If it’s true what they say about being lucky to have one or two good horses in your lifetime then I have been truly blessed. I look back over the past +30 years that I’ve had horses and can count many as my special friends. Even the “problem children” have a spot in my heart and I’m grateful for them, they taught me to be a better rider, problem solver, and I’d like to think, a better person.
My all-time favorite horse is my 28 year old Arabian, Nacho. I’ve spent the last 20 years with him and he’s carried me many miles. From endurance, hunting, showing, team penning, working cattle, to trail riding, we’ve tried it all. We got him from a show barn, as a “crazy Arab burn out” who after 5 successful show years, now couldn’t even be ridden without cow-kicking and laying down. His future wasn’t bright and he was destined for auction. It broke my heart that he was being so callously tossed aside after he just wouldn’t perform to the standards anymore. After some much needed rest, we hit the trails and never looked back. Oh, the obstacles we had to overcome! He’d never been out on the trail, wouldn’t cross water, didn’t know how to navigate even the smallest ditch and I often wondered “what have I gotten myself into?” After spending two hours at a small ditch that you could just step across, he finally just put his nose down, sniffed, and stepped across. Really?? But because I was patient and waited instead of fighting and forcing, we set the stage for everything else he’d encounter on the trail.
He began to enjoy the new challenges and look forward to every trail ride. We found his true love in being a trail horse and he quickly got to where he’d load himself on the trailer at every opportunity, ready to go! Over the years, our partnership developed and he blossomed into my “go to” horse instead of my biggest challenge. Trail riding has been so much a part of my life, that my husband and I were married on a trail ride, on our trusty mounts (yes, Nacho was my guy!). He’s my best buddy, my partner, and he’ll always be the horse that all the others are measured by.
I had the opportunity to take our horses up to our local church recently for a function, to provide “pony rides”. It was on a weeknight, I’d worked all day, and was tired. Everything that could go wrong while we were getting things ready to go, did. Two horses had found a way out of the fence and disappeared, the truck was not facing the right way, the weather was not cooperating, and I was late. In my haste, I forgot brushes, mounting block, helmets, you name it, I forgot it (at least the horses were on the trailer); we’ve all been there, right? I hop on the phone, and one of my dear friends (whom I’ve roped into coming to help) brings the missing articles from her barn, and we’re off to the races. If you’ve never had dozens of sugar-crazed children, dressed in costumes, charging at your horses in the twilight, give it a try…talk about desensitizing! I watched my old Arabian, drop his head and patiently wait for the children to untangle themselves from around his legs and pet him; the look of a wise old man was so apparent. Humbled, I forgot my impatience and embraced the moment, and was able to enjoy the obvious delight of the children to be around the horses. Talk about a wonderful night…all because my horse showed me what I should be doing and what was important.
Our horses can teach us so much if we take the time to listen and learn. I truly believe many of life’s lessons can be learned around your horse. I don’t subscribe to any one clinician’s philosophies, but wholeheartedly believe that if you find a way to communicate with your horse, work hard to keep the communication going, that together you’ll develop the most incredible friendship and relationship you’ll ever experience. It’ll touch your soul and you’ll never be the same.
Although he’s mostly retired now, he’s still the horse that’s always at the gate with kisses, softly blowing in my ear, nuzzling me and wrapping his neck around me. Occasionally, we’ll saddle up and take a quiet, easy hack along our beautiful trails and we’ll both be reminded of the trails we traveled and the sights we’ve seen together. I encourage you to develop the partnership with your horse to be all that it can be and remember that your relationship with your horse can be one of both teaching and learning and it’s not just about riding, but life that are the lessons to be learned. Get out and learn! See you down the trail!