Fat to Fit to First Level: Looking Back to Focus Forward

Progress is so important — but equally so is looking back and taking time for reflection. Esther Roberts rewinds back to when she and Kaliwohi first came into each other’s lives.

Holistic healers and indigenous peoples speak of how important it is, when one is on a journey, to take time periodically to pause and reflect. Like a half-halt for the heart, taking time to look back on how far one has come allows one to feel inspired, accomplished, and more confident.

It also gives you incentive to continue moving forward. This week, I am traveling for work and so Kaliwohi is getting a few days off.  Time to pause and reflect, if horses do that. Or maybe just loaf and nap, if they don’t.

I’ve heard it said that animals live only in the now. I think that is sublime, and something to which we can all aspire. Living in the now means we instantly forget every mistake and every hurt. This allows us to approach the very next instant (the next now) with renewed enthusiasm and hope. We don’t become jaded or complacent.

But even if Kiwi is incapable of recall and reflection, I remember enough for the both of us!

I remember the day in late winter, 2014, when I was perusing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website and looking at all the many American mustangs who had been captured off public lands and were available for adoption. Young ones, old ones, tall ones, small ones, horses of almost every possible shape and color and size. All wild. All captured. All needing homes.

Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

Among the myriad photographs was one picture. A young, tri-color paint. I wasn’t really looking for another horse at the time, but something about this colt’s eye really struck me. An “old soul” lived in that yearling frame.

BLM online auctions typically last several days. The minimum bid price for a mustang is $125.00. Bids go up in $5.00 increments. Like other online bidding sites such as eBay, you place a “maximum” potential bid and, as other bidders do likewise, you see the price rise. And, like eBay, the last few minutes of an open bidding can see prices rise sharply and quickly, and often with surprising outcomes as to the winner.

I followed my heart and registered to bid and placed an opening bid on “yearling gelding – horse #0323.” Horse #0323 had been captured from Muskrat Basin, Wyoming back in December 2012. According to BLM records, #0323 was foaled in mid-October, 2012. He was eight weeks old when he lost his freedom.

I was in Washington, D.C. at a conference for work on the final day of the bidding cycle. Others had bid on the soft-eyed bay yearling, and I was a nervous wreck. I raised my maximum bid to the highest possible level the BLM computer program would allow – a whopping $700.00.

And the minutes ticked by.

Finally, unable to sit still, I walked out of the conference into the posh hotel lobby. I refreshed my iPad every ten seconds to see how the bidding was going. I waited. I prayed.

The last refresh carried a new message: “Bidding is over for this animal.” Or something similar – I was too frazzled by then to recall the exact wording I saw at the time.

And shortly thereafter, I received an email from the BLM: “Congratulations. You have the winning bid for horse #0323.”

#0323 arrived at my farm a few weeks later. He was dirty and scruffy and not much to look at – at the time. But his eye was soft and I saw beyond the scraggly coat and rough edges.

I saw his potential.

I had faith in him.

Somehow, I knew this young mustang was absolutely perfect for me.

So I chose the Cherokee word, “Ka li wo hi” for his name, because it means “perfect.”

Kaliwohi spent the next two years building trust and learning ground manners. Despite his relatively calm demeanor, he has knocked me down, he has pulled away from me and the farrier working together to keep him still for his first trim, and he has fallen down and gotten stuck in the trailer from trying to back out so quickly.

Kiwi has also learned to stand quietly in cross-ties, lift each leg and hold it up, load, ride and unload from the trailer, and generally be a well-behaved four year old.

Reflecting on how far he has come gives me hope for me.

I was once a young, fit woman who never really had to think about carbs or stress management. As y’all know, for years I mishandled the stress by overconsuming carbs and fats with cookies and ice cream and pizza and all sorts of junk food.

These days, I realize both Kaliwohi and I have grown more refined in our behaviors. From one perspective, both Kiwi and I have lost our “freedom” – he the freedom to come and go as he likes; me the freedom to eat whatever I want without adverse consequences to my health.

For Kaliwohi’s part, instead of resenting his loss of liberty, he has adapted beautifully. He enjoys feeling safe and well-cared for. How do I know this? Because he willingly comes to me, even when I don’t have food or treats. He enjoys my company and I enjoy his.

For my part, instead of resenting the fact that I can’t have french fries or ice cream daily without gaining weight, I am learning to appreciate how much better and “cleaner” my body feels when I make healthy food choices.

I look behind me and see years of wasted youth, when I was so self-conscious I felt like I was never good enough. I allowed fear to dictate much of my behavior. And I buried my fear under layers of fat.

I look ahead of me and see a challenging road ahead. Forty more pounds to lose and hours upon hours of training time with Kaliwohi to reach First Level. And yet, like a seasoned mountain climber, I look behind us and realize we have come so very far in building our relationship. And I know the best is yet to come.

Photo by Patrick Murphy-Racey


Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.

Go Riding.

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