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Confessions of a Horse Girl part 2

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

We left off last time with me finishing horse day camp at a local stable. Somehow my grandmother thought it would be a good idea to let me continue with this horse thing and I was allowed to start weekly riding lessons. With my friend who was with me at the day camp even! We started off riding every Wednesday. I remember thinking that was the perfect day - I got a break from school on the weekends and a middle of the week break to see my beloved Cappy on Wednesday evenings. Thursday was usually spent telling my school teacher (I went to a very small school) all about what I'd learned. He patiently nodded along as I talked all about how to put on a girth (the part that goes under the horses belly to hold the saddle in place), that you had to learn something at a walk before you could try it at a trot and how perfect Cappy was. Such a patient man he was... The friend I did day camp with and started lessons with eventually either lost interest (as most young girls do...just not me) or her mom pulled her out. I can't remember the exact reason but I was suddenly left to just me and Cappy. In the horse world, private lessons are one on one and group lessons are multiple riders taking a lesson together. Private lessons are much more expensive. We wanted to stay with group lessons so I was assigned a new day to ride and would soon meet my new lesson companion. I had just gotten to the barn and was getting Cappys halter on. We had been instructed that part of the lesson was arriving 30 minutes early to brush and tack up (put the saddle and bridle on) so we'd be mounted (on the horse) and ready to go when the instructor came in for our lesson. A girl and her mother walked up to Cappys stall and the girl gave her mom a panicked look. The mom asked me "Are you working with Cappy today?" and I smiled and responded "Yeah. She and I have a lesson in a few minutes." The girls panicked look intensified. Suddenly one of the teenagers that taught day camp popped over and said "Oh Taylor, Kate* here is going to ride Cappy today. You're going to ride...uh....Gato here." and pointed to a super tall slightly grumpy looking black horse. "Uh.. ok." I exited Cappys stall and never rode her again. Kate took over Cappy and I learned that she was my new group lesson companion.

Best photo I can find of Gato with all his long body glory

El Gato (who ever named a horse "The Cat" in Spanish was either not imaginative at all or super imaginative) was my new friend. In his previous life he was a race horse and he knew it. Tall, dark and handsome he and I spent quite a few years together. He taught me Dressage (horse dancing as people call it. But its actually rooted in war tactics and is a respected olympic sport), and the basics of jumping. He was a bit of a grump but tolerated my adoration. Kate was also in lessons with me for years but when we moved past the very beginner basics she started riding a little brown horse with white legs named Cassie. I continued on Gato. Cassies father was actually the black horse that stared in The Black Stallion but Cassie really looked nothing like him. Strong maternal genetics I suppose. Kate became a kind of a friend. We really only had our obsession with horses in common but we found out we lived in the same neighborhood and I'd walk to her house often to play with our toy horses or to pretend we were wild horses ourselves on her trampoline. It was a classic innocent childhood. But then. We hit our teenage years. Suddenly Kate thought toy horses were lame but boys were cool. Her family got a lease on a beautiful white horse in our barn and suddenly Kate had no time for me at all. She was at shows every weekend with her lease horse and since I was still riding the school horses that belonged to the barn, I wasn't in her 'horse owners' club. I think there may have been a bit of resentment as well because I was offered a stable hand job at the barn and Kate wasn't. It was explained that it was because I was bigger and stronger than Kates very petite slim figure and I could handle the wheelbarrow and hay bales easier. I'll never know if that was the full reason but I enthusiastically said yes (paid to hang out at the barn and do the chores I was already doing for free?! Yes please!) and Kate gave me a dirty look. It wasn't long after that that she kind of stopped talking to me except to comment that her leased horses stall needed cleaning (I cleaned every stall beautifully whenever it was my day to clean) or reminding me that her horse needed its supplements (something I also never forgot). There was one other girl at the barn that didn't own a horse. Her name was Melissa* and while we didn't live in the same neighborhood like Kate and I did, we had the same birthday and were both 'horseless women'. My friends at school had all written me off as crazy. I was supposed to give up horses around 4th maybe 5th grade. I was ending my 8th grade year and still solidly a "Horse Girl" in every way shape and form. So much that I somehow worked horses into every assignment and I would change into my breeches and tall boots at school to save time once I got to the barn. The teasing was relentless but horses were worth it to me and besides I had Melissa as a barn friend. Melissa was also into showing horses every weekend like Kate though. I was discouraged from the show ring by my grandma because for one it is really expensive and there was some weekend conflict that seemed insurmountable at the time.

Burghley. He went on to be a fantastic school horse!

Seeing that I was hanging around the barn alone on the weekends my instructor changed my life, though I didn't know it yet. She told me to start riding the 'green' horses, the young ones that needed a bit more practice before the beginner riders could ride them in lessons. Basically she was trusting me with the training of future school horses. I was honored but also wishing I was at the shows instead. So how does all of this apply to you? First - People will come and go into and out of your life just like me moving from Cappy, to Gato to the green horses. Each was appropriate for my skill level at that time in my life and when it was time to say goodbye and move on, it was bittersweet but healthy. Our relationships with people are similar. Yes sometimes we have lifelong friends but sometimes we just have friends for a season. Kate and I had a beautiful childhood friendship of innocent play with Breyer horses and pretend horse shows. But when she 'advanced' without me her opinion of me changed. Our season of friendship was over and I needed to let it go. I lost touch with Kate years ago but last I saw she was still very much involved in the horse show world. Melissa and I had a great friendship through high school and while we occasionally talk to this day, our close friendship was also just for that season. Some people are only in our lives for a season and while its sometimes bittersweet, it's OK. Secondly, that time when I was given the opportunity to ride the young green horses instead of being at the shows I had a bit of teenage resentment. I wanted to be with my friends at the shows, showing off what a horse and I could do and collecting ribbons and trophies. Instead I was in beat up breaches getting tossed around by a young inexperienced horse alone in an arena with no spectators. Looking back though, that experience is WAY better than collecting ribbons at horse shows. I got to learn how so many different horses think, how they can each react differently to the same thing and how to interact with their different personalities which prepared me beautifully for my horse life in college and my business

now at Starting Gate. Sometimes things that seem a little terrible (alone in an arena with a young horse that didn't know how to trot a straight line instead of winning ribbons at a show with my friends) are exactly what we need to prepare us for the future. We just might not know it yet. I hope these words have entertained at worst and encouraged at best. Let me know what you think and next week I'll talk about my big move to Nebraska and a year without horses. Keep Learning!

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