Guest Blog by Nicole Ross (BSYR Ranch Hand)
When I was a little girl, I informed my mother that I never wanted a car. I didn’t need one. All I needed was a horse with two saddle bags — one for my groceries and one for my baby. I filled my room with model horses and horse books, begged my parents for riding lessons, and asked for a horse of my own every birthday and Christmas…for my entire childhood.
Girls and horses. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and age isn’t a factor. Horse-crazy little girls turn into horse-crazy women (even if we allow that part of ourselves to fade as “real life” takes priority). That delicious smell of leather? The nickers of horses in the early morning? The soft snorts and nuzzles of those big muzzles? The allure stays with us.
But loving horses and having a horse of your own are two very different things. There was never a horse with a big red bow waiting for me on Christmas morning, and I (almost) get it now. They’re expensive. A lot of kids “lose interest” after a while. And, as my father always said, there are plenty of other horses out there to ride.
So I rode plenty of other horses on trail rides, in lessons, at camps, on vacations, at fairs, and anywhere else the opportunity presented itself. I rode throughout primary, elementary, middle, and high school. I rode in college. Then, I stopped.
Looking back, I was tired of riding other people’s horses. I was tired of getting attached to animals that weren’t — and were never going to be — mine. I was tired of making progress with a horse only to have other students overwrite it during their lessons. I was tired of riding “the horses no one else wanted to ride.” Selfish? Maybe. But I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
So, for about ten years, I simply stopped.
Then, in 2013, I attended my first Luxe Cowgirl Yoga retreat in Montana. I pulled on my boots, put on my helmet, felt velvet muzzles in my hands, and viewed the world through a set of fuzzy ears once again. And it felt like home.
Three years later, I moved to Bozeman (read why here). Five months after that, at the age of 34, I finally fulfilled my childhood dream and bought a horse of my own.
His name is Remington (Rem), and he’s a 10-year-old Quarter Horse with a heart of gold. He’s impeccably trained, unfailingly kind, an unabashed foodie, and coming out of his shell more every day.
(As my instructor says, he seems to like having a little girl of his own, too.)
When you want something for thirty years, it’s surprisingly hard to pull the trigger. What if it’s not as great as you’d built it up to be? What if you don’t like it? What if…what if? Those were a lot of the same questions I asked myself before signing up for a retreat.
I only rode Rem twice before deciding to buy him, and it was my father’s reaction that gave me the courage to sign on the dotted line. My father, who had for thirty years told me how expensive, unpredictable, time consuming, and generally unwise (I can read between the lines, dad.) it would be to buy a horse of my own.
Yet, after watching me ride Rem, dad pulled me aside and told me I should do it. This horse was different. He was worth it.
And dad was right.
In the four months I’ve been a horse owner, I haven’t once regretted it. Sure, my bank balance is a little (ok a lot) lower. My legs are a little sorer. My car smells a little more like horses than air freshener. But, I still look at Rem every day and think: “Is he really mine?!”
My ex-professor father once wrote an article in which he cited the definition of satisfaction as “The buyer’s cognitive state of being adequately or inadequately rewarded … for the sacrifice she’s undergone.”* Put another way, satisfaction = reality / expectations.
I never dreamed I’d actually own a horse this kind, this versatile, this well trained, or this well matched with me. (I’d never even ridden one that ticked all those boxes.) The reality of owning Rem has far exceeded my expectations, in large part due to the wonderful riding community I’ve found at my barn. I am learning so much (not the least of which is a new appreciation for humility). I have a reason to stop working and go enjoy the outdoors. I have an animal who counts on me to be a partner just as much as I count on him. We’re building trust, and the journey is most certainly the reward.
He’s not perfect, and neither am I. Every ride doesn’t go smoothly, and oftentimes I have no idea what I’m doing. Yet, I have no regrets. And I rarely get to say that.
But, that’s the magic of girls and horses, I suppose. It’s never too late to embrace your inner cowgirl. It’s never too late to reconnect with horses (whether owning one is a dream of yours or not). It starts with a single step, and the BSYR herd (and I) will be here waiting for you when you decide the time is right.
Yeehaw & Namaste
*Source: Howard, J.A., and J.N. Sheth, The Theory of Buyer Behavior, Wiley & Sons, New York, 1969, p. 145.