Growing up I was a total horse nut. Still am, actually. I was nicknamed ‘the horse girl’ in high school as I spent all of my free time working at a local horse stable. I didn’t partake in school clubs or sports. I made my mother drive me 20 minutes every afternoon to the stable where I basked in exciting tasks like cleaning stalls or grooming lesson horses. If I was at home, I was studying up, memorizing my favorite book, The Encyclopedia of The Horse (yep…I was a nerd). But, it made for some good early education about the different breeds and what their strengths are. I was obsessed as a youngster…I’ll even admit to you that I used to name the pictures in my aforementioned favorite book, dreaming about owning the sleek horses in the pictures (again…I was a nerd).
I rode American Saddlebreds in high school…a sleek, fancy looking, beautiful breed that is (pretty much) only used for horse showing. The only reason I was drawn to this breed was the proximity of the stables to my house, but horses were horses and I was dying to be near anything that neighed. To my glory, I got to own a tall, extremely sway backed Saddlebred named Benny, for a few years during high school (looking back, I think I got taken by the people who sold him to me…his back was literally in the shape of a ‘U’.). Riding Benny required a special saddle pad that somewhat kept my saddle from sliding up onto his butt, however it was inevitable that I would have to get off and re-adjust it several times throughout each ride. Man…he was well broke!
College came and I trotted off (no pun intended) to the University of Wyoming. Outside of the low tuition cost and perfect school size, I picked UW for one reason…horses! Where better to be surrounded by horses, mountains and like-minded people than a small town in the least populated state in the nation?
While in college, I landed a job at the Snowy Range Ranch, a state-of-the-art breeding and training facility for Quarter Horses and Paints, particularly in reining and cutting. Seriously, check out their website and tell me if you wouldn’t pay to spend a weekend there. Heated arena and stall areas, 35,000 acres of land (incredible to drive cattle over that much ground!), 600 cattle and lots of horses…I loved it. Every winter, we foaled out anywhere from 4-12 mares and spent the rest of the year halter breaking and working with the babies. Looking back on life, I never would dub any days my ‘glory days’ but my time in Laramie and at the Snowy Range Ranch come close to taking that title.
After college, I picked up a career in polo grooming, which I had begun while home in Iowa for summers during college. Polo grooming, for those of you who don’t know, is a LOT of work and a LOT of fun. Living, traveling and working with a small group of very different people who all have the love of the game in common. As a groom, I was on call 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, spending all night with the horses when needed. I traveled to Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming while grooming for various polo players. It was seriously my dream job. Every day, I would spend miles in the saddle often ponying 2-4 other horses with me. The 5 year old girl inside my heart was in utter bliss as a groom during my polo days.
Here I am now, living at the polo farm in Iowa where my polo career started. The gracious man who I once helped off and on his ponies during polo matches is now my neighbor and landlord (and still JJ’s boss).
It’s funny how things come full circle. Last weekend, the horse farm neighboring us to the south had a jail break and about 25 of their broodmares escaped, seeking refuge on the polo field at The Farm.
The horses they breed are American Saddlebreds. It really got me thinking about how long ago it was when I used to ride the fancy show horses in circles, dreaming of my future with horses. When we chased the horses back into their proper pasture (with my Chevy Tahoe), I remembered how exciting herding cattle was in Wyoming. What a sweet trip down memory lane.
I’m ready for my next horsey adventure and contemplating taking some lessons in reining or cutting. Having Evan in my life makes me realize how important it is to keep a strong sense of self so I can show him how to follow his heart and work hard.
What about you? What contributed to who you are today?