Going again

Saturday afternoon I sat behind a table and announced times at a barrel race. It’s been months since I’ve done this. It was a little refreshing watching the exhibitions and see the new horses and new people running. I was a little shocked by the number of new faces at the race and how many I didn’t know. That’s a good thing right?

I haven’t entered a barrel race in probably 5 years. My horse got old, and was (what seemed like) constantly hurt. Plus I had 2 young kids to chase around and struggle with finding childcare besides pawning them off with their grandma. I’ve written before about not going to any races. I’ve promised myself a million times I’ll get another one going.

Saturday I felt a little inkling of wanting to ride again regularly and start another horse. Someone asked me if I was going to run that day, and I jokingly replied, “On foot! I haven’t rode in months.” I had a little bit of a conversation with my sister and told her I don’t want to put time and investment in a horse that I don’t know if it can run fast enough to scatter it’s own shit.

I guess it’s because I feel like my time is so valuable now, that I don’t want to waste it. But I am wasting an opportunity to get another one trained because I can’t get out of the house. I’m already a crappy housekeeper and cook, and it’s really a chore to be able to get a meal on the table, kids bathed and to bed on time and homework done before it’s 9 p.m.

It’s taken me this long to not have guilt about retiring my mare and not running any more. I sure hope it won’t take me another 5 years to get over the guilt of leaving things undone in the house to go ride. I never cared before I had kids if the house was clean, dishes were done and supper was made. Now there’s 2 little boys who always need something from me.

Someone made the comment to me the other day about how the kids come first and I should just get over it if they need something before I do. I was completely annoyed. Mom also needs to do something for herself and be some semblance of what she was before kids. She’s not there just to be someone’s Mom. She was a person before kids and she’ll be a person after those kids are grown and gone. I will provide, protect and nurture those boys the best I know how but I also don’t want to have to lose myself in the process. And if that means taking a couple hours a week to ride then so be it.

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My retreat

It’s funny how a personal possession can become part of your identity. Sure I know this is just a horse trailer that I’m writing about, but to me it was really something more.

I was a little fish out in the big world with my first real job following college graduation. Mom and Dad had provided my sister and I a lot growing up. From horses to saddles and pickups and trailers. When I graduated from college, slowly they wanted me to find my own way and pay for my own stuff. I wasn’t spoiled by any means, but this was a tough pill to swallow. During college we had a nice Cherokee 3 horse trailer which we both loved and shared. We’d sold our previous trailer and put a down payment on the Cherokee. A decision had to be made at one point, and my sister was able to take the trailer and continue paying on it. So I was left to find something of my own.

I borrowed a trailer for a while and caught rides with other people. Lucky for me I had a friend who was selling trailers at the time in Tulsa when I was living in Woodward, Oklahoma. My then boyfriend, now husband and I decided to partner on buying a trailer in 2003. Ideally, this trailer was just what we were looking for, but my only hangup was it was red. GMC red to match the previous owners vehicle. No where near my favorite color.

What we bought was a S&H 3 horse gooseneck trailer with a small dressing room. If it could talk, it might just tell you all the miles and places it went once we pulled it home from Tulsa in March 2003. From barrel races to ropings to moving us from Oklahoma back to Kansas. Just too many to keep track of.

It very well may have been the ugliest trailer at the rodeos or barrel races, but in reality, it’s not what you pull up at in, instead what you lead out of the trailer. That red trailer many times only had one horse in it but it helped me qualify for the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association finals several years.

More than once that red trailer gave me a place to reflect after a bad run or rejoice after a great one. A number of times I sat on the fender and cried because my mare was hurt or needed doctored. Several times we made the trip to Oklahoma State University’s vet school for colic. One of my most vivid memories is getting to O’Keene, Oklahoma and being pulled over by the highway patrol because I was speeding through town during the middle of the night to get her to the hospital. The return trip from her colic surgery was almost as terrifying because I was so worried about her getting so sick weeks before. But we made it home in one piece. Like we did hundreds of times following.

Another time we’d went to a February barrel race in Chickasha, Oklahoma and when it started snowing on the way home we had to find some where to stay the night. Praise the Lord for friends who let you crash at their place and put your horses up for the night. Mike successfully unfroze the dressing room door so we could get our bags out.

In the weeks after I had my first child I often needed a break and a reprieve from the smothering times of early motherhood. I’d sneak out of the house at nap time and sit on the fender and ponder my existence or bawl, which ever came first.

I could go on and on about the trips I drug that trailer down the highway but I’ll spare you. Getting rid of this trailer is like losing a piece of my being. Since having kids and not running barrels for the past few years it feels as though pieces of what used to make up me are leaving one by one.

So last night after I cleaned out the ugly red trailer and packed all my belongings away I sat on the fender and had one more good cry and reflection. I’m still not ok with this piece of the old me leaving but I guess it leaves a spot for something new.

Innocently enough

Last night while changing the youngest boy’s diaper, my oldest came in and asked, “Mom, why don’t you go to rodeos any more.” I’m sure the expression on my face told it all, but I said to him, “I don’t have a horse to ride.” He cocked his head and looked at me in disbelief. Then went on to tell me matter of factly, “You have a horse out in the pen.” He didn’t look like he believed me when I told him she was too old.

