When I was 10 years old, my parents uprooted us from West Palm Beach, Florida, and I am certain that they threw a dart on a map to find our new home, which ended up being in Winlock, Washington. The home of the World's Largest Egg, the Winlock Cardinals,
Women Log Rolling Champions, one yellow blinking light, and 1,223 people. I went from Aqua Net big hair, Vanilla Ice, convertibles, and palm trees to muddy boots, chopping firewood and and the smell of cow manure, overnight. This was a huge change for me. I wrote my friends back in Florida explaining that our town was so "western" that there were horse-drawn carriages in place of cars, and people openly carried weapons. Of course this was a 10-year old's fib in hopes to get some attention. But it really wasn't all that far off. We did move to the old west, at least as far as my ten year old mind was concerned. This notion was solidified when I received a hatchet as my welcome present from my father, which was soon followed by instructions on how to split firewood.
Soon after, my brother Josh and I found ways to entertain ourselves that didn't involve going skating, and to the pool, mostly because this was not feasible for three reasons. First, there was no skating rink (this was 1990, that was the thing to do). Second, very few people could afford a pool, nor did anybody care about a pool when you live in a town where it is cold and rainy 95% of the year. Josh and I built tree houses, explored our 1.5 wooded acres, learned to shoot bee-bee guns, and mastered flying down our street (giant hill) on our bicycles with no hands.
Once we got into school, I made a few friends, which, if you are wondering, is very hard to do in a small town. Kids are not very happy about the new kid. In fact, I was dubbed "the new girl" for my first 3 years there. Anyways, I met another girl named Stephanie, who invited me to go ride ponies with her one weekend. I had never done this, but I was up for anything that made me a friend. We walked out to the pasture where Bourbon and Stormy lived, used some grain to bribe them into the barn, where we haltered them. I learned to saddle the pony and put his bridle on. Stephanie spent a few hours patiently teaching me how to operate the pony. I remember a lot of "pull left to turn left, pull both to stop and kick to go". It was simple enough, and I really enjoyed it. So the next time she invited me to spend time with her, I asked about riding the ponies. A few weeks had gone by of this need to ride, and according to her mother, I had ridden her pony more times in that time-frame than she had the entire year. I could tell Stephanie was getting irritated, she wanted to do something beside ride ponies, which I had no desire to do. I could have cared less about Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. I HAD A PONY TO RIDE!
One day Stephanie's mother called my mother to discuss my riding addiction. She offered me to go ride the pony without Stephanie, as long as we wouldn't sue her if the pony killed me. That was it. That little pony got plenty of miles, and I was getting a lot of practice on how to operate the pony and deal with the various situations that can arise.
Around this time, I made another horse friend, Lauren, and began following her around and spending inordinate amounts of time at her house. Lauren's mother owned an equestrian center. She put on horse shows and cared for at least 30 horses for a living. This was my dream life, and luckily they let me share several years of this time with them. Lauren's mother- Pam, was, and still is an amazing horse woman who had the patience to take me further in my horse knowledge and riding ability. Once I was confident enough, I started cleaning stalls to earn money. I started smuggling the weekly classified advertisements into my room and searching for horses for sale. I came across a 1 year old Arabian gelding for $250. He wasn't broke to ride. He was a very anxious breed, and was not what a 13 year-old girl needed at all. But I wanted him and there was no changing my mind.
I confronted my parents, with a plan. We had the space to put the horse, we just needed a fence. I had the money to buy the horse, I just needed permission. I had the drive and knowledge to train and care for the horse, I just needed the money. This is where my parents laughed at my ridiculous plan. But, they gave in. They saw the passion and commitment I was willing to put forth, and reminded me that everything horse related would be my problem, not theirs. That was fair, they knew nothing about horses. They stressed would not feed or water him, they would not clean his stall, or buck hay when it was time. They would offer me transportation to get what we needed and help out with costs. Soon after, we went to go meet Vision, my first horse. Don't judge the 13 year old version of me!
We brought him home a week later, and thus began my adventures of horse ownership. Vision has always had a very big place in my heart. He taught me so much about myself, my behavior, dealing with others and many other lessons that are often hard for teenagers to learn. Horses, to me, are spiritual animals whose presence, to me, is majestic. I can feel their pain, hurt, and love, as well as their desire to follow their instincts. I can see that fine line in their personalities that struggle between being animals that are preyed upon, and gentle giants who can only tolerate so much. To see more about my spiritual journey with these gentle creatures, please follow my blog.