Alexis shared a glimpse into three horses which shaped her life in the horse world.
I spend most of my days chasing my two kids, trying to take care of all of our animals, making my best attempt to be a good mother and a good wife. I try not to let my mind wander away from the everyday routine, but once in awhile I catch myself drifting off into a memory. My memories of horses long gone, of horses that taught me more than any book or video ever could have.
Yes, there's something to be said about learning techniques from a more experienced trainer, but there's nothing in the world that can replace learning things first hand through trial and error. It gives you a better feel for your horse, not to mention strengthens your own reflexes and timing. There are some things that can't be taught--only learned. That sounds paradoxical, but it's true.
A long bodied, fat paint gelding taught me to FEEL the difference in a right lead and a left lead.
He was a heel horse, he was supposed to go in his left lead, it was ideal for a team roping horse. I was 9. I wanted to run barrels...to turn the first barrel on the right side of the pattern and be quick, a horse needs to be in his right lead. It wasn't easy, and even as young as I was, I did get frustrated. But through several summers of riding bareback, just spending time on my horse, I figured it out. It wasn't something that someone showed me, or anything that someone told me either. It just **clicked** one afternoon.
A long legged, long headed sorrel gelding taught me how to be humble.
I was riding horses for a good friend of mine, a gal with the trucks, trailers, horses and everything else I could only dream of.
I was mounted on horses that cost over five figures almost daily( a fortune to me!), I was in heaven!
A girl came by one day to show her string of barrel horses to the boss lady, and the boss lady wanted me to take a few of them through. She'd hurt her back recently, which was the cause for my present employment. I'd been there early that afternoon, and had looked through most of what had been brought in. There were only 4, and one stood out to me. He packed a famous brand on his left hip, it was known throughout the barrel racing world as the mark of a winner....my mouth watered. I already knew I wanted him for me, but didn't think there was any way my parents could afford him.
One by one, I took the horses through the pattern, boss lady watched, asked what I thought, then visited with their seller. We saved the one with the brand for last, I could feel my palms getting damp as I walked up to slip his bridle on. He was above and beyond anything I'd ever ridden; at least in my mind he was. Sort of like going from driving a go cart at home, to going to a big track and getting behind the wheel of a Nascar stock car. He was quiet, calm, everything felt good. He warmed up easy, went through the pattern as quiet as a lamb, then took my breath away when I took him through full speed. He was my dream horse...and then the other boot dropped. He had egg bar shoes on, was rumored to have navicular, and would occasionally duck the first barrel.
My parents did manage to buy him for me, and I never had a bigger reality check than I did after we owned him. I worked my butt off to get him in shape, to keep him sound, rode several hours a day, never left the barn it seemed. But when you have damaged goods to start with, it's hard to piece it back together. We'd do great for a few runs, then it would all fall apart again. His mind and his body had been pushed far beyond what he deserved. He tried, Lord knows he gave me what he could. I learned to recognize what was fair to ask of him, and what was just out of the question. He eventually went on to become a trail horse, then a kid's horse, both of which amazed me to no end. He was the definitive "point" in my life, the horse that taught me to step up and RIDE. Not train, not pick and pull and over analyze, but to swing a leg over and screw down...or get left behind.
A little blue blooded sorrel mare taught me one simple lesson....I don't get along with mares. End of story. Hers was another story of being exceptional, then being punished as a result of her excellence. When a previous owner realized they couldn't ride her, and couldn't sell her because of the issues they'd given her, they did something deplorable. The insured her sky high, tied her solid in a ramshackle trailer, then did their best to end her life. How she lived through it, heaven only knows. Live through it she did, despite their efforts.
She was distrustful, gorgeous, bred to the hilt, and a walking time bomb. The slightest things would set her off, she'd fly backwards and do her best to escape her present situation, no matter who or what was around. My dad and I managed to get past most of the snarls in her mind, I was able to compete on her a little. She just couldn't handle the pressures of hauling, no matter how careful we were she had a meltdown every trip. We sold her to a girl who was desperate to use her as a broodmare, only to find out a year later that she died in the process of foaling. It seemed like a cheated end for such a talented horse, but then again she was happier in that last year than she'd ever been. Turned out to pasture, no riding, no hauling, no fear. She taught me what type of horses I wanted to make, and reinforced the things I didn't want to put a horse through.
Those three horses are etched into my memory, they made me who I am today. My kids may never spend hours and hours in the barn the way that I did, it's their choice if they choose to or not. If I have to go to baseball or soccer games instead of rodeos, I'm OK with that. I will always hope in the back of my mind that they'll put down the ball or bat, and go pick up a halter instead. Dedication, perserverance, sure, sports can teach those things. Things that any kid can learn through trial and error on any given day.
The lessons learned from asking an 1100 pound animal to trust you implicitly, and being honored by earning that trust....that's something a kid can't learn from a ball.