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Confessions of a Horse Girl - Part 1

I thought it might be fun to tell you all my story of how I got to where I am with Starting Gate. A lot of people assume I grew up with my own horses on a ranch. But thats not the case at all. I'm going to pull some tidbits out for you so its not just me blabbering on about myself - please comment on these posts or email me (taylor@startinggatene.com) with any thoughts you have on what I write here. I grew up with my grandmother, we were not poor but for sure not in the "Sure, let's buy a pony" category. Both parents alive and well, not together - in fact they didn't and still don't even live in the same state, life just played out that I lived full time with my grandma and spent time with both of my parents on the regular. Horses were always a draw for me. Animals of any kind of course but particularly horses. I had a cat and a dog and a rotating cage of hampsters or rats and the occasional Betta fish, but my bedroom walls and notebooks were covered in horses. I subscribed to 'horse illustrated' (yup thats a thing) and 'young rider' both of which included 2 huge horse posters every month. It didn't take long and literally every inch of my bedroom walls were covered in horse photos.

Kudos to my Dad for always always taking pictures.

I don't remember the first horse I ever met or rode. But thanks to this photo - I will always appreciate this little grey pony. This poor thing did a tiny circle with hundreds of children and hundreds of parents with point and shoot cameras flashing in his face for who knows how long...I appreciate him very much.

When I was 8 or 9 my best friends mom signed her daughter and I up for a week long day camp at a local stable. I do not know details on how all of that was approved - how she convinced my grandma it would be a good idea to let me near horses that often for so long - but it happened. Being the human I am, I like to be prepared. Apparently that started at a very young age because I begged to just drive by the barn days before camp was supposed to happen. We drove out to Hedberg Road and my grandma was already annoyed at having to drive out there for no reason and she just wouldn't listen to me to drive down the actual road to see if you could see horses from the road. Little Taylor was so sad but also 8 or 9 so couldn't change anything. Camp day arrived and we finally got to drive down that road and guess what! No horses. None. Not even a small shelter for any kind of livestock. Just houses. Turns out the stable was on Hegberg Road, not Hedberg Road. The stable was a full 30 minutes away from where we were. Excited, annoyed sad me walked into the barn late and saw everyone already in groups, assigned to different horses and learning to groom. I bravely (aka hiding behind my grandma) walked in and was assigned to a little brown horse with a wide face, wide chest and wide belly. Her name was Cappy. If you've ever seen a photo of a capybara thats where I assume she got her name. I never asked but there was a resemblance. Horse camp was a dream come true. I was in what I was for sure was Heaven. Except I didn't expect Heaven to come with such itchy runny eyes and a nose that was desperately trying to rid every molecule of moisture from my body. I had known I had a little allergy to my 80lb lab mix dog at home and my house cat... but the horse dander and hay mixture was new. The end of every camp day you had the option clean stalls or brush a horse (free labor for the barn!) and yet there I was standing barely able to see out of my swollen eyes and constantly sniffing a runny nose all while breathing out "I love horses". The poor teenagers running the show were of course not able to give me anything (I was later introduced to Benadryl by family members) so they awkwardly instructed me to sit in the arena quietly and watch a riding lesson.


The very last day of camp ended very early with time for family to come and see what their child had learned and take photos. Apparently my family had missed that memo because I was the only unaccompanied minor that afternoon. Literally - all the kids left and the teenage instructors left on a trail ride (probably a reward for dealing with all us littles for a week) and I just hung out in the barn by myself for an hour or so until my ride showed up. I was not sad about it at all at the time. Then and now the barn has been my safe place of peace and comfort.

I am kinda sad I don't have any photos from camp (we missed any photo ops, remember.) but I did continue to go to that barn for the next 10 years and even get my first job there. Many photos were taken over that decade but that a story for another post.



A different camp - but still a horse magnet.

So what can you learn from this? First off, I had never really seen a real horse as a child. Just the ponies at fairs and photos in my favorite magazines and movies. But there was a something about those images that sparked a something in me. And I refused to ignore it. I fully embraced the horse thing and it changed my life. I encourage you to chase after any intriguing thing you've come across. Maybe you've never touched a potters wheel but the shiny glazed bowls at the farmers market always catch your eye and you wonder what that wet clay feels like. Find a pottery studio and try it. Maybe you've always been intrigued by the stock market but thought it looked too complicated and risky. Try it. Lean into that interest. Secondly, I and my family trusted my friends mom to set up a potentially life changing opportunity for me. Horse camp set off a wave of dominoes that led me to where I am - not only Starting Gate but literally my marriage and then my children wouldn't be here without trusting my friends mom and meeting Cappy. Is there an invitation from someone in your life that you keep ignoring? Maybe take a chance - and see what happens. Lastly, there's going to be obstacles. You think you know what you're doing - even did a practice drive to know the route to get there and it turns out its HEGberg Rd not HEDberg Rd and you're still a half hour out. Or you finally get to your dream and you realize you're allergic to it. Or no one shows up to see your progress. Keep trucking on. Turn around and go the right way this time. Find a way to deal with the obstacles put in your way (interestingly - my animal allergies have sparked a natural living intention and changed a lot of other things in my life. Also a whole different post!). Learn to not thrive off the approval of others but instead thrive off of knowing yourself and that God is with you and loves you. I hope this was enjoyable and maybe a bit inspiring to you. I'll continue the confessions of a horse girl as we're now in elementary school and suddenly its not cool to be the crazy horse girl anymore... Remember to comment or email me with any thoughts you have. I look forward to hearing from you. Keep Learning!

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