I deeply appreciate the thoughtful and caring messages over that last few days. It means more to me than I can say. I swear I want to copy every response and pin it up on my wall. It's been very empowering to have such friends right now, when, frankly, I need them the most.
I want to share my friend with you too.
You remember Stephanie, right? She bought Cibolo, and recently had a serious fall.
She was there when I walked resolutely into the barn with my folder of information on each horse. I was broken hearted, so many of you in the comments have hit it on the head - kicked in the heart.
I was ready to give the paperwork to Donna. I had spent a day throwing out horse magazines, pulling down photos from all over, just looking at them rubbed salt in the wound that only seemed to be growing inside.
I knew I could sell both horses, even in this market. Morgans are rare around here and a buckskin would go fast. Lily has so much training and is now sound. Then it would be a matter of getting rid of everything else. This was where I was, what I was contemplating.
Because I felt that I couldn't keep doing this. I was putting the well being of my family at stake (i'm the bread winner, what if something happened to me?), that I was pouring time down a sink hole, that I had made no progress in my horsemanship after so many years. I was in a cyclone of disappointment in myself. Because I don't blame the horse. It's never the horse.
(Just to be clear, the spook wasn't a pain issue for Smokey. But he is spooking because of how inconsistent I get him out of his comfort zone. That's my theory, anyway. But we've ruled out pain as a cause)
So there I was, ready to walk away from this five year journey. It was this email made me decide to stop and give my mind and heart some time, maybe a month or two, to decide. Thanks to Stephanie for letting me include this in the blog.
Let me start off by talking about myself a little...
Currently, I'm suffering from the worst injury I've ever had, not to mention the worst I've had from a horse. I'd like to explain my confidence like my fractured humerus. The humerus is the second largest bone in your body, and apparently pretty damn hard to break. You're not born with your bones as powerful as they're ever going to be, but you slowly build them up as you grow (is this lame yet?). Much like confidence, self esteem, self worth, etc etc etc. It takes all these years to form, and just a split second for me to break it. I stayed away from the barn for a month. Not just because I was hurting from a broken bone, but because in all the years I've been riding I've never once had a fall this bad. My confidence is akin to my humerus at the moment. Severed, and taking far too long to heal. You can't fall without losing a measure of confidence. And I've taken a pretty major blow to mine. I'm really trying hard not to show any of this because to be honest, I'm pretty embarrassed by it. I'm crazy embarrassed that I lost my seat enough to fall, let alone break a bone. And every single time someone asks "What did you do to your arm?" something deep inside cringes and threatens to not come out of hiding anymore. I want to say something memorable, something fierce...and yet all I have is a cat and a spook.
So I took a month.
And you know what I did during that month? Absolutely nothing. My mood soured, focusing primarily on bad days at work and the ache in my arm. I browsed Craigs List, looking at horses I could never afford that had all the bells and whistles, training up the wazoo. Beautiful horses, all work and no funny business. And I kept thinking to myself...why on earth do I have a horse that would spook so badly? The would spook nearly every time we leave the barn, and go nuts on the trail with other horses. Why do I kid myself, thinking that I can train this horse to be one of those "perfect" horses. Who am I? What skills do I have that makes me any better than a second day rider?
But bones heal. Slowly...but they do. I've got a pretty nice angle to my arm now. Every couple of weeks I look at the x-rays, compare them to the ones before and think to myself "Wow, it WILL actually heal." Just like my confidence. It's pretty fragile right now, and another fall would surely send me to surgery. But what's the point of sitting by and waiting for something that's not going to happen unless I get off my ass?
All those horses I've stared at, drooled over...they started somewhere, too. And I guarantee they weren't perfect.
I feel like you and I are feeling something pretty similar right now. You took a pretty hard hit to your confidence, just like I did. Fortunately for you, there's no lasting physical damage. I'm not going to tell you thinking about giving it all up is a mistake, because that's for you to decide. Sometimes you need a break. But I will tell you to not make ANY sort of decision right away. All I can do is give you advise, and help you to feel sure about whatever decision you make.
I'm not giving up. It's pretty painful right now, and crazy difficult...but getting up there yesterday...I can't even describe it. Some little spark deep inside of me was set to a slow smolder again. It was scary to be up again, but it felt RIGHT. I don't know about you, but even just the smell of my horse makes life a little more bearable. And I forgot about that. I forgot about all the good times Cibolo and I have had together. The rides alone, the little accomplishments, the slow improvements. Those are mine. I did that. And I know you've done it, too. My fall feels like a monster in the room. Huge, scary...and just like the bogey man, that monster is going to grow as big as you allow it to. The more you focus on it, the more stifling the room is going to become until some point it's so enormous that there's no space to move at all. Suffocating, if you will, on the monster itself.
Or you can accept it. And the more and more you think about all the good times, the smaller that fear is going to become. It's always going to be there...and maybe it'll bite you in the ass every now and then...but the sooner you see it for what it is, the sooner it loses power.
Metaphors and analogies aside....Smokey is a wonderful horse. I've watched the two of you since you first started riding him. I can't believe the progress you've made and how much you've grown as a team. I've seen how happy you are with him, and how happy he is to be with you in return. He has a beautiful spirit and energy and is such a character. He never ceases to amuse me. And like one of the blogs you had before, I really think our horses can be a mirror image of ourselves. And he's you, Winter. Just like everyone around you expects you to be a pillar of self reliance, confidence, and perseverance...The same goes for Smokey. But no one can be that strong. This may be getting too in depth...maybe stepping over lines...I don't know. But from what I've seen, everyone around you relies on you. Your family, your work...Everyone expects you to just ooze perfection and wisdom and cool. But no one is that strong. Sooner or later, you need to just kick your heels up and run. Smokey is like this, too. He tries harder than most horses that I've seen. He tries to be perfect...and in that constant attempt at perfection, wears himself so thin that it snaps. Something snaps...and he loses everything. But that's not what makes him. A break down every now and then is pretty common (I do it).
I think before you make any sort of decision...you need to think. Horses, like people, aren't perfect. They have bad days, just like we do. No horse will ever be perfect, just like no human will. Smokey had a bad day, and so did you. And for that, I'm sorry. I wish there were never bad days...I really do. But even those "perfect" horses you can buy for $30,000 will throw a shitty day now and then. I sure as hell don't have a perfect horse. But I love him. I love who we are together...and the good times we have together are just that. Fantastic. We work together as a team...and slowly but surely, I know we'll get better. We may not ever be able to ride in a huge group of horses without dancing and sweating...but I'm going to try. Maybe one day it will all click together..maybe it won't. I don't know. And to be honest, it's still a bit frightening. But I want to do it. And I really hope you'll be there with me because I could really use a friend in all this. I love having someone to share the good and the bad with.
With this email in my heart, and tears in my eyes, I left for a trip to Washington for a week.
When I came back, the horse I found was nearly unrecognizable. It was that interaction that made me realize even more about myself and my journey with horses.
Which I'll explain in my next post.