“It took me abandoning my own ambition to see what my partner really needed from me.”
It had never, ever, in a million years, been my intention to star in my own equestrian-themed Lifetime Movie wherein a girl meets and falls in love with a difficult wild horse wrangled into captivity from her desert home, and as the two slowly build their partnership, it becomes clear that only this girl, and this girl alone, can tame the mighty beast!
So romantic. So stupid. So impractical. So inconvenient. Unequivocally the story of my life.
In another place and time, what my fledgling eventer desperately needs is to be completely deconstructed and rebuilt with sound and sane principles from the ground up by a genius professional. But that place and time just isn’t now, and as a horse person devoted to the craft and my horse’s happiness, that’s incredibly hard to accept.
So here I am, 37 weeks pregnant, and stuck with a horse who has had to fall out of work at the same rate as me. At first it was unendingly frustrating, depressing, and left me dripping in guilt as I watched years of muscle tone slough off, and put giant x’s through the show dates on my barn calendar. I felt like choosing parenthood had meant condemning Itxa to a wasted year of life.
And then I remembered that horses don’t have goals, people have goals for horses. It took me abandoning my own ambition to see what my partner really needed from me.
Itxa doesn’t keep a calendar. She doesn’t have a career bucket list. What makes Itxa’s life full is food, positive relationships with other horses and people, sufficient stimulation in and out of her living space, and positive training and experience to ensure she’ll never be a “useless” horse with no value. And to be perfectly frank, not all of these were things I’d been able to give her even at my very fittest non-parently self. There have been many times where despite all the attention to nutrition, comfort, turnout and training, my horse was still very dissatisfied with her life as an aspiring event horse.
She LOVES to be pointed at a thing and asked to jump it. She LOVES a good puzzle, and trying to figure out what she’s being asked to do. But in between those bright spots, even the simplest tasks of picking out hooves or being asked to ride a deep corner has elicited tail swishing, teeth grinding, ear pinning, and endless irritation. (And yes, she’s been thoroughly vet checked to rule all these behaviors out as symptoms of pain.)
Interestingly, in semi-retirement, a lot of that irritation has dissipated. This summer has been a good reminder for me that Itxa has had about as much stability and tranquility in her five years of life as an unruly foster kid: a year living feral on the plains, a few months in a negative adoption experience, a year in the inmate training program, BLM holdings pens in between all that, and then two years trying to be reformed by an ambitious, well meaning, but amateur equestrian.
I think a whole lot of her life story was not an awesome experience for her, including the chapters with me. She doesn’t always trust me and rarely trusts others (the feeling is mutual), but I think this time spent working and goofing off on the ground has reminded us both that we are friends first and co-athletes second. I’m actually incredibly glad that my current condition has taught us that, and I hope it helps me make the right decision for her when the time comes to get back in the saddle later this summer.
Mutually losing our muscle tone and crossing show dates off the calendar this spring was probably the best thing that could have happened to my relationship with my mare, but I never would have guessed it back in April.
More than any other personal equestrian goal I have for myself, I know that my next major mission is to help Itxa enjoy her work, and continue to push our relationship from enjoying each other to trusting each other. Starting with hula-hoops. More on that next week.
Go Riding. (In my honor, since I can’t.)
Lorraine has been a regular contributor to Horse Nation since its inception in 2012. Her non-horsey but awesome husband Dan, her 5-year-old BLM mare Itxa, Australian Shepherd Rev, and stupid cat Jeoffrey live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Utah. They are stoked to invite another human into the Zoo in July, 2015. And because she gets this a lot, her horse’s name is pronounced EEE-chah, and yes, horse show announcers and organizers can and should hate her for her terrible horse name choices. See more of the family’s equine adventures and beyond on Instagram, @lorraine.jackson