Sunday, August 14, 2011

Follow in My Footsteps

Kidlette Takes A Big Step

My daughter is a talented, kind, intelligent, young woman. That being said she is also a willful, stubborn, opinionated, little flower child, determined to find her own path in this world and to pick the rockiest, hilliest path she can possibly try to conquer.

Not that I wanted her to dive into a career based on a reliable, solid income, health benefits and retirement, I just hoped the one she chose would have those things. Sigh.

It is beginning to look like she's heading into the world of horse training. As she grew up riding and helping in our little training business I never thought she would end up deciding to take it on.

You'd think lying on a cot in the tack room, in flu induced misery, with a space heater and sleeping bag to ward off her chills because I still had to work no matter how sick she was, would have been enough. Or napping on a saddle blanket in the corner of our very dusty indoor late at night while I rode, "...just one more."

"I will never do this for a living," she would proclaim as she loaded horses at 4 am.

"This totally sucks," she would mutter as she hauled manure out of stall after stall.

She worked and rode hard and grew up in an odd world of wealth and poverty. Her friends were well-to-do kids, either clients, children of clients or the kids she ran with at the horse shows. they had money, often lots of it, and had access to a caliber of horse she could only dream of.

Being the daughter of a cow horse trainer who only reached the middle of the pack at the height of her career, she dealt with years of sleeping in a rusty rattle trap trailer, competing against highly trained kids on highly trained bridle horses on her little foundation snaffle bitter. It was hard on her in a lot of ways, but good for her too. She became tough and detailed oriented and one heck of a hand.

When she faded out of horses and began to grow into a new life invested in social awareness and good times, I worried about her, but not as much as I would have if she decided to apprentice with a trainer and head off to the pro circuit.

She kept the first colt she trained herself from nose to tail and enjoyed him as a saddle horse. I was glad she still loved her horse and happy she still liked to come ride with me. I envisioned a life for her filled with travel and adventure, college, children and health insurance.

Not too many months ago she burst my little mommy bubble into so many soap suds.

"Mom, I miss riding colts."

"Yeah, I miss it too," I muttered, acting for all the world like I didn't know where this was heading.

"I'd love to lope a few for somebody."

I  stayed quiet, hoping the whole line of conversation would simply evaporate. If you know the kidlette you would understand she is not one easily swayed when she grabs onto an idea.

"Can you think of somebody I could lope for? Mom?"

"You'll lose your non-pro status."

"I don't care. It's not like I can afford to show. I'm just like you, the only way I'm going to get back into showing is if I'm riding somebody else's horse."

So off she went. She began riding colts for Jay, the man who owns my barn. Things went all right. I hate to say it, but they went too all right.

"Man, that little girl of yours can ride," Jay told me.

"Yes she can."

Didn't she remember when she actually got chill blains on her skinny little legs working during a particularly brutal winter? How about working your heart out for  a client or their horse only to be dismissed without a thought when somebody newer, better or selling the latest snake oil swept them away?

Was she forgetting the late nights figuring and refiguring how to pay the rent and buy groceries AFTER the hay bill was paid? The years of never knowing from month to month what our income would be? What about trying to squeeze in just one more rank, sorry, bullet headed piece of junk backyard stud colt in order to pay for fuel to the next big show?

What part of, if you get hurt you will have no job, therefore, no income, a huge hospital and HEY! NO BENEFITS did she not understand?

Was I a little freaked? Yeah, a little.

When I poured out my fears to a very wise woman I know I was surprised at her reaction.

"What a great legacy to have her choose to follow in your footsteps!"

"My crookedy broke down and broke bowlegged footsteps..." I grumbled.

"She grew up watching you fight to follow your passion, you've made her want to try to do the same."

"But it didn't work, I didn't succeed."

"Maybe that isn't how Kidlette sees it."

Then my daughter tells me about a horse she was asked to work. It's a filly who has been tied out, tied down, thrown to the ground, tarped, you name it, it's been done to her. Nobody has gotten through to this horse.

