Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The End of an Era

Sunset On The Ocean Stock Photography

It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. ~Roy Disney

When I was young, my dreams were huge. Dreams of an equestrian life, filled with accomplishments. Oh to be a child again. If you read my other blog, Argo's Journey, one of my recent posts talks about the scenic tour my life has been taking over the last 3 years. I have been re-evaluating my life and my priorities. I have been known to be stubborn at times to the point where I can become difficult to be around. Once I have my mind set, very little can possibly change it. With our impending move to Indiana for Jeff's work, I have again had to re-evaluate, what I had already evaluated several times in my mind.

For most of my life, I have enjoyed what I do. Horses have been a part of my life since I was 8 years old, for almost 30 years now they have influenced my life. I watched my first foal take her first steps 20 some years ago. I still remember that moment as if it were yesterday. She was a beautiful Arabian bay filly, with wonderful Bask bloodlines. Her name was Zarah, and she was such a thrill. At the age of 3, I put her under saddle. What a sight she and I were! My parents would have had heart failure if they had ever seen those first moments with me on her back! I was young though and incredibly stupid, and according to me, the best rider in the area. Yes, to be young again. Zarah and I eventually came to an understanding though after several months of arguing, fighting and forcing. I have learned so much since then. Zarah and I worked well together though in the coming year and she found a great home in Ohio to become a show horse. She did well for the most part once the holes in her training were shored up, and I was eternally grateful to the experiences and learning I received from the people who had her.

I have always sought to be a better horseman (woman). I might not have always realized it, but over the years I have always wanted a better way. I walked away from the horse show scene as a teenager disgusted by the antics of my competitors. I came back into it several years later for my own goals, testing myself and my horses against ourselves, not our competitors. That is the way I have kept it since then, for myself, Morgan and those I instruct. It has never been about the ribbon or the money for me, it has been about what I have done to improve me and the horse. I have often said if you are no longer having fun and it is starting to become work then you need to get out of it. I'm not saying I have not had disappointments, I have had plenty, but I never let them overwhelm me. I would work on what I could do better. I will not and have not subscribed to the mentality of "win at all costs". I want a sound horse at the end of the day. Sound of body and mind.

I have watched the horse industry evolve over the past 30 years, some of it good, some of it bad. I have seen good people slip into a place of forgetting about the horse and it being all about them. I included myself in that group at one time. I have also seen my fair share of liars and thieves in the horse industry. The greed of people never ceases to amaze me. What they will do to theirs or someone else's horses for the almighty ribbon and money. The current system of futurities puts undue stress and pressure on extremely young horses to excel at their event. A horse's spine is not totally developed until it is almost 6 years old, but yet look at any show, in any breed or discipline and you will see young two year olds performing at the lope/canter flawlessly. What damage is being done that won't show up till years later? And to what end? Some of you might have seen this recently on the internet, but for those who have not, Cleve Wells has been accused of abuse to a horse in training at his facility. I am not surprised by this. I have seen similar things go on. I have been there myself with IRS and a trainer who took a lot of my money and two months later a horse who was several hundred pounds lighter and not knowing much more than what she knew when she left me. Not as apparently abusive as what this horse has gone through, but abuse none the less, for what? The almighty ribbon and money, to push young horses to do things they physically and mentally are not capable of doing long term. Mr. Wells is not the only one here though, he just got caught. Across the country, this goes on daily, by reputable and not so reputable people. The horse industry is unfortunately filled with ill intentioned people though in all areas. When it happened to me, I could have sued, but that is not my way of doing things. I believe in experiences and learning from them. I commend the owner of the horse that was at Mr. Wells', for her perseverance and push for justice, she is bringing to light a nasty secret that has gone on for years. Horse owners as a whole I believe are good in heart. Then you have your unscrupulous people that will take others down because they are jealous, greedy, pompous, and ignorant and just downright mean. These types of people think they are above it all, that their actions will not have consequence. To these people I say, I hope it was worth it to you. One day you will look back at your life and maybe realize the pain and misery you have caused for your own selfish wants.

