Wednesday, May 15, 2013

730 Days.....

Two years ago today, my life changed, I gave in to a friend's nudging, faced my absolute fear of horses (previously known as "big bad scary monsters") and took a riding lesson. To say my life turned a corner that day is an understatement of epic proportion. And in many ways the last two years is a blur. I have asked a couple times "how did we get here", from me sitting on Snapper screaming because he took a step to buying my own horse in two years (btw I did end up buying the horse I talked about in the last post, I AM A HORSE OWNER!). And originally this blog post was going to be around how I don't get how we got here, but then last week I read a blog post by my sister-in-law Katie . Katie is a great writer and I find a lot of her posts inspiring, but this one really hit me...hard...hard enough that I decided I needed to change my view of things, and as a result this post. So I still plan to answer "how did we get here" but instead of a question I am going to answer it and give it the credit it deserves, and allow myself to shine.

How did we get here.....

I worked my butt off!!!!!!!!

For those that don't know my full story here's the micro version of the long story (btw feel free to read back, it's all here). On May 15, 2011 when I got on a horse for the first time my body was very different than it is now. I was unable to cue a horse with my legs at all, I had difficulty mounting and in addition to having to overcome my fears I had lots of physical limitations in my way too. I also was unable to walk without tripping let alone jog with a horse for showmanship. These physical limits had been long standing (from a surgery error in 1996) and at that point I would thought they were what they were. I wasn't starting where anyone new to horses was, but I was back even further. I had a negative scorecard to overcome just to get to being a newbie.

But I did it, I spent a couple lessons working on mounting, I spent hundreds of hours working on getting my legs to move and sense and work with the horse, and I spent countless nights (making sure no one was watching teaching my body to first walk easily with my horse and then to jog). I tripped, I fell, I swore but each time I got back up and kept going. But I did it, and there is no moment in the two years I value more than the day I told my riding coach I wanted to do showmanship in our first show and when we went to practice and she told me I could walk the jog part I could look at her and tell her "no worries I got this" and off Joker and I went (she had no clue what I had been up to).

Beyond the physical I have also worked to learn a lifetime of horse information in 24 months. I am very envious of people who learned how to care for a horse, first aid, health issues, tack, nutrition, and all that goes with being around horse at a slow natural pace. I however took the accelerated course. I have devoured many books, I have read articles on line, I have gone to clinics, I have watched others any chance I get. I made it work.

Nothing about the last two years has been easy, but I know I have also never given anything I have done more of my heart and mind. For any short fallings I can blame myself for, it is not for lack of trying.

I surrounded myself with amazing people!!!!

I am a big believer that it isn't about knowing everything, it is about knowing who to go to for what you don't know. And I have been surrounded by some truly great horse people these two years. I have had a riding coach/horse trainer who from day 1, moment 1, has believed in me (far more than I often did), who has seen past my physical issues and my fears, and has never given up on me. People cross our path for a reason, and Etta being the instructor I had at Woodloch on day 1 was beyond fate. On day 1 she told me there was a cowgirl inside me somewhere, she saw it long before I did. And every day since she has been there, through 100's of riding lessons, with pep talks, with a helping hand and with more patience than should be possible. It has also been a blessing how out of the box she can be. We have had to find mounting solutions for me that aren't the norm, we have had to work with my horses at learning new cues, we have had to accommodate my body in different ways, but never once has Etta given up until we solved it. She has allowed me time for extra lessons, for brainstorming and the occasional melt down and panic attack. She was the one standing at ring side at the shows last year telling me each time I went by that I was ok, that the judge hadn't seen whatever bobble I was freaked about, who knew what fear I was fighting without saying it and had a solution ready.  I have never had to be anything with her but me, and that is rare in my life. Probably her greatest gift to me was finding me my great riding partners, both with finding Joker to lease (again she knew that was the right answer before I was willing to hear it) and now with my new horse B'sheret, her great judgment has been my key to success.

Woodloch Stables, where I board, was also part of fate. This is an amazing facility, which was built on the concept that teaching comes first and foremost. The owners are hands on and always ready to help out, the barn crew has been there to answer my incredibly stupid questions (the first week I leased Joker Geneva got asked more than once "Is this the right horse") and I have never asked another boarder for help and not had 5 come running. It is a special place. I also love that it is a place for normal people...all ages, all sizes, all abilities, all riding interests and disciplines, everyone belongs. When you are new, scared and pretty insecure that matters. To have found this all from a LivingSocial coupon still leaves me dumbfounded.

One other person I really have to thank is Joker's owner Jessica. She took a big chance on me 20 months ago. She was trusting someone incredibly new to horses with her baby, when I decided I wanted to show she was there cheering us on and she has been this amazing teacher and source of stability as I weaved my way through learning to take care of a horse. She never laughed at me when I checked with her on little bumps and bruises, she taught me how to roll with it when it was scarier issues and has never once made me feel inadequate or self conscious about my lack of knowledge. I have learned so much leasing from Jess that I will try to carry forward with me owning my own horse.

I can't leave out my personal trainer Nick either. For me learning to ride and working on my riding has never stopped when I leave the barn. Just like Etta Nick has had to come up with some really creative answers for how can we turn what we do in the gym together into a benefit for my riding. We have used exercise balls as horses, we have worked on stretching and strengthening muscles that were a problem, we have frozen on morning jogs. Never have I asked for help with something riding related and been turned away.

I also am blessed with an amazing group of friends, local, across the world and via social networking, who have trotted along with me for two years. And that circle has been greatly expanded with horse friends. You all celebrate with me on the good days, and patch me up on the bad. For someone who doesn't have much family interaction, this support is invaluable and has gotten me through this crazy roller coaster of a journey.

I have had stellar riding partners!!!!

From Snapper on day 1 to B'sheret beginning next week I have been blessed with great horses. Snapper, Cheyenne, Cody, Kola, Joker, Wiley and most of the school horses at Woodloch. Each taught me something, both about riding and about myself. Each worked with me with my body and my different ways of riding. They have been patient, helpful and just plain fun. Their time in my life ranged from hours, to days to months, the longest obviously being my best friend Joker at 20 months, but not one of them will ever be forgotten. They each made me the rider I am today and are part of me. They have been my teachers and my therapists. None less than Joker.

I could not have asked for a better teacher these last 20 months than Joker. He quickly learned my body and always figured out how to work with me. From him waiting patiently and letting me balance on him while walking through a muddy or snowy pasture to get him, to working his heart out to stay underneath me when my own body wasn't stable, to all those hours of me learning to jog for showmanship, one step at a time. He has truly been my angel. And I have to admit the thought of moving on from him is incredibly bittersweet for me. I am moving on to a new riding partner, but I have a feeling a big chunk of my heart will stay with my big brown buddy. He and I shared so many of my firsts, and no matter how many horses are in my future, he will always be the horse who made it all happen.

Next week I start a new chapter in my life, I bring home to Woodloch MY first horse, B'sheret (which btw means destiny, fate, or meant to be in Hebrew) and I know the time will continue to fly but this first two years will never be replaced. I have worked harder than I ever thought possible, I have given all I had, and I am pretty damn proud of myself for how far I have come! I can't wait to see what comes next.