Dec. 9: teadog1425" I would love to hear the story of your life in horses: how you got started, what your dreams were when you started out, how you ended up where you are now, what you love about what you do now, and what you would like to change! (Or any variation on the above topic that you would prefer!)"
My experience with horses started back in the 1970's when I was living in the Slocan Valley. My now ex-husband bought a horse, whose name was Star. I rode her a few times, and went on a couple of trail rides on a friend's horse, but I had no clue what I was doing. I was just a passenger. I loved the horse, but I was pretty intimidated by her, so after my husband and I split up, I had nothing to do with horses for the next 10 years or so. Then, one evening when I was hanging out with my friend Steph, we started talking about horses, because she had just sold her own horse, and was missing him. She decided to take some lessons and asked if I wanted to come along. So, in a spirit of adventure, I did. We booked a lesson at a local stable, and from the first lesson I was hooked. I don't remember what it was exactly that so intrigued me, but I loved it. I started taking a couple of lessons a week, even after Steph dropped out. I'd been feeling kind of isolated socially for various reasons; I worked shift work and weekends, and most of my friends didn't, so I spent a lot of time on my own. All of a sudden I had a whole little world waiting for me at the stable, and it was really amazing how much it came to mean to me. I had something that challenged me physically, and gave me a sense of accomplishment when I did something that kind of scared me, like cantering for the first time. The first year (this was when I had just turned 40, BTW, so learning to ride as an adult I was probably a lot more nervous than any of the kids) I took lessons on various school horses 3 times a week. I had two pretty serious accidents during that year; the first was on a horse called Beauty. We were cantering across the ring when she started going a bit fast, so I made a classic novice move and leaned forward, which made her speed up. I came off at the wall of the arena, and hit my shoulder on the wall as I did. Got back on the horse and finished the lesson. As I was driving home I started feeling short of breath and I thought I'd broken my scapula. Went to the hospital, and it turned out I'd broken my first and second ribs, and collapsed part of my lung. My first question was "how long til I can ride?" Six months later I came off another horse and gave myself a compression fracture of L1. While I was off with that injury I found a horse in the school string I kind of fell in love with; she was a 16 year old Arabian mare, a pretty chestnut named Kastanet. I bought her, and that was when it really started for me. Her stall was next to a thoroughbred named Caddy, whose owner was a nice British woman named Sue. She took me under her wing, and we became good friends over many a trail ride through the park. Those were great days, and I remember them with such fondness. I had Kastanet for 4 years; she died of an infection that she somehow picked up at the age of 20. After that I leased a horse for awhile, rode Caddy from time to time.
Sue and her husband purchased a farm in 1995, and the plan was always that when I retired I'd have a place to live there. Sue and I did all the work on the farm those first few years; we had 4 horses the first year, then the next year we had 3 babies. We started to get interested more in the breeding aspect of the horse business, and learned a lot through trial and error. Over the next several years we did everything on the farm that was needed, from fencing to birthing babies; we like to say that there is nothing that we haven't put our hands to, and I think that makes us better horse people for doing so. There were some very difficult times, let me tell you. The first winter was a doozy, and we had frozen pipes and snow up to the windows, and had to haul water from the house for the horses. That was tough, but it really tested us and made us more determined to succeed. I drove from Vancouver to the farm in the Valley through all kinds of weather every day I wasn't working. I'm still doing that drive!
I bought one of the foals, a lovely boy named Pharoah; raised him until he was four and then realized he was too big for me, so he went to a nice home with a good rider who loved him. Then I bought Midnight, a 3 year old quarter horse who was being boarded at the farm. We had some great times, and he really did test me a lot. He's still a pushy horse, very strong minded, and in the beginning he intimidated me. I learned to be a lot tougher, to stand up and say hey! I'm the boss here, behave. Didn't always work, I admit. We're still playing that game, but we've come to an arrangement; he behaves, most of the time. Unfortunately, he became quite lame several years ago, with navicular, so he's pretty much retired. Kyra came into my life via the SPCA; she was a rescue horse, and we had room, so we adopted her. Turned out she was a good riding horse too, so I had fun with her for a few years until she got too old. I loved her; she was much more my kind of horse than Midnight, a much softer nature. Now I have Midnight, and a 5 year old mare, Rochelle, who I'm going to start next spring.
We have had some really bad times along with the good; Sue and her husband split up, and running the farm alone with my help was challenging. We both had to dig way down deep. I speak of "we" because Sue is my best friend and we have a great partnership and love of the horses; everything we do has that focus. There were times when we weren't sure if we could keep going, and I have had a few meltdowns on top of the manure pile, when it all just seemed like too much for two women to keep things going. But we did, and man, I am so much tougher and stronger than I had ever imagined I could be. That's what horses have taught me: if you have a dream, and ambition, and focus, and if you're willing to make sacrifices, you can accomplish what seems to be impossible. I am so much more confident and unafraid of life because of the work I've done with the horses. I've learned that sometimes you just have to act confident, even if underneath you're quaking; the horses always pick up on your emotions, and react to that. I've learned patience, I've learned to leave my worries at the barn door and focus on the moment, and I have had the most amazing moments of pure joy, working with my horses. It's made me a better person.
The future looks bright now; Sue found Jack, a great guy who loves the horses and the farm, and they're building a new house with an apartment in it for me, and we have big plans for the horses. We haven't lost sight of the fact that we're still going to have to work our butts off to make it happen. Looking back over the last 26 years that I've had horses in my life, there are things I'd do differently, of course. I've made mistakes, made choices that in retrospect weren't the smartest, but I've learned because of them, and I've grown. I'm a pretty different person now than I was when I took that first riding lesson. My life took on a whole new direction, and it opened up so much for me. Finding a passion and following it where it leads is such a blessing. Horses are such a part of my life now I can't begin to imagine not being around them. Just walking into the barn and being in their midst brings me joy. I am a happy woman when I'm with my horses.