Jay recommended her to the filly's owner because of the quiet way she has with a youngster.
He told her he likes the way her colts work for her because  what she wants makes the most sense for everybody and the horses try so hard for her.

"I've been thinking about the word 'horsemanship,'" she said. "It's like the word relationship. Except with man and horses. Until you establish a relationship with each horse you can't trust them and they can't trust you.

I think that's why you need groundwork. to begin a working relationship between me and my colt that will last through the training period."

Oh my God, she can do "trainerspeak."

"But you can't do it all on the ground," I replied, "horses who do tricks on the ground but can't be ridden, they're only relationship is a bad one."

"Duh mom. I'm talking about just enough groundwork to establish myself and get a rhythm going. Give me a break."

Aha, there's my kid. I have to admit, I love talking horses with my daughter. I love watching her mind whirr and click as she sorts out the different possibilities of each horse. I'm impressed with her solid hands, amazing seat and bravery.

I don't know if she'll stay with horse training. It's a big world out there and its calling Kidlette.While training I learned patience, the logic of sequential thinking, and the value of a rock solid core. I gained and lost incredible friends, learned more about people than I wanted to, and was able to raise my daughter and still work.

I learned about braggarts and witnessed extreme humility. I have watched incredible acts of cruelty and amazing kindness. I was able to spend time on the road with my daughter and forced her to listen to "Samba Mia" for countless miles.

So I guess I wish her well. I hope she finds her passion. I wish to hell she'd get some health insurance.


  1. Go Kidlette!

    I think you have to look at it this way Mugs: you've only got one life, may as well do what you want with it. If horse training was so hard, why didn't you get out of it? You could be a successful real estate agent by now, with benefits et al.

    Get Kidlette onto a health care plan, smack her on the head and open the door.

  2. This is precisely why we needed healthcare reform. So our kids could pursue all their lame brained, crazy, nutso dreams.

    Just like us.

    Well, some of us.

  3. Looks like it's in the genes. Good luck following your calling Kidlette! If only health insurance was not such a necessity. I agree with Breathe.

  4. Ohhhhh.... I relate. So far my girl only loves horses as a hobby so no worry there (other than the obvious cash drain she faces in the future) BUT it looks like she's going to be a photographer. And not the kind working for a newspaper. She wants to photograph rock stars.

    With he dad barely making a living recording musicians and her mom sort of not making a living teaching riding lessons and not earning a cent writing, yeah, we had a small hope that our kids would get into something steady and reliable. Also his mysterious concept called "benefits" so they could see a dentist once a year instead of every five years. (without good ol' Canadian government health care I can't imagine how we'd get to the doctor.)

    Here's the thing: some of us can't do it. We can't follow the rules and work the way responsible people do. The thought of being in a building being told what to do darn near sends me into a panic. Not wired to fit in on the job. Not a team player. Would I love to have a steady job with a regular paycheque? Yep. I've tried it and didn't last cuz I quit before I got my ass fired.

    Wish I had advice for you. At least she knows what she's getting into. Th good and the bad. I am encouraging mine not to get into the entertainment industry but guess what ? We helped the girl buy her first SLR camera and she's already got two album photo credits. The boy has a recording assistant credit. Maybe it's a curse. I don't know. Some of us just have to do things the hard way.

    We haven't been good at budgeting and keeping track of our money so I tell the younguns to study up on that.

    Besides there's no such thing as a steady job. A factory in Stratford is shutting down next summer leaving 300 people out of work. That place has been going since the 40s or something. No such thing as job security. Might as well learn how to live frugally and wisely and do what you're cut out for and train horses or make music or write fiction or take pix of impoverished musicians.

    I wish the best for her. And you!

  5. Then, there's also a different perspective: My daughter HAS a steady, well-paying, excellent benefits career, and has been at it long enough to have pretty good job security. BUT (and this is a big *but* for her mom) she's in law enforcement--she's a cop! She gets spit on by drunks, sworn at by crooks, and SHOT at by weirdos. Give me a horse trainer any day.

