This past Saturday was bright and sunny. A cold front had moved into Central TX, and even though temperatures dropped from 80 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the course of twelve hours it was a beautiful day. Having worked Odessa and Comanche rather hard on Friday night, I was giving them a break and working the ponies. As I took Apple Jack through the neighborhood behind our house, she settled into a jaunty little working trot, and I was suddenly struck by how truly blessed I am. This feeling of gratitude hits me fairly often even though I may not readily vocalize it.
I’ve spent the majority of my adult life (despite a few detours) working toward the life I currently lead. I’ve moved five times (mostly solo) within the past fifteen years for a distance of eight hours and then ultimately twenty two hours away from a single blood relative. In order to establish myself within my career, I’ve worked in dirty, heavy, and male dominated industries (steel mills, tire factory, and the trucking industry). Sacrifices had to be made. There were years when my time spent with horses were just brief stints at a few farms that needed an extra butt to work schooling horses that had been out of rotation too long. I’ve had to be brave, strong, and make tough decisions to get here, and though my idea of a dream life might not appeal to everyone, I’ve never been happier than I currently am.
Everything has been building to this. When I look at Darling Husband, Offspring, our home, our tiny farming endeavor and I sigh with satisfaction at a dream realized. Of course like every equestrian, I have a wish and goal list a mile long, but I’m supremely happy with how things are now. None of this is to say I don’t experience frustrations or struggles but I try very hard to view them from the perspective of the “old me,” the recent college grad that would have killed for everything I have now.
Last Tuesday was a tough night for me. Despite all of the hours I have poured into Comanche and Odessa’s training and working on their trouble spots, old issues seemed to reappear in the one riding session where I was desperately hoping to see an improvement. I had loaded them on a trailer, towed them through Belton to the Expo center, and tacked them up just to watch them both loose their freaking minds. While the behaviors I had hoped to eliminate were not as prominent as they were a year ago, a fact I’m only now recognizing as I re-play the horrible, terrible, not so very good ride in my mind. It was incredibly frustrating to see two animals that have been solid performers at home backslide in the course of a twenty minute trailer ride.
Maybe I let their anxiety affect me (which should never happen). Any horseman (horsewoman?) worth their salt knows they must remain an emotionally stable leader the horse wants to follow. That’s the rub about being an equestrian. Whether you are training your own horses or riding already trained mounts, they will feed off of your emotions. Those emotions will be reflected back to you in a direct ratio of their size to yours. Solid been there done that campaigners exist that have the confidence to hold it together when their riders lose their $hit, bless them. Green horses do not possess the experience to compensate for their riders, and they depend on their human. Green horses lose their $hit when their rider shows the tiniest hint of frustration, and it takes a while to get that $hit cleaned up when it hits the proverbial rotating oscillator (aka fan).
After a very challenging night in the arena, it would have been extremely easy to blame the horses, say I totally suck as a trainer, and throw myself a pity party for the hours, weeks, months, a year’s worth of training that had appeared to evaporate. As I trudged out to the trailer with my two miscreants, that had miraculously transformed into calm, collected angels the minute they realized we were headed back to the trailer, it hit me….I’m living my dream. My horses were bad, but they were beautiful bad creatures, and I would rather be riding my beautiful green idiots than horses trained by someone else. The thought cheered me up, and then I started to think of all of the ways I could turn the night into a positive (cue a funny Facebook post for the farm page).
I snapped a picture of them tied to the trailer, and realized I already owned my dream horses they were just works in progress. Bonus, I had managed not to hit anything or anyone pulling the trailer to this fiasco. Being totally honest I’m not the greatest driver without the trailer, so that makes it even more impressive. The next evening as I worked Odessa and Comanche at home, they had reverted to the animals I had hoped they would be the night before, but I just had to laugh. It’s all part of the process.
As I trotted through the neighborhood, powered by the angelic Apple Jack, I thought about how far all of the horses on the farm had come. Three years ago I had four skeletal, neglected, and roughly handled animals to fatten up and rehab. A year ago I had two ponies whose major value lay in their ability to mow my yard. Now I have two muscular (maybe fat), beautiful Appaloosas that are just entering their show season, one rehabbed Appaloosa enjoying leisurely retirement, and one crazy mustang in good condition. I now have two adorable carriage ponies that may make an appearance in a few parades this year, maybe a show if I can find a Combined Driving Event (CDE) in Central Texas. Thousands of hours have gone into getting everyone this far, and there will be thousands more to take them to the next level.
Happiness is found in the journey, it’s not the ultimate destination. If you cannot appreciate what you have in front of you now, you will not find joy when you have something better.