Then, as me worked through the issues Ashke brought with him, I began to suspect that we would never be able to ride an endurance ride, since I'm pretty sure with his gait and stifle and hip we would not pass the pre-ride physical (if a horse like Q, who had no issues, but does have an unusual gait is having problems, we don't stand a chance.) I let go of that dream, which I am still letting go of. Because I think at the heart of that wish is not the opportunity to ride a long distance in a competition, but rather to find, explore and ride on trails, for longer and longer distances. To see and explore all of the new places we haven't seen or explored yet. We have a lot of opportunity to do so, and if we run out of local trails, there are lots and lots of places to ride within a two hour drive.
Back in 2012, I made the decision to change what my focus was to match what we were going to do with the abilities of my horse. I wasn't going to replace him with a horse that could do endurance, because I already recognized that we had the potential to become something even more important to me: my co-being, my other half. That was what I really wanted. At that point I changed the title from Endurance Horse Extraordinaire, to Horse Extraordinaire, because, let's face it, he is.
So, as much as he has changed, I have changed as well. When we first started riding, I was wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and riding in an Aussie saddle. Since then I have been introduced to the idea of breeches (they don't rub and are amazingly comfortable), paddock boots (more comfortable than cowboy boots and waterproof and lightweight) and have moved from an Aussie saddle to the Alta. I am much more likely to be seen at the barn in breeches and half-chaps than in levis and boots. These changes have occurred because I am more comfortable in the new style of clothing than I am in the old. And full seat breeches are pure bliss. But just because the outside has changed, does not mean the inside is gone.
Admit it: You want me.
The deepest part of me is still a cowboy. Yes, a cowboy, not a cowgirl. The oldest, deepest meaning of the word. A rider who was good with a horse, could handle a rope, could build a fire, could shoot a gun, could roll out of bed in the morning and ride all day. The cowboy that was immortalized in books like Monte Walsh by Jack Schaffer, or To Tame a Land, by Louis L'amour. The only other riders that were better were the Plains Indians (Cheyenne, Lakota, Comanche) of the great horse culture of the west. Those were my heroes growing up and still live on in the recesses of my soul.
Working Equitation is an amalgamation of all of those things. I can wear breeches to ride, with half-chaps and boots. We can work cattle. We can do obstacles and speed runs. We can demonstrate our control and relaxation in the dressage portion of our test. It really is a good discipline for both of us. And we can ride trails. As many as we can fit in, in all areas of our region. And on trail it doesn't matter what I wear or who I am.
Some day last week, my iPhone began playing a song. It was God Must Be a Cowboy, sang by Chris Ladoux and written by Dan Seals. The refrain has been running through my mind for the last week (when it's not Andrea Bocelli) and it seems to sum up us.
And I think God must be a cowboy at heart
He made wide open spaces from the start
He made grass and trees and mountains
And a horse to be a friend
And trails to lead old cowboys home again