The Live In Student
A true story of my summer in Montana, spent with one of the oddest trainers one will ever meet.
That's what I was. Fresh out of high school by literal hours. I took off the very day after my graduation, driving across several state borders to get to Helena, Montana. I drove my old red Ranger through some of the most boring countryside you'll ever see, with an iPod hooked up to my cassette player. 'Sweet Serendipity' was a constant. I was doing this for him, for us.
The sky got wider, I promise that and swear it, too. I hoped it meant new opportunities, and that we would leave here better than which we came.
I was voted cruelly (and ironically) by my peers as 'Most likely to live with their mother until 35 years old'. My father walked out on us two weeks after I began my senior year. My grandmother was institutionalized, or, as I like to call it, 'thrown into the crazy bin'. As a girl who has had major depression since before I could remember, it is a hypocritical term to state. But I have never been known as having an incredible amount of tact. It has made me lose many people out of my life, but the ones that have stayed have found solace in my brash ways.
As I ramble on about my slightly dysfunctional family, you must know from the beginning that I was not raised around horses whatsoever. The only experience I had was as a volunteer with a horse therapy program. I started attending when I was fifteen, having entered the program to help when, in turn, it helped me in more ways than I could imagine. I arrived a mentally deteriorated little thing fresh out of the hospital for an unrelated surgery, which took a toll on the little energy I had. (Look up 'effects of anesthesia' if you find yourself curious enough.) I had no self esteem, no words to speak with, and no social skills to cling to. That could have easily been the hardest day of my week, crying the entire way to the ranch while my mother asked me just why the hell I kept on going.
I don't know. I didn't know. I kept going, every Thursday, and usually ended up crying in the bathroom over being scolded or snapped at for doing something wrong. I was sensitive to even minor criticism, being the perfectionist I still am today. The woman who ran the program, Cindy, terrified me for the first year and a half; I could rarely ever even look her in the eye. The others were kind enough, perhaps feeling a little bad that I didn't know what I was doing.
One day, it was closing in on the final round of kids we had riding. It was perhaps eight thirty, and we were all exhausted, including our equine friends. I don't know why I was given the option to ride- it now irritates me greatly when people get up on these horses after a long day of circling the arena, people crowded around them the whole evening. They deserve a break.
But it was Cindy who gave me the choice. I had nodded, maybe even grew a little bold and actually said yes, I would like to. She put me on her old, gentle gelding, a chestnut named Chip, who I still believe was the greatest asset to the program. (Chip later passed on due to euthanasia.) That tired quarter horse ambled around the arena with me on his back for maybe ten minutes, but it had given me a taste of what I wanted.
I wanted a horse like him. Like Chip. Like that gentle giant with a kind eye and a different feel, hell, even a different smell than the other horses. Call me a little weird, but Chip smelled more like a worn acoustic guitar than the general horsey smell other equines possess. This is not a fact I shared with the other volunteers, since I was sure they found me a little awkward to begin with.
We fast forward a few years. Past the time I could actually look at our program director, or where I began to feel more welcomed into the niche of therapy volunteers. We can eagerly
skim past the time I tied Chip to a fence by his reins, or when I tore out in front of one of the horse's being trained and spooked him. There was the days an enemy from my high school began volunteering, and wasn't the kindest towards me. But, for the most part, I grew up, albeit reluctantly at times. I changed. One of the few lingering parts of me was that need for a horse of my own.
I discussed it with my mother. She had given me a sideways glance, a 'I-knew-this-was-coming' kind of look. She had shrugged simply, looking back down at whatever project held her fancy.
"That's your responsibility. You'll need a car and a job. You're going to be the one paying for anything that horse is going to need."
I had basically gotten her approval.
One month after this encounter, my father would walk out on us. No details that are much of your business need to be specific on the manner in which he departed, but I can tell you that he had dropped me off at home after school and gone to the grocery store, when in reality he was driving to his new apartment across the valley. In this painful exchange for my father, he had pitched in with my mother to buy me a Ford Ranger. I loved that automobile, but it still resembled more of a 'sorry I abandoned you' present than much else. Nonetheless, I had a car. The job came two weeks later.
My job duties entailed what I will kindly title 'being somebody's bitch'. I was the lowest on the totem pole in my workplace. A kennel cleaner. I worked in a vet office a few times a week, cleaning kennels and feeding dogs and doing whatever lowly job was given to me. Blood caked to the floor of the office? Well, you better call in Savanna. As much as I had to hold back vomit and strings of four letter words at this job, I had given me an income in which to purchase and care for my first horse.
I had no idea how sharp of a turn my life would take after this adventure began to take place.
To be continued, obviously. I want a feel of seeing who's interested in actually reading this, first. I'm getting to my Montana adventures, but I felt a little background on Milo and myself was needed first.