish the job.
How we could appreciate coming home sore covered in slobber and hair, with a lower back that screams in pain and knees that constantly ache.
It is a vile, disgusting, unappreciated way to make a living.
I show up and am immediately told that handsome studs named Bobby and Ed will be gentle, and that anyone could get the job done on them. I am forewarned that occasionally Freddie bites, but it’s just playful-he’s not actually mean. And I’m told to not even attempt to get the job done on the asshole named Luke unless he has someone else there to restrain him.
I do my job with a forced smile and tense shoulders, fully acknowledging that I despise every moment.
But I envision that ribbon, or the flashing crystals of the new rhinestone encrusted browband, or even the beautiful round edges of the number 0 on balance needed to pay my vet, and off I go to clip.
Once done, I rush to leave. My body actually quivers as I get into my truck, and I hit the gas pedal, wanting nothing more than to get into a shower and wipe the filth off of me.
And I remind myself that clipping is no way to live.
But only for now. Only until I can afford to not be a clipper. Only until the dollar bills don’t hold the same luster as they do now, and it’s unnecessary to clip my way through school. Only until I can become the patron instead of the worker.
And the day that I can afford to become the patron instead of the once doing the dance, I will throw Benjamins around to the clippers like nobody has ever before.
I should have never told anyone I could clip, but I did, and it’s ok. Because even if it is a thankless job, it’s also a means to an end.
A job that pays the bills and puts food in the stall.
So the next time you make that call to hire that hidden warrior, be nice. You might have all of the power, and all of the money, but she has the skill and, more importantly, the need.
And as you watch her begin to sway to the music in her head and whisper sweet nothings into the patrons ears, think to yourself–have you thanked your clipper lately?
And if the answer is no, dig deep into your pockets and show your appreciation. Us clippers need it. We deserve it. Because we might be clippers, but we’re people too.