As I said before I have been on the scenic tour for a little while. With the impending move I have been forced to think what will I do in Indiana? I have moved my business 3 times now over 15 years. It's extremely hard to start all over again (insert whine). So I have decided I won't. The little scenic tour has made me realize what is really important, my family. Once we move, I will be officially out of the boarding and lesson business. I have been involved with horse people for so long now, that I don't know what I want to do when I grow up. I'm sure I will find something, but it will definitely be a change for sure. I have seen the gambit of people over the years. My horses have helped me to meet people that I am extremely proud to call friends. Unfortunately, though I have also met some of the most horrible people you could possibly imagine. Over the last decade I have seen way too many people become part of the "Me" society, where it is all about them. They never take responsibility for anything, they feel they are entitled, and they have no moral compass. I see it in children and in adults. I see people looking for the "magic pill" to fix their woes, taking from others when they have not worked to achieve it. This has pretty much helped make my mind up about not starting over again. It's emotionally draining to try to sort the good apples from the bad apples. I want to focus on making sure my family is well grounded and that my children have a moral compass.

With me changing directions in what the heck I'm going to be when I grow up, I had to consider what to do with the breeding end of my business. When Malarky came along, I saw the chance to get back into breeding. I had missed it more than I realized. Malarky has been that once in a lifetime horse. I fortunately have had 3 of those now, and hope he won't be my last. Malarky does not have a superb show record, or amazing push button training, what he has is heart. The heart to do anything that has been asked of him, whether it be carrying me along on the trail, putting up with my "gotta teach you this or that." Standing patiently while I tried to harness him and teach him to drive and pull a cart, only to realize I had the figure 8 wrap wrong, looked more like a 7 I think, again waiting patiently while I pulled the cart back to him and rewrapped the shafts. Learning how to put up with numerous lesson students learning how to ride, then to be dragged to IHSA shows and used for numerous reining and rail classes, and giving all of the different riders a consistent ride every time. His heart is huge, maybe it's the Rugged Lark in him, that's what I have always thought, I see it in most of his foals, the calm demeanor the willingness to try. He has allowed me to have fun again in the show ring. His show ring antics make me laugh every time he and I are in the ring. From his trademark yawn, to his groaning and moaning as we lope around the ring, to his want to yak to his neighbor in the lineup. He has a ton of character. No, he is not perfect, but he is the best teacher I have had. He has forced me to find a gentler way, a better way to communicate what I want, to ask first. He has reminded me it's not about the end result, it's about the journey. Over the years he has given me so much. This year he is 16. Last year, I began to notice arthritis in his right knee. It came suddenly, but when I thought about all he has done and how he has never refused, even when he has been in pain, I realized how much I owed him. I have been treating it with some good results, but the time has come that he semi-retire. Malarky does not have a turnout buddy; his foals have been his buddies over the years. Once his foals get older though and move into other pastures, he begins to pace for them. This I believe has aggravated the arthritis. I have come to the decision that he will be gelded so he can enjoy his semi-retirement, hopefully with pasture mates. He has been my partner for almost 10 years now and he has done everything I have ever asked of him without complaint, I feel I owe it to him to allow him to enjoy his senior years as comfortably a possible.

Malarky at an IHSA Show

I also have plans to geld Flash and Dell. So with that I will be out of the breeding business as well. I want to focus on what's important; family. Morgan and I will continue to enjoy our herd of horses, we will still head out to the shows, but it will be for us and no one else. We will continue to learn and teach our horses and I will still offer help to those who ask, but my focus is going to be where it needs to be; my husband and children. An Era will soon come to a close.


Mrs Mom said...

This Era may be closing, but look at all the doors that are going to open to you now! ;)

Have Fun. Raise Your Kids. And LOVE the fun you all have with the horses!

Best of luck to you guys. Moving across the street is hard, but moving to another state... thats rougher still. (We have done our share of that as well... can emapthize with you!!)

Have a good one there!

Latigo Liz said...

Good for you! Taking care of yourself and your family is what is most important after all! And have fun!

Grey Horse Matters said...

We all have to do what we consider to be important to us. Good luck with your move. I can relate to all you have said about people in the horse business, boarders etc..I could have written it myself. But as you said it's all a learning experience, although I could have done without some of those horrible people you mentioned, then again I wouldn't have met some of the wonderful ones.

Malarky sounds like one of the best horses around, it's not often we have a chance to meet a guy like him. I think you will have more fun now that you are officially 'out of the business' and just have your riding and horses for yourselves. I know we are having a much more peaceful and happier time. Again good luck.

SkyBar Farm said...

Mrs Mom ~ You're right. There will be new doors opening.

Latigo Liz~ I will have fun, you can believe that.

Grey Horse Matters ~ Malarky is an amazing guy. I can't imagine life without him. I know I will have more fun once it is not work anymore.