If you’ve ever spent any time with me at all — or read my book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, you know two things about me. One is that the “smart woman” referred to in the title is most decidedly not me. And two, that I have done the unthinkable in the horse world.
I fell in love with a horse.
And worse, I’ve made a commitment to him that rivals the most dysfunctional marriage you can think of. And yet, I continue to search for that elusive “loose screw” in my love interest that makes him at once the best horse I’ve ever ridden and the worse nightmare a horse owner can have.
Oh yeah, this condition also makes me a trainer and clinician’s dream. For the time energy and money I’ve spend trying to fix this ranch gelding of questionable origin, I could have had a well-bred, good minded, push-button trained fill-in-the-blank pure breed.
And yet, I persist. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to sell my horse, Trace, I’d be a rich woman. Why do I stay in this situation? Well, it’s complicated.
For one thing, it is because of the struggles I’ve have with this horse that I’ve learned more about myself and people and horses than I ever could have imagined if he had been well-behaved. I never would have started watching those Clinton Anderson DVDs. And I would never have gotten to go to work as Clinton’s head writer, written his second book, Lessons Well Learned with him, and enjoyed one of the most fun, rewarding and getting-paid-to-eat-ice-cream (channeling Jo DiMaggio’s famous quote about getting paid to play baseball) stretches of my career. I never would have written The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses (if you haven’t read it, every chapter starts with a problem I was having with Trace and my efforts to solve it that led me into another world of horse issues, looking at these through the lens of a horse-obsessed middle aged woman) or met, spoke to, and conversed with hundreds of like-minded women about this horse thing that thrills us and drives us crazy as nothing else. In fact, if it weren’t for Trace’s contrary nature, I wouldn’t be writing this blog!
So there you have it. My horse seems to have worked himself into a job. And, for better or worse, I’ve just decided to roll with it.
There seems to be a line drawn between two camps of horse owners. On one side, there are those who view their relationship with their horse as a commitment. A for-better-or-worse journey of discovery. An unparalleled opportunity for self-discovery and learning that transcends self-help AND horsemanship.And, across the line, are those who view a horse as a thing that does or does not “fit your program,” as my friend Carol says. Carol shows at very high levels and has owned dozens of good horses. She has no trouble letting go of one that isn’t working for her. She loves her horses, takes meticulous care of them, and knows when to pull the plug. It really depends, I’ve come to realize, on what you’re after.
So, keeping these two camps — and the somewhat wavy line between them — in mind, I’ll be exploring in coming series of posts some of the more extraordinary things we do when our horse has, as a vet friend sometimes diagnoses, ADR (Ain’t Doin Right). Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you what you’ve done to solve a horse problem, especially against the advice of the “just sell him and get another one” camp.
On my upcoming posts on this topic I’ll be checking in with a holistic vet, an equine massage therapist, a cranial sacral therapist, and yes, an animal communicator. Stay tuned and happy trails!