There will always be times you wish you could go back and maybe ride straighter or better (or not circling in your class because you would have placed better...). Sometimes they are brain dead mistakes, sometimes well intentioned mistakes. If you could have 1 do-over in your horse life, what would it be? (Or you can list a handful of do-overs because I totally did!)
Horses have been a part of my life since I was 10 years old. There are so many things that I've re-hashed in my mind where I've wondered how things would have been like if I had chosen the opposite fork in the road.
1. I often wish I had known about natural horsemanship back when I was training Lucero. It would not have changed the outcome: he would have been exactly as great of a horse as he turned out to be. But it would have been so much fun to introduce him to new concepts so smoothly and seamlessly, instead of bumbling along trying to figure things out on my own. I honestly don't think natural horsemanship was even "a thing" back then (think early 1990's) like it is now...I had so many magazine subscriptions but I don't remember reading about the movement at the time. I read some of my grandfather's very old school horse training books and decided, "I'm NOT going to do ANY of that!" and proceeded to train and break my young stallion to saddle in a way where he was free to be himself while still respecting the boundaries I set for him. He was a VERY opinionated and smart soul with a mischievous mind that was as quick as a whip. I didn't tell him to do anything; I had to show him what I wanted in a way that made it seem like it was all his idea. They say you tell a gelding, you have a conversation with a mare, and you ask a stallion. Nope. There is as much of a conversation in working with a stallion as there is with a mare. There eventually came a time when being around Lucero was like having an equine extension of myself: it was a true state of co-being. I could do anything with him, from ride him bareback all over our property to sit safely under his belly if I so wished. (I was a teenager. Teenagers often do stupid things.) He didn't always do what I wanted because, like I said, he was a prankster and had a mind of his own. But he never ever failed to make me laugh. In owning him, I automatically was considered part of the Paso world, a world where horses were bullied into submission, where men generally ran the show. The horsemen in my family had a hard time believing that anyone could really control a spirited, feisty horse with as little as a glance or a shift of the weight, but they saw it was possible because of Lucero and me. So, while I did not know "proper" natural horsemanship at the time, Lucero made sure I learned it regardless. I still get goosebumps sometimes when I read about some of the training techniques of the greats, like Tom Dorrance or Buck Brannaman: it's all about understanding the horse's way of thinking, their psychology, and speaking in their language. In training Lucero, he taught me that. You don't need carrot sticks nor special halters to learn that language. All you have to do is pay attention to what the horse is telling you. While knowing "proper" natural horsemanship would have made things a lot easier and fun, I honestly wouldn't change a thing. Why? Because in the end, I'd rather give Lucero the credit for teaching me to listen to my horse.
2. I wish Lily and I had done our local dressage show series back in Parkland, FL at Training Level. They were inexpensive shows and it would have been one more thing on Lily's list of achievements. It wouldn't have changed where we are at now training-wise; it just would've been a fun thing to do.
|At the one and only dressage show we went to, by the|
Parkland Horseman's Association. We did Intro A, B and C.
3. There are several other decisions that I've questioned in retrospect but the truth of the matter is that if I had not done any of the things I've done, I would not be here now. If I had ridden more while at the Tampa barn, I would have missed out on many adventures with Charles that we wouldn't have had otherwise. If I had shown more back then, we would have not been able to afford other things. If I had never volunteered at the equine rescue owned by Crazy Lady, I never would have met Cloud. If Cloud had stayed in my life, I would not have adopted Rhythm. If Rhythm had not turned out to be the disaster that he was, I never would have met Lily. If I had not owned Lily, my life would not be what it is right now. If Lily hadn't had anhidrosis, I probably wouldn't have pushed quite so hard to move to a place with seasons. If not for her, we might have still been living in FL, the one state I always said I'd never live in. Thank God for an adventurous husband that really, truly gets it and is so supportive!
4. My one real regret, however, is this one: I can't begin to tell you guys how many times I've wished I'd had Lucero shipped to me as soon as we moved to South FL. Charles and I debated this so many times. The problem was that at the time we were both in school. I didn't have the time to do self care, which was the only thing I could afford then. Plus Lucero had only been on a trailer once in his life: when he was brought to me as a weanling. He was 17 when we moved to South FL. The only way to ship a horse from PR is by plane. Believe me, I searched for a boat option for years! I called, e-mailed, wrote letters and had people on the island looking for me. I'm still astounded that the option doesn't seem to exist when it exists for shipping horses overseas. I was terrified that he'd die from the stress on the plane trip over to FL. And then he died anyway, alone. My greatest equine regret is that I could not be there for him the day that he died. He was there for me every other moment that I needed him. The very least that I could have done was be with him. But I didn't know he was as sick as he was at the time. Every other time that there was a problem with him after I'd moved, I would dream about him and wake up in a panic. It was like he would let me know. And we could catch the problem and resolve it. He didn't let me know this time and I will always wonder why. Had he forgotten about me? Did he think I didn't care anymore? Was he that miserable at the time that he thought I couldn't help him? I would have been on the plane to see him that same day if I'd known. I often wonder if he'd still be alive today if I'd brought him with me. And I wish that I could have at least said good-bye to the horse whose soul was so intertwined with mine. If he had to die when he did, I would have given anything to be able to be at his side. I have a hard time thinking about returning to the island to visit because I still can't handle the idea of going back and knowing that he is not there anymore. His blasting whinny upon seeing me, his golden mane and shimmering red coat to me were as much a part of the island as the deep blue of the ocean there, as the pounding of the waves on the beach in the spring, as the insane green of the vegetation, as the rolling mountains and the tall malojillo grass waving in the wind.
They say home is where the heart is. The island stopped being home when Lucero died.
|The last time I visited the island and the last time I got to say good-bye to him.|
He was perfectly fine and happy at the time but I couldn't let go. I just had this horrible feeling that I was never going to see him again.