How a Chunky Appaloosa Changed My Life
When I was freckled face 8 year old, I decided horses were my thing. I blame it on The Black Stallion. And Black Beauty.
I didn’t live on a farm, I lived in the burbs. I didn’t come from money, I was raised by my grandparents who were on a fixed income. But I begged, and I begged, and I begged. And thanks to a kind and gracious family member, I got those riding lessons. And they changed my life. (Said every horse person – EVER.)
On a warm sunny summer day, my Mom took me to have my first lesson. As I chattered away in excitement, Mom checked me in then off I raced to the riding ring where all the other kids were waiting to get started. The instructor was an intimidating gruff, tan and wrinkled old man. He pointed those weary eyes at me hand me a halter and told me to go get Shasta. “Where’s the stall?” I asked. Pointing over my head, he said “Over there”. Well that was helpful. Not. I thought.
As I walked toward the barn, I was a bit terrified… because I had no idea how to put a halter on. I’d never been around horses. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do.
But I kept my mouth shut, found Shasta – who was a big, chubby chestnut and white Appaloosa mare and tried my best.
Shasta was a very patient horse, not that I appreciated that THEN. She never fussed with her head as I tried to figure out what was up and what was down with those pieces of nylon straps going in all directions. She never shied away as I grabbed on her neck to pull her head down for the 10th time and tried again…and again…and again. My 8 year old brain was saying over and over, “every idiot knows how to put on a halter!”. I felt so angry, frustrated and stupid.
After what felt like for-EVER, I was about to give up. Then Mr. Grumpy Trainer came to find me. In a timid voice I explained I didn’t know how to get the halter on. I don’t remember what he said, it wasn’t unkind, but it was short and to the point. He didn’t talk, didn’t show me how to do it, he just did it. As he headed off to the tack area, with me following behind, I vowed I would GET this.
That one feeling-like-an-idiot moment changed my life.
Because instead of whining and saying “I can’t do it!”, I watched exactly how he put that stupid halter on, and I never had to be shown again. I wanted to learn to ride with every fiber of my being, and nothing, NOTHING was going to stop me. Not even feeling like an idiot because I didn’t know how to put a simple halter on a horse.
Experiencing what seemed like such a difficult moment in my 8 year old life set me up to succeed in life. I know it did or Spirithorse Designs wouldn’t be here today.
Because it takes determination to succeed.
That’s why I am thankful organizations like Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy exist. They give people the opportunity to experience not only physical healing through riding, but to increase their confidence, dignity and self-esteem. Exactly the same lessons Shasta taught me. We need more of these programs in the world and I am happy to be able to support them in some small way.
Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy (HETRA) is our May #SpirithorseGives organization.
Located in Gretne, Nebraska, HETRA has supported their community for almost 30 years. Their wide range of programs, from therapeutic riding and services to Life Skills and Horse Camps, HETRA is helping a tremendous amount of people.
Remember, even a donation as little as $1.00 per person helps them, so donate today! They need us.
What about Shasta you ask?
Well, she had a lot more to teach me in that 6 week riding camp. I’ll share more of her lessons in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned!
Until then…tell me in the comments below, what did your first horse teach you? I’d love to hear!
Live kindly – Love freely – Ride Always.