My Dollar Horse
I remember them telling me I would never be able to live like other kids my age because I would never think like them. Since I was five I have struggled with the idea of staying clean, and my hands remained raw not from constantly doing work, but because I washed my hands probably twenty times a day after touching only simple items. A counter, a doorknob, a trashcan lid, shaking someone's hand, and other various encounters I deemed unworthy of touching. Dirt was dangerous, germs were dangerous, and to me- the whole world seemed out to get me. I struggled with my anger and I yelled at anyone who tried to hold a conversation with me, not because I wanted to, but because it was only a natural feeling for me and a way of communicating.
I was thirteen years old when I got my first horse. We were suckered into buying the old grump for one dollar, and for awhile I thought that saying 'you get what you pay for' was rather true in our case. He was not your typical run-of-the-mill first kid's horse, no, this horse was very well-known at the barn… and not for good reasons. My nineteen year old new partner had spent all of his life running the barn his way and only his way. If you came into his stall for no other reason to feed? You bet your shoes you were being pinned against the wall and not allowed to move or else you were getting kicked. You walked by his stall without making his presence known? You were no doubt walking away with a bite mark imprinted somewhere on your upper body. I admit it, this kind of story and this kind of horse were probably not the best match, and I wouldn't suggest to anyone to buy a horse like we had. But, who were we? We were impressionable and naive to think we could tame a wild horse with nothing but coaxing and attention. It wasn't love I gave him, I hated that horse more than anything, it was a prayer each time I haltered him up to groom him. The dull coat, the knotted tail, all of which were unattended for five years because his owner deemed him unworthy of attention. I hated his guts and soon began to dread the one animal I loved above all. My anger grew stronger and there were only weeks left before we were going to make the decision to sell him.
I was fourteen years old when I learned to love my horse. We moved barns, and I was out for a walk one day with my twenty year old steed when a man stopped me.
"What are you doing?" I turned to see a glare behind a pair of glasses, the man did not look happy nor impressed by our daily routine. A struggle of wills, mostly resulting in my arm being yanked out of its socket and toward the nearest grass patch. Our daily routine was usually one sided. I shrugged at the man, who I had never talked to before but was a fellow boarder.
"Well, it looks like you need help." He turned his truck off and climbed out of the driver's door with a displeased expression. The man was intimidating, experience present on his strained face and his cowboy strut gave way to many years of working with horses. I was face-to-face with someone who scared the every living life out of me. He bore no smile, no nod of acknowledgment, but in an instant he had my lead rope and looked into the eyes of my horse when I had always feared to.
In ten minutes I witnessed something that would change my idea on horses. Everything I had known or thought I had was non existent, and in that short span of time this man had a well known terror of a horse yielding and relaxed and respectful. All without a hit or smack, or shout or cry, or any pain, fear nor force. I was dumb founded and awestruck, and accepted the lead rope without a word when he held it out in my direction.
"Now you try."
Thus began a journey of trials. The man whom I feared became my teacher, and I his student. A man who I came to learn was a professional in horse training and spent over 25 years touring states and teaching others his ways. Here I was, accepting lessons for free, and learning from a man who bore no smile.
I have worked with him for over 4 years now, and he has taught me more than I could have ever learned on my own. The horse whom I feared is my best friend, my shoulder in need, and the receiver of treats that we share bites of. I no longer get angry at him because now I understand his actions, and I have not been bit nor kicked nor chased nor bullied by him in 4 years. He whinnies at my approach, rests his head at my side in his stall, backs out to be fed, and loves to go for bareback adventures in only a halter.
When I was sixteen I saw my teacher smile for the first time. I have never cried so hard before, not because I had accomplished something on my own, but because my teacher whom i had feared smiled. It was a day I will never forget, a simple task that I showed him, but something that would change me. My trainer came out one day to work with us, and I showed him how I had worked with my horse on getting to back out before being fed. Once he had backed out and I told him he could eat, I turned to see my trainer smiling.
"I'm so proud of you." his words still resound in my head and I will not forget that moment, which has inspired me to work with horses and become a trainer.
(My true story hehe)