Monday, October 6, 2014

The Horses That Built Me

I think with most every horse lover, there are those horses that come into our lives, regardless of how long, that really make an impact on us and our horsemanship, attitude, lives, etc.  Still sitting here waiting for baby #3's arrival leaves me with a lot of time to think about horses and reflect on them since of course, I'm unable to ride any of them.  Lately I have been thinking of some of those horses that have really shaped me into who I am as a horsewoman today.

To me, the one that started it all was a big brown gelding by the name of Shocka Bar Cody.  If you are a follower of my blog, then you probably will remember him in the post, A Little Girl And Her Horse, a tribute that I wrote after I lost him this spring at age 28.  He was the type of horse that every little horse crazed girl or boy needed to have in their young lifetimes.  A true one in a million type of horse that taught me the fundamentals, a champions desire and attitude and the importance of always being there for my horse after I almost lost him due to colic.  He brought a little nothing of a horse crazed girl and opened the door to so many championships.

Smoky by Lucky Boy, a grey gelding that opened more doors for me than I can count.  He carried me through high school and college and together we accomplished more than I could ever imagine.  Saddles, buckles and various other prizes lined my walls.  It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies though.  He was a bit accident prone in his first years together, narrowly missing his death by a quarter of an inch when he decided that it'd be fun to sit on a fence post, not to mention surviving his bout with West Nile. Despite it all, his heart won out and it brought us to the top.  He is the very reason for my program today.  He gave me the start and boost that I needed to get me going in this industry and his influence still carries me.  In a paragraph it's hard to sum up the impact this horse had on me.

This year was a hard one on me for horses. In addition to Cody, I also lost my great mare, Mae Holly Fire, who I also wrote about, The Little Gray Mare With A Heart Of Gold.  The lessons that I learned from this mare didn't just go towards horses but life in general.  As a sophomore in college I was looking for a eventual replacement for my good horse, Smoky. The search lead me to Oklahoma and a little grey mare.  I paid way more than what I should have, but I just had to have her.  There was something there that I had only felt on one other horse that was a very accomplished pro mare that I had leased the summer before.  The way she could move around a barrel was something that would leave me breathless.  That is if she would turn it.... One of the most talented individuals I had rode to date, she was one of the most challenging.  She had so much talent and it could be so easy for her, but her previous experiences just were much harder to get past.   It was beyond frustrating! It was a struggle to bring her to the winners circle, but she made it there and she made me a better horseman because of it.  She kept me on my toes and made me think outside of the box.  I really believe that many would have given up, but I had so much invested into her that I couldn't afford not to make it work.

For those of you that know me present day, these next two horses are ones you'll recognize.  First, a sorrel little rocket named Blazin Vandy Candy that if you aren't holding on hard enough going to first, she's going to leave you in the dust. I've had a lot of compliments on her through the years and how she looks like so much to ride.  Let me tell you, it wasn't like that in the beginning!  We bought her as a three year old and although she had a good start on her, she had an engine that just wouldn't quit.  Although she took a lot of just riding, she really was fun to just go ride and work with.  It wasn't until I started her on barrels that I began to lose my hair.  With an all business and all knowing attitude, she thought she had the barrels figured out from the very first day and she was so dang athletic and broke that if I'd let her, she dang sure could have done it too! The problem was it was on her terms and she wasn't going to listen to you if she needed a little help.  Remember she knew it all when it came to barrels.  I went through everything I knew in my barrel racing training handbook trapped in my mind and just could not get the result I was looking for.  Sure she looked cool, but she was a uncontrolled freight train when it came to barrels.  I have never been so close to giving up and calling it all quits in my life.  With her, I learned the value of leaning on friends and reaching to learn more from people that I didn't know personally.  My method wasn't quite working and it opened up the doors to learning more.   Those lessons are carried with me and are still used today.  It was quite the evolution and it has helped me develop the style that I have now.  She was a handful, but patience, hard work, and being open minded paid off with the little red mare. Just like with Holly, sometimes the most naturally talented individuals are the ones that take the most work.

Lastly is of course Frenchmans Elvis.  How could he not be one of the most important horses that have influenced my life?  He is such a big part of it past, present and future. I won't get into the whole story of how Elvis came to be because I've talked so much about him in my blog but in addition to all that, he taught me the value of a good horse.  Training outside horses through the years and riding everything from no names to the top names in the industry, I had a pretty good idea what horses were nice to ride and what ones weren't.  There were those horses that came into our barn that I just hated to jump on because it was miserable.  Then there were those few that you just couldn't wait to saddle up each day.  From the time that you took the saddle off, you were counting down the time before you could ride them again.  That was Elvis for me.  He came to us at a time when I was getting burnt out and because of him, he brought the fun back into riding.  In addition to what he already gave me, I learned a valuable lesson on working with such a smart horse.  Gone were the days of doing anything less than perfect.  If you had the attitude that "oh, he only has five rides and turned that circle pretty nice for that amount of time," you'd have a hard time teaching him any different.  You have to do everything perfect from the get go because other wise, you just taught him the right way was less than perfect.   He was too smart, too receptive and too willing for his own good and it kept me on my toes but yet made it enjoyable.  His colts have turned out to be the same way.  They make riding fun  and again share their sire's smart, ever willing attitude.  Let's just say with my future being filled with Elvis babies, I'm looking forward to the ride and journey!

Words can not express my gratitude for these horses.  I don't know how I can convey what each one has done for me without writing a novel, which this blog post has almost turned out to be.  I feel that each horse that I ever had the pleasure to ride has taught me something that has helped shaped me into what I am today.  I've been blessed with many great horsemen and women in my day to learn from, but my greatest teacher of all has always been the horse.   They have not just taught me to be a better horsewoman, but have taught me so much about life and about myself.  Every time we saddle up or just even go catch our horses we have a plan on what we are going to "teach" them that day, but in reality it should be what am I going to "learn" from you today.  Don't take for granted the very horse that could be your greatest teacher!