I wrote a post on May 18 2008 about the bravest woman I know.
What has always impressed me the most about this woman is her determination. When I first met Peg the fear was so huge she could barely talk herself into trotting around an arena on an old, Steady Eddy school horse. She would talk to her horses in an eternal stream of nervous chatter as she road.
"OK, now trot Slowpoke, trot, there yougo, good boy, good boy, now trot, c'mon, let's go....."
Peg would freeze and go fetal over an unasked increase in speed, even at a walk, she would clench her reins in a panic if her mount turned his head to look at something.
Her problems weren't all in her head. She had an extremely screwed up back. The tension from her fear added to the stressed muscles in her back and she would end up a spasming mess.
She was extremely difficult to instruct. Not from her attitude, but because of her fear. Peg couldn't trust me enough to relax and do the exercises I knew would increase her confidence by increasing her balance.
She was so wrapped up in her fear she couldn't hear what I was saying half the time.
I have been known to run off students and clients. Sometimes I run out of patience. Ahem.
But not Peg. Because she is Horsaii. Through and through.
No matter how great her terror I could see the love shining through her eyes every time she went to tentatively pet her horse.
Nothing stopped Peg from coming to her lessons and trying again. I don't think she could have stopped if she wanted to.
So I buried my impatience as best I could and kept giving her the best I had.
I thought about Peg and her issues a lot and tried to have a plan every time I saw her.
Eventually I had to have two plans.
Because sometimes Maggie Z, the alter-ego, showed up instead of Peg.
If Maggie Z came to ride we could work on transitions. I saw soft hands and a rider who could get through a serpentine without going rigid and falling to the inside.
We could honestly evaluate Maggie Z's progress and where she was with her horses.
But then Peg would come back. After an agonizing amount of ground work she would finally climb up. We would walk her horse, often with me on the ground, around the small arena and talk. We talked about our kids, our jobs, maybe a little about the horses, but mostly not.
I got so I could tell who was getting out of the car. Peg or Maggie Z.
So I aways had two lesson plans.
Peg /Maggie Z and I went from dude horses to her own horses, to horses I helped her buy.
Peg stayed with me through three barn changes and countless adaptations of my training process and what I expected from my students.
Peg learned to explore options without me. She worked on her groundwork and studied the clinicians hard to figure out her place in the horse world. She studied folks I'm not particularly excited about (you thought I didn't know, ha!) and ones I liked. She started to hear me.
I pushed harder, Maggie Z got ticked and Peg cried.
She still came every week, month in, month out. Peg became my friend.
I liked Maggie Z too, which is a good thing, because she started showing up more and more.
Maggie Z started loping circles out in our huge unfenced slide track. She helped shag cattle when we were working cows. Sometimes Peg started her ride and stepped up to do the same, she was starting to feel brave.
Peg figured out that Cougar, the good ranch horse I had sold her several years before, was not only a good cow horse, but eventually, her friend.
She started to show. She started to place. She started to eye the reining pen.
Then I retired.
The client I worried the most about was Peg/Maggie Z.
But by now Peg knew she was Horsaii too. She knew she wanted to keep learning.
She ended up hauling out to whoever she could find with cattle for her to work. If they were good or at least good enough, she kept going. If they were bad she moved on. She started to go to local open arena nights the area clubs offered and got so she could work her horse in a crowd.
She ended up riding with Jeff and Gerrie Barnes at Barnes Ranch.
They are a couple of good teachers and Versatility Ranch competitors who run a straight up riding program.
Maggie Z has just bought a 17 year old well trained cow horse. I think this mare is exactly the right next step for her.
I think Peg is ready to fly.
This means we all can.