Finding myself in Horse Country
Randal B. Thatcher
Three years ago, on the day my wife and I closed on our lovely old pioneer home in Spring City, we were in for a surprise…
After signing contracts, and being handed keys, the sellers accompanied us to the property to offer parting pointers and advice. As we strolled with them around our newly acquired hectare, listing to their instructions and admonitions, it gradually dawned on us that those three magnificently intimidating creatures grazing contentedly in the pastures, were now ours. We had just become–suddenly, unexpectedly, and disconcertingly–horse owners!
And even though my grandfather had made his living as a horse-trader, and despite my wife having grown up in Mt. Pleasant, neither of us knew even the first thing about horses.
After the sellers drove away, leaving us alone with our three new, enormous charges, we stood on one side of the log-pole fence, looking with trepidation into their big, brown eyes, as they stood on the other side, looking fixedly back—all of us probably thinking the self-same thing: “How, exactly, is this going to work?”
During the ensuing days and weeks, we tried to convince ourselves that we could become horse-people. We curried them, and patted their foreheads. We tossed hay (too much) into their feeding barn every morning, and kept their water-trough filled. We fed them apples (too many) from our trees every afternoon, and spoke soothing and encouraging words (my wife even sang) to them daily.
After six months, however, we arrived at the sobering realization that our three horses had become nothing more than very large pets. (And growing ever larger by our overfeeding and never riding them.)
Seeking advice from horse-savvy neighbors, we concluded that we must either start riding them regularly (something we’d failed to do even once since we’d unwittingly acquired them), or sell them to someone who would.
We eventually donated them to Wasatch Academy’s equestrian program, where they’d be stabled comfortably in indoor stalls at the newly built ConToy Arena facility, and ridden daily.
And, while our pastures seemed forlornly empty for weeks after they left, we took comfort in the knowledge that our sacrifice of watching them prance majestically around our pastures each day, had afforded them a better, healthier, and more purposeful existence.
I went to ConToy just the other day to visit them (as if they cared, or even remembered), and was lucky enough to be there during a barrel-racing competition.
I met three of the younger competitors, Skylee, Katie, and Lyndzee (ages 6, 8, and 12), as they sat proudly astride their horses, Jack, Dixie, and Bridger. These gals had all been riding since the age of three, and clearly loved it.
I watched as they coaxed and goaded their horses deftly and skillfully around those three barrels. Even at six-years old, young Skylee was already a serious contender, and raced with a determined relish.
I asked Katie whether she ever got nervous before a race, and she said that she “used to get nervous, but got over the fear of it.”
Lyndzee smiled broadly when I asked her why she liked to compete with her horse Bridger in the barrel-race: “Because I get to go really fast!” And she did go “really fast” in both her races that night.
I spoke with Bud, a longtime horse owner and former competitor, who’s teaching his three grandkids (ages 4, 6, and 9) to ride and compete. Bud stopped competing (mostly roping) 10 years ago, but now gets the same thrill teaching and cheering on his grandkids.
It was fun and exhilarating to be in the midst of so many ardent horse-people. The love they all had for their horses was obvious, as was the joy they felt while riding them. And I felt a twinge of envy. Perhaps, given time and training, I might’ve become a horse-person myself.
But in the very act of pondering what might have been, I heard a collective gasp from the crowd as a teenage girl fell from her horse. Then I looked on in stunned amazement as she jumped immediately up, climbed right back onto the back of her horse, and finished the race.
And in that moment the dream died for good. “Nope,” I thought, with a wistful resignation. “I am simply not that person.”
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