Was it really only 6 months ago that somewhere inside me I thought my world with this horse had ended? When I realized that I could no longer ignore her chronic lameness? That I would have to step up and do what was best for my horse? I know there was at least a few hours in there where I was distraught over letting go of my agenda. I had so many plans for the summer, drill team, parades, barrel racing. We would have to walk away from it all. Now I look back on it and I am so incredibly grateful that it happened. I am so appreciative that I was forced to stop, step back and really examine what it was I wanted from the relationship with my horse. When I let go of all that "stuff" the only thing that mattered was that I could look that little mare in the eye and not feel like I had done something wrong.
When Grace was cleared by the vet to go back to work, I had already decided that we would spend the summer rebuilding our foundation. She is so easy to put buttons on, such a fast learner, that over the years I had skipped many steps in her training. We went back to the basics, dressage, transitions, moving off my leg. Most importantly, Grace finally learned to work over her back. On one of the first trips out to Sarah's in the Spring, I carefully watched how each of her horses moved. Their movement was clean, sound and effortless. I had to remind myself that each of those horses had been though Sarah's rehab program and had all been lame at one point. I would not be satisfied until I knew that Grace could move as well as these horses.
For the first time as a rider I became willing to do what was necessary to become a better rider. I replaced my saddle with a bareback pad, went back to the gym and conquered years of fear that was pent up in my body. The best thing I did was ride other horses. Katie has been such a blessing. She is more sensitive than Grace and is quick to reward me when I get my body in the correct position. Katie and I have given each other much needed confidence. Every time I would reach a new milestone with Katie, I would come home and tell Grace "if Katie can do it..."
Now there is Ellie, the Paint mare that packs me around. Ellie has reminded me that I do not need my hands near as much as I think I do. I am riding her hunt seat this Friday at the Washington State Horseman Finals show. For the first time ever, I am excited about riding in rail classes. The less I do, the better Ellie is. She is the ultimate amateur's horse, she does all the work, I get to sit there and look pretty! It got me to thinking; "if Ellie can do it..."
Grace not only became sound, she started to move better than she has in years. Grace has always had a short step behind - a stutter step, it felt like she had an extra hind leg. A few months ago it disappeared. I started to get left behind during upward transitions as I was still expecting her to hesitate. Her gait changed, she was actually comfortable to ride. Galloping bareback on the trails, something I never thought I would do with this horse, was now possible. In the arena Grace finally had a lope, not a canter in a Western Saddle, but a true lope. I actually struggled with it at first, this was supposed to be my barrel horse and now she was loping. How do I ride this? With a big smile on my face, that's how!
And then we discovered cows! Grace comes alive when it's time to work the cows. I was actually a little afraid of them at first. Some of them had horns and they used them on each other right in front of me. Grace very clearly told me to shut up, sit down and hold on, she had this! An entire month went by in between opportunities to work cattle, it felt like forever. Now thanks to Diamond Hill Ranch, we have the chance to work cows on a weekly basis. Who knows, this may be a new direction for us. Over the last 10 years Grace and I have done everything from Western Pleasure to Cowboy Mounted Shooting. So far Barrel Racing and cows are the two things that really get her amped up in a good way. It's an incredible feeling to enter an arena on a horse that wants to do its job more than anything on Earth!
This past summer has been the best one so far with Grace. 6 months ago all I could think about was all the events we were going to miss out on. I am now so incredibly grateful for every ride we've had and the ability to see each one as its own success.
I have no idea what tomorrow, next month or next year will bring. I really don't care. For the first time in 10 years I am living in the moment with this horse. Turns out, that's where she's been the entire time.