  6. Anon..You're funny, if I had a health plan she'd be on it.

    Heidi- Yup,some of us are not meant to be in an offfice. I'm a baaaaad employee.

    Evensong- good point.

  7. I hope Kidlette knows how much her mom loves her and is proud of her. Lucky kid.

  8. As a former horse-crazy kid, now horse-crazy adult, I applaud Kidlette. Kudos to you too, for raising such a strong, capable daughter. Best of luck to her in her chosen career. At least you know she has no illusions about the "glamour" of the show circuit and the amount of effort, sacrifice, and luck needed to stay above water in the horse world.

    I have a career, a six-figure salary, a mortgage, health insurance, and my own horses in my backyard. Horses I barely find time to run a brush over after I clean their stalls. I haven't ridden in two years, because of my two horses, one is blind and one is geriatric. I love and enjoy them regardless, I love caring for them, I love watching them. I hope to be able to have the time and money to get a riding horse for myself next spring.

    I love and enjoy my job too. If I didn't, the 14 hour days wouldn't be worth any salary.

    I guess my point is that in trying to have it all, to have horses in my life, on a small farm, with the security of a career at the same time, I lost something. It feels like I leave my soul in the barn every night when I finally make myself go inside.

  9. I wish someone could tell me how to chose between what you love and what you "ought to" do for long term security! I have agonized over how to advise my kids. I chose the "secure" job (actually loved it at the time), but after 25 years of stress, hated it. My kids came of age as I became angry and bitter, they never saw the ecstatic phase. I want to tell them to follow their dreams, AND I want them to do something SAFE with a regular paycheck, healthcare, retirement as well! I have no idea how to balance these needs. With my kids, I take great comfort in the fact that they wouldn't listen to a thing I would advise here anyway, so my confusion doesn't matter! I totally agree with Breathe, I would love to live where everyone had healthcare, and deciding to grow organic veggies or train horses didn't mean not being able to go to the doctor, or worse, your kids or loved ones not being able to go.

  10. Haha Mugs I forgot you have crappy US healthcare to deal with and not good'ol 1st world free public health with optional and affordable private health to top it off...
    You poor buggers

  11. What bigger compliment is there? With the economy the way it is, jobs and health insurance can poof in the blink of an eye. That being said, what about something like a school cafeteria job? (stigma, I know). It may not be a high paying, coveted position, but you would be hard pressed to top the hours, time off, and amazing benefits package. I'd call it the perfect job to work around so she can "horse around". I'm an interpreter for the public schools and you can't beat the work schedule with a stick (even though I'm bummed to be going back to work this week after a lovely summer with the horses ;o)

    Although I understand your concerns (I'd have the same), I have to add that there is nothing better than doing what you love and loving what you do.

  12. Yes Anon, tis true, I'm from the land of health care only for the wealthy and the conformers.

  13. Mugs - I'm in the insurance industry although not traditional medical and I admit I haven't looked into prices much lately. I also know making money as a trainer is difficult enough, but have you ever looked at large deductible individual plans to cover at least big bills/emergencies? Kidlette might even be able to set up a tax free health savings account to save up the deductible and have a write off for the income she saves. All this of course is moot once the exchanges go into effect in a few years if they manage to pull it off but its nice to have a safety net when you have a dangerous job where you could end up hurt.

  14. Oh, and that being said, I noticed that your family wears glasses too. I get a pretty rockin discount through my company I can offer to friends if you ever need it. Our network is primarily private practice so you'd have to compare the savings vs. going to a big box store like Costco but if you're ever interested feel free to let me know.

  15. Fyyahchild- you are so cool. thank you! Yes we are definitely glasses wearing folks.
    I like your insurance ideas, I'll pass them on to Kidlette.

