Friday, May 29, 2009

Changing Hats by Janet Huntington

My life with horses has taken dramatic twists and turns. I have jumped through hoops to keep them with me and have always felt the sacrifices were worth it.

I have had some wonderful horses in my life, some through success in the show pen, some through success in simply helping me become a better person.

Even the imaginary horses I rode as a wild little girl helped me grow. Watching the beautiful black stallion who ran with our car on endless family road trips not only kept me from getting car sick. He also fueled my imagination and fed into the stories I made up as the miles flashed by.

That imaginary black horse taught me patience and helped me develop an iron bladder that I still maintain today.

My first horse, Mort, unlocked the desire to train and a fierce sense of competition. He also gave me my first sense of responsibility. If I didn't work he didn't have hay. If I didn't come to feed him, he didn't eat. If I forgot to fill his water he didn't drink.

He was my entry into the basic elements of adulthood. Food, drink, shelter.
I learned what the payback was for being solid in my commitment. A warm, silky coat under my hand, an incredible sense of power and strength when I raced my horse through the trees and a welcoming nicker as I walked up to feed my friend every day.

I have always been willing to make the trades that come with horse ownership. I rarely have new clothes, the Salvation Army and the Ark are my friends. I almost never take vacations or go out to eat. My cars are old and are rarely in the same decade as I am. I have a nice truck and a serviceable trailer though.

I raised my daughter with the same intensity I have with my horses. You would have to ask her if she appreciated it or not. Who needs quality when the kid is getting quantity?

I made my life work around her well being. When I first had to face the fact I would be raising her alone, she was four years old and had always been home with me. I got a job at a daycare and brought her with me to ease her transition into our new life. I stayed at the daycare until she was in the first grade, then I became a full time horse trainer. I took her with me.

If my daughter hadn't loved horses I probably would have done something else. As it was she got to spend her days with friends and a beloved old mare. My desire to learn kept expanding the level of my riding and the kind of horse I rode.

I changed barns five times in the progression of my career and I took my daughter with me. At one point in time she was being groomed to be the top in the horse show world. Her talent is immense and she was poised to jump.

I was proud and amazed to watch her surpass me in so many ways. But she stopped. The life wasn't for her. I was able to handle her pulling away because of what I had learned from the horses I rode. Patience, watching, silence and thought.

She had learned many of the same things. She was able to help me sort out the right and wrong of the horse show circuit. She helped me figure out what I really wanted and where I needed to go.

She made it clear she is happy with one little sorrel gelding. She would like to compete again, but only on the horse she loves. The most important part of owning a horse to her is watching her boy throw his head up and trot to the gate when he hears her car. His long happy nicker when he first sees her is all she needs.

So I have changed hats again. My daughter is grown. My world has turned upside down and I am no longer training. I write for a living now. Often about horses. I still sacrifice more than I should to give my horses the basics.

But I know the trade has been fair. I see the kindness in my daughter's face, the grace and strength in her movement and the goals she has set for herself in the world she in entering as an adult. I know it comes from what I've been able to give her and the lessons I've been able to share. It all comes from our life with horses. I wouldn't change a thing.


Laura Crum said...

What a great post. I hope my little boy learns the same things from our horses that your daughter did. I, too, have gone through some big ups and downs and major changes over the years and continued to hang on to my horses. And I totally agree that its been worth it. I hope I can stay the course with them until the end. They continue to bring joy to my life.

Albigears said...

The world would be a better place if everyone was able to prioritize like you. To figure out what's really important and then live your life accordingly. Working with at-risk kiddos from horrible backgrounds makes me really appreciate and be thankful for parents like you.

FD said...

Without horses, I'd still be honest and I'd still understand the value of hard work and the necessity for politeness - my grandparents saw to that.

But without horses I don't think I'd have learnt serenity, or to suffer fools (if not gladly then patiently) or have learned to love the simple gifts. Horses taught me humility, and how to take joy in people as well as animals and to treasure another's achievements as my own. They've made me a better person than I would have been on my own if I'm really truthful, and that's something I can't repay, only pass on.

HorseOfCourse said...

I have seen many timid and anxious 10-12 yo girls grow and earn confidence by being around horses. And some of them had problems in other arenas, but the stable was a place to relax, to feel the affection from the horses and to share it with other horselovers too. And your skill and experience with horses gave credit, not your looks. Which can be important to teenage girls.

There was actually a licentiate thesis made 2007 in Sweden, where the licentiate concluded that horsey girls grow up to be independant and successful adults. Interesting.

In any case I am very happy to see the joy our daughter gets from being together with her pony. Where it will lead in the end is up to her, just as with your daughter, Janet.
In the meantime I am happy for the experiences she gets, which she will bring with her in life.

Shanster said...

Congrats on raising a great daughter Mugs - lovely post!