Horses on my mind


After last week, a week of being immersed in the Arabian horse show experience, I am left again with many regrets that I was no longer a part of that life. Way back in the ‘80s when I came to Arizona, I should have done something about this. But, I didn’t.

I left my horses in Wisconsin in 1980, basically because my parents wanted to retire. The story has been told here previously. I wish my parents would have waited a little while, maybe a year or two, so I could get myself together (I was just a kid) and figure out how I could make happen what I wanted to, which was to be an Arabian horse trainer. I understand wanting to retire to someplace warm, but I wish they would have listened even a little bit to what my dream was.

Back then, parents told their kids what to do, and the kids didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t any respect for kids as people, people who had their own vision for their future. We were just “kids,” an inconvenience. Not like now, when parents cater to their kids’ every desire. I had to do what I was told to do, which was move to Arizona.

The timing was bad. In the 1980s, after the heyday for Arabians in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, everything went down the toilet. People put a lot of money into those horses, and tax loopholes existed so Arabian horses used in breeding operations could be depreciated. There were also many other ways that owning Arabians could be financially beneficial. After the tax reform act of 1986, this all came to an end. Many people who could barely afford to get into it to begin with were left holding the bag. The bottom fell out of everything, and almost every owner or trainer was affected in some way.

I tried to get into the Arabian circle in Arizona during that time, but since I no longer had a horse, I wasn’t able to ride and show anymore, and therefore wasn’t able to prove my worth. When I talked to people at the big farms, no one knew who I was. In the Midwest, the response would have been, “Oh, you’re the girl who …” When I got here, it was, “wait, who did you say you are??” I was nobody, that’s who.

People do not get to pick which “talent” they will be born with, and mine was working with horses. Since I left the horse business behind, I have engaged in an unending progression of sports and activities to try to find something to fill the void left by the horses. Not surprisingly, nothing did.

This past week, when I went to the annual Scottsdale Arabian horse show, I hadn’t been to a real horse show in a long time, probably since the last one I showed in, maybe in 1978(?). I suddenly wanted to go, and, as a bonus, I found out that my friend and mentor, Juli, was going to be there, too. I’ve already written the story of our reunion, and really, in some ways, even though I love her and I loved being temporarily back in that world, it made me feel worse. Again, I acutely felt the loss.

I noticed how the horses were bigger, flashier, the shapes of their heads more exaggerated than what I remembered. The breeding over the last 30 years has changed things. The competition in the ring was tough; the days of having an $800 “backyard” horse were long gone. Hard work, talent, and a little bit of luck would no longer be the only things I would need. All that means, though, is that I would have had to work harder. But I know now that I wouldn’t have been sorry in the long run.

Being at the show took me right back to where I had been, and I had the same feelings of never wanting it to end, even though I was not riding. I watched the classes that I would have been in, and it was almost like I was in it myself. I was looking at the classes as a competitor. I was re-absorbed into the horse show culture as if I had never left.

As the show ended last week, I even had that tired, depressed feeling I used to have at the end. But back then it was only temporary, since I would usually get to compete in another show within the next week or two. This time, I will have to wait another year for the next Scottsdale show, and I almost certainly won’t be competing.

This could have been me:

Training horses is the only thing I knew how to do, the only true talent that I have. I think my husband would have even enjoyed the horse life with me once he got into it. It would have been a much happier existence for both of us, especially for me. My horse life would have been better than the long line of meaningless, low-paying jobs that I have had to endure. I did not want a life of suffering through dull days of a 9-5 job inside a claustrophobic building, just wanting every day to end. I was so afraid of that, but sadly, that is what I got.

I hope my schoolkids listen to me when I tell them to do everything they can to find their own talent and capitalize on it so they can have an enjoyable life. Of course kids never understand what that means. I didn’t. Like them, I was too young to understand. I wish I had had more information so I could have made a better decision. I wish I had set up a support system for myself that would have allowed me to stay where I was, or at least return in a couple of years. But I had heard the “we’re moving to (fill in the blank)” statement too many times from my parents to know which one was the real one. By the time I realized that it was real, it was too late. I wasn’t strong (or brave) enough to stand up for what I really wanted.

There is no happy ending (for me) to this story. I don’t own horses, I hardly even get to ride ones that belong to other people (I have to settle for whatever breed that is), and it looks like I will never own a beautiful Arabian English Pleasure show horse again.

And that’s the end.

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