  16. "Icarus"
    by Edward Field (b. 1924, poem 1950)

    Only the feathers floating around the hat
    Showed that anything more spectacular had occurred
    Than the usual drowning. The police preferred to ignore
    The confusing aspects of the case,
    And the witnesses ran off to a gang war.
    So the report filed and forgotten in the archives read simply
    “Drowned,” but it was wrong: Icarus
    Had swum away, coming at last to the city
    Where he rented a house and tended the garden.

    “That nice Mr. Hicks” the neighbors called,
    Never dreaming that the gray, respectable suit
    Concealed arms that had controlled huge wings
    Nor that those sad, defeated eyes had once
    Compelled the sun. And had he told them
    They would have answered with a shocked,
    uncomprehending stare.
    No, he could not disturb their neat front yards;
    Yet all his books insisted that this was a horrible mistake:
    What was he doing aging in a suburb?
    Can the genius of the hero fall
    To the middling stature of the merely talented?

    And nightly Icarus probes his wound
    And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn,
    Constructs small wings and tries to fly
    To the lighting fixture on the ceiling:
    Fails every time and hates himself for trying.
    He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically,
    And dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero;
    But now rides commuter trains,

    Serves on various committees,
    And wishes he had drowned.

  17. And now to chase that poem (my favorite poem) with a dose of reality:

    Hospitals will sometimes settle on large bills. You have to play a little hardball with them, but they will. I've seen them settle for as much as .20 cents on the dollar.

    You're a great mom, Mugs :)

  18. Becky, thanks for the great poem post. Forgive me Mugwump for weighing in AGAIN, but your daughter has your genes, horsaii they are. She also has your heart, even though she will snark with you to the death. She has seen and heard your experiences. Give her time. She is young. Maybe the dice will fall differently for her in the horse world. Maybe she will decide to be a Wall Street trader and get rich doing nefarious schemes. (See, it could be worse, much worse.)Maybe she will do as Jen suggested, and find a secure day job to fund her equine dreams. She is choosing for love and following her passion. It is a validation of your choices in the past. Despite all the hardships, there were always the horses and that must have made it worthwhile. Do not feel like this choice is a permanent one, she is young and capable of doing a 180 on a dime. It's better than chasing after some male human dirtball, and how many young women hose themselves doing that? If I were you, I would be struggling not to have a smug smile on my face. Just remember, you cannot advise her on this horse business, you being her mother and all.
    And many conformers have lost their jobs and their healthcare in this economy. There is little security, and they can't tax happiness.

  19. have succeeded...

    Think of all the lives you have touched, people who are also following in your footsteps, horses you have helped, with this blog alone.

    Kidlette is right to be very proud of you! You are one cool lady!

    Thank you for helping me & my horses!


  20. I know things are different in the states Mugs, but let her fly.

    Im sure it scared my parents to death when I moved 1000km from home to pursue my dream with horses. But if I hadn't of done it then I wouldnt have been able to do it now. She has all the time in the world to grow up, let her live her dream.

    I dont know what I would have done if I hadn't taken my oppertunity when it came. And now I will never be able to do it again. Let her enjoy it while she can.

  21. Hey Mugwump, like your daughter I'm looking to train horses. (Not necessarily starting them so much as helping "problem horses".) I know enough to that I know a fair bit but it isn't enough. I live fairly close to your area and was wondering if you could recommend anyone to me. I am a hard worker looking to learn. (Be it lessons, apprenticeship or anything in between.)

  22. Mugs

    Hoping it's really you "over there"...two blogs with awesome would that be!

    As the mom of two 40+ year olds my advice is to let them find their own way and be there to congratulate them on their choices or to pick them up and help them start again

  23. Mugs I buy my glasses through CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP! They only last about 2 years but no complaints at $10 a pair!! All you need is your script which your eye doc will give you for free (technically you own it). Or my hubby just had a new appointment for about $50 without insurance got the script and then bought glasses there. Takes a couple weeks for them to show up which is a pain but again, can't beat the price!