Reluctant Cowgirl


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On July 30, we celebrated one year together. In the dog adoption world, this milestone is referred to as a “Gotcha Day,” and often celebrated in lieu of a birthday because no one knows when most rescues were born. Same goes for mustangs.

Probably never saw grass this tall in Nevada.

We didn’t do any special treats or long rides. I had planned to compose an Instagram or Facebook post that declared all that this year had done for and meant to me, but the day slipped away, as days do.

So here I am a couple weeks later, staring out the window at the snorting beast, who, for the last few months has done little I can complain about. A few days ago we had friends in town with two toddlers. The older of them wanted to go for a ride, and I chose the mustang over the 34 year-old horse and the 12-hand donkey when it was time to consider who was safest. He carried the two of us all over the property without stepping a foot wrong. I tried not to cry from the overwhelming pride.

This is a formerly wild mustang with a 3 and a half year old child riding him. NBD.

Things changed a year ago when I brought home this horse. First I got giddy and just wanted to hug and kiss him like a child. Then that all led to getting a panel slammed into my face and dismounting in fear when it felt like respect was non-existent and bucks were imminent. Finally I sought out help from the wise horsemen before me (in person and via the internet) and began to grow and bond with the portly, formerly wild dude by treating him like a horse instead of a human or a dog. I learned very quickly how to slow down and be more observant, to seek consistency and clear communication and to above all be fair to him. I stopped telling him what to do and started asking. I made the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. My whole notion of horsemanship got turned on its head, and with it came many necessary lessons about not just horses, but life. I began referring to him as my zen master, my BLM black buddha.

Zen master HW.

We have a long way to go. He’s not a fine-tuned arena horse and our list of goals for getting out on the trails together is long enough that we’ll be working at it for years to come. But I’m grateful for the year we’ve got under our belt, and excited for the ones ahead.

Author: jess

I love my dogs and equines and good food, drink and music. I believe that the world is a better place because of bad Sandra Bullock movies, Hank Williams, and honeybees. I used to think I would never live in the middle of nowhere eight hours from the ocean or own a horse as an adult, but now both are true, so I may be an unreliable narrator.

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