Carter and Sue (in matching outfits!) – photo by husband Greg

Let me preface my story with an underlying fact – I’ve always had an affinity toward horses. However, at a very young age I had horrible allergies and couldn’t even have a stuffed animal that wasn’t covered in plastic and cleaned every other day. So, the chance of me getting closer to a horse than my teddy bear was infinitely remote.

Fast-forward to me at age 46. I found myself wanting to give back to the world in a way that would connect me to the things I love and the people that I think are most determined. I found a therapeutic riding facility nearby that was looking for volunteers (okay, really my husband found them and applied to be a volunteer first – after all, I was allergic, right?). One day, I decided to go to the barn with him to see what the volunteering was all about. I was hooked! Not only were there horses, but there was an opportunity for me to a) be around them b) help people and c) give back some of my time. I quickly signed up for the volunteer training and began my journey.

Training day, we learned how to spot the riders, how to emergency dismount the riders, how to side-walk… all the things that you need to do to be a good side walker. Than… my chance, we needed someone to RIDE the horse so that the other volunteers-in-training could practice. I saw my chance and took it – next thing I know I am on top of a Fjord named Sven (my favorite couch, as I affectionately call him now) with a pad and a surcingle. That’s it…me, a surcingle and Sven… I was hooked again! Fast forward eight months and I have my sights set on becoming an instructor… except all my horse knowledge includes…well, not much.

Next stop – search for places that a middle-aged woman can take riding lessons (well, I don’t consider myself that but hey, I am 46 right?). It was easier than I thought and on July 27, 2011 I was scheduled for my first lesson. WOW! I figured out I wasn’t allergic, I was determined to learn how to ride a horse so that I could do a basic pattern and learn as much as I could about horses to become an instructor. Goal set. Full speed ahead.

My instructor, is also a third-grade teacher. I didn’t know how important that was to training until I stepped onto that mounting block, western saddle tacked and the journey in front of me. I managed to mount my first lesson horse without falling over the other side. Success! Now… to take that first step! Heaven, I thought I must be in heaven. By lesson two, we were trotting; and lesson…oh, I don’t recall our first time to lope. I thought heaven was walking…wow, was I surprised at how free loping can make you feel.

At this point it’s nearly September – two months in lessons and I’m getting the itch. I was invited to a Fun Show. Fun Show…what is that?! Every chance I can be around horses, I take with reckless abandon. I was hooked again. My thoughts turned to… “how can I get a horse?” And I became friends with all the horses-for-sale websites! I won’t go into the details of the horse buying process… most of the readers have been there and it’s a journey soon won’t forget. What I will add is that my husband and I do things differently…we always have and likely always will. We bought our saddles before we bought a horse. As far as my instructor, Jill, is concerned to this day… there two steps that should be followed – 1) horse 2) saddle. We are different, like I said… we went 1) saddle… 2)… horse?

Horse. Check. November 5 I fell in love with Carter. A three-year-old, 15.3 Thoroughbred who was in training level dressage and baby greens hunter/jumper. Oh my goodness – all of you experienced trainers and riders must be thinking; “she’s only been taking lessons since July and she’s in love with a green, hot, horse, who doesn’t ride Western!?!” I know, I know. But…when you know, you know. So, 2) horse. Check.

I’m not sure how many of you have trained a three-year-old who has been in one style and changing them to another, but I knew that if anyone could help, Jill could. And she did… she slowed him down, she taught him the proper cues – all the things that he needed if I wanted to show in Western. Well, one of the things I didn’t mention early on is that because I was allergic to everything… I mean everything…what’s a kid to do if she can’t be outside. Dance. So imagine my surprise when, at 46, I realized that not only did Carter know how to jump, but he was learning how to dance (Dressage… okay, but still dance).

I am leaving out a lot of trials, tribulations, thrown shoes, going barefoot, shoes back on, cuts, scrapes, dents, tears, and the realization that if my horse knows one style and isn’t taking to Western… maybe I need to rethink my chosen style. After all, I am a dancer at heart…and if he is, too… I should just go with it, right!?

Fast-forward to March 7, 2012. Carter and I rode English for the first time. I was hooked! Carter was happy. I was happy. Jill was happy. Walked, trotted, and cantered in a matter of fact style in the hour lesson…some more matter of fact than others, but we did it! Of course, in true “me” fashion, I’ve already set my sights on the show we WILL be in at the end of May. Yes, before I even had a set of breeches…but, like I said, I’m different and I take challenges head-on.

So, you ask…what was my moment, who is my hero? There have been several along my less-than-a-year-long-journey. I guess to sum it up, it was the realization that I have found my center…and it happens to be perched on top of a wonderful, quiet (yes, a TB that is quiet; and four) liquid-eyed creature, who has made my world complete. His name is Carter. And we’re going to our first show on May 26th, a day short of 10 months since I sat in a saddle for my first time. No, I haven’t given up my goal to become an instructor, either… that’s next on my list.

Sue