• Sue Steiner

Clean Barn, Clean Slate, Clean Canvas

Over the Christmas break my husband built a large new stall in our barn.  For those of you who don’t know I have a population explosion in my barn due to taking back in two horses that I had sold/loaned out to different people.  I never did make a good horse dealer because I feel responsible for the horses I take in.  If the match doesn’t work for one reason or another the door is open for them to come back but I found myself on the verge of not keeping the horses up to my own standards.  So I really appreciated the extra stall. 

It feels good to take care of animals when you are set up to do so.  The right feed, the right pasture/turnout.  The right shelter.  The right attention and handling.  I got in a couple ‘special needs’ horses which toppled that balance so my goal is to pare down the number of horses I care for so I can keep that balance in line. 

I reconnected with a former employee of mine.  He was a teen ager when he worked for me cleaning stalls on my boarding stable.  He was new to horses but had a passion for them and a wonderful gentle touch that they responded to so well.  He also had the most amazing seat I ever saw in a beginner rider.  He got up on the horse and just sat so correctly and so naturally.  My riding instructor at the time said men/boys have a different center of gravity and sometimes it just all clicks in the right way for them.  That certainly was the case with Brent. 

Brent has gone on to make horses a career and has been training out west with the Parelli people.  He is working his way up the levels and is now freestyle level 4??  I may have that wrong but anyways I know he is doing amazing.  Anyways he is coming out this spring and taking a couple horses.  I am thrilled because I know he will give them a wonderful home.

So in a sense I am wiping my slate clean (er) in the barn so I can spend more time doing what I enjoy- caring for my horses but also keeping the attention/handling and riding time in balance.  In other words I want to spend more time riding and less time doing barn chores!  

I am doing the same thing in my art.  I want to paint.  The more the better.  The more  I paint the happier I am.  I also think that is working from my strengths but doing what I do best.  I also have enjoyed delving into some creative writing as it pertains to art, horses, healing.   So the challenge is to arrange things so I can get into the mental frame of mind easier and faster to paint while not completely forgetting everything else!  As I write that it sound contradictory.  If painting is a priority that isn’t that what you are supposed to do??  Focus on that? 

Focus is such a funny thing for me.  Maybe other artists are like this too.  I can have razor sharp hyperfocus and I can be clear on the other end of the spectrum.  And no I don’t want ADHD medication. 

I think most artists know about getting into the zone to paint.   It doesn’t just happen… most times.  For instance I can’t paint and keep my house clean.  I also can’t paint and run errands.  Running errands and driving around sort of ruin me for painting (but I have kids and thats pretty much a necessity).  Going shopping does not mix with art.  Especially a place like Walmart.  I am ruined after a shopping trip there which is why I mainly try to avoid it altogether!   Thankfully my husband can just go in there, get what he wants and get out.  That has NEVER happened to me.  I go in and I feel like I’ve been swallowed alive!

It may be that rather than having trouble getting INTO the zone it may be more likely I am always ‘in the zone’ which makes doing all those other things difficult AND it keeps me from painting.   I walk into a store and get visually bombarded with bright florescent lights and row after row of shelves and products and advertising.  I go outside and the shadows in the snow captivate me.  I contemplate values and paint colors of the color of the snow shadow, noticing sharp edges and places to let the lines blur.   I forget where I am parked but in my mind I’ve painted a beautiful painting already!

Maybe I am like the horses.  I need my environment partitioned off so I can go from one zone to another and not let them all over flow.  Horses know about this — pasture is for play time and eating.  Riding ring is time to focus.  Trails are fun and adventure.  Stalls are confinement at worst and at best a place to eat in peace away from flies.

Alright then… I am going to start to corral my artistic spirit into the right spaces.  Doing dishes and laundry does not need a creative mind– it needs a clean sweeper.  A stall mucker and barn manager.  Someone who clears the way so the creative spirit can then be turned out to play.   

If all that fails I may need to call in either a horse whisperer or a maid!


My kids have either been on Christmas break,  in need of transportation, or traveling for the last 3 weeks.  On Tues. they all will be corralled again in their regular classes.  Keeping track of their schedules, social lives, school activities, sports events requires some heavy duty time management of which I do not even know who to call on to model that kind of help!  🙂   Maybe a drill Sargent!  For me – not them. 

I have a 3 hour stretch today to paint so I am now going to clear my slate.  And then the reward!  Turn out!!!

Take care!

Sue Steiner

animal and equine artist

pet portraits

#animalartist #artisticspirit #naturalhorsemanship #creativethinking #barnmanagement



© Copyright 2023. No animals were harmed in the making

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