The rest of the evening I thought about what he’d said. After I had him my riding and barrel racing slowed way down. I went to a few races and rodeos for a couple of years, but injuries to my mare kept us on the sidelines more than I cared to admit. My horse was aging and I feared the day where I’d have to retire her. Fast forward nearly 5 years later and my horse is basically retired (and seemingly enjoying it) and I’ve gotten over (depending on what day it is) not getting to ride as much or go to a barrel race and enjoying my boys while they are still little.

After our conversation I told my oldest boy, some day I will have another horse and will go to some more barrel races. And no, it’s not something I am telling myself to keep me sane. When they reach an age where I won’t have to worry as much about sending them with their dad to the farm (which they kind of do already now) I will have a horse of my own again. When I gather enough pennies to buy a horse of my own again, I will. It’s just going to take time. And I have to be patient and have a plan.

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My dear boys..

Saturday was one of those days. It started out relatively good with the boys and I, but it eventually progressed into a loud, messy mess. My youngest is nearly 20 months old and doesn’t go to daycare. It’s come time for him to get out more and be around other kids. So we’ve been going to a local Learn N’ Play group every other Saturday.

Play group went well until it was nearly over. For an hour, the kids sing, paint, explore and play. Of course, there are snacks as well. My youngest has a tendency to stuff food in his mouth like a ravenous beast who doesn’t know when his next meal may come. All the while he is running around and being, well almost two. When it came time to sing the goodbye song, Chance decided he needed to roll around on the carpet while everyone was singing around him. And of course he had stuffed a whole cracker in his mouth. Then came the coughing and eventual choking and mom having to scrape wet cracker out of his mouth. Fun stuff. He was ok with some time on my lap and a little water. Apparently the oldest didn’t like the attention little brother was getting and decided he needed to get my attention too – in a bad way, of course.

Shaun knows exactly how to push my buttons. Saturday was no different than any other day. He wasn’t listening. He was arguing and defiant to a degree. It subsided until late in the afternoon when he was seriously lacking a nap. I’d had one too many, “But, Mom, why’s” than I could stand. I yelled. I spanked and I sent him to his room. Then I felt guilty. Always with the guilt.

I really never pictured myself being a mother. Before I had children, I had my horse and dogs. Furry “kids” sufficed. They were cared for better than I cared for myself and I had no qualms about it. I loved them and they loved me. I was 30 when I got married and 32 when I had my oldest. Some may call it selfish the way things have worked out, but I can tell you this, there are reasons I waited. I lacked patience. I lacked calm. I lacked knowledge. I still feel like I lose my cool way to easily and don’t know what the hell I am doing. But I do know I love those boys and they keep me on my toes.

Saturday afternoon while they were both sleeping I had to get out of the house. I thought about saddling my old horse, but her feet were in unacceptable condition. So instead, I dug out the rope and roped the dummy. I hadn’t picked up a rope in years. It was therapeutic. Swinging (at times) the rope as hard as I could and catching the plastic calf head. I may or may not have smacked the rope down on the bale out of frustration from the day’s events. I was fed up and not happy with how this parenting gig was turning out. I wanted to be able to ride my horse whenever I wanted. I wanted to drive my pickup and go to a barrel race and not worry if I would be back late.

I have been unhappy with this phase in my life, and probably not nearly vocal enough about it. I haven’t been to a barrel race in two years. I haven’t rode since early spring. It feels like a part of me is gone. I know barrel racing and riding are always possibilities, but it feels like I’m never going to have that special horse or have the “time” to ride and actually GO. I want my boys to ride and eventually rodeo if they want to, but its hard for me to do that all by myself. It’s hard to saddle a horse when one kid is jumping around like a goon and the other one is screaming trying to claw his way up into the saddle before his brother gets there.

I’m jealous of those mothers who several weeks after they had their latest kid are back in the saddle.  They are more dedicated than I am, but in the end our situations are different. They don’t have old horses or a husband who works (what feels like) a million miles away. They are younger, have the desire to go and drag the kids along. I have hell dragging mine to the grocery store, much less a barrel race with a couple of horses. I’m sure there’s a solution, but I haven’t found mine yet. That or just come give me a swift kick in the pants.

Competing at the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association event in Syracuse, Kansas, June 2009. (Photo by Lone S Photo.)

Competing at the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association event in Syracuse, Kansas, June 2009. (Photo by Lone S Photo.)

It’s been how long?

A few weeks ago in the mail I received a membership renewal for the Better Barrel Races association. Knowing what it was I didn’t even open it. The thought of me not riding my mare and going to barrel races hit me the wrong way that day, so I just tucked it away and forgot about it.

I have been a member of the BBR for a number of years, and have attended their World Finals in Oklahoma City several times. Last year I renewed knowing that I was already pregnant with Chance. I intended on riding after he was born, like I did with Shaun. I did ride most of the summer, but the last barrel race I went to was Labor Day 2013. My mare got sore after that and we didn’t get her feet figured out until nearly fall. By that time I was big and fat, so I didn’t get back on my mare until April of this year.

Now it’s already mid-August, and I can’t tell you the last time I got to ride. Between two kids, a full-time job and other activities, there’s plenty of room for excuses. Not to mention my horse is missing shoes, and I’ve missed the horse shoer the last three times he’s been here. I don’t know that she’s missing getting rode, but I know I am missing getting to go to the jackpots and rodeos. I look at the rodeo results and photos and think back to the last 10 years or so when I went to the Kansas Pro Rodeos. Now I wonder if I will ever have a horse to take to the rodeos.

My old mare is 22 this year, and deserves the best. Shaun keeps asking which horse is his and I tell him they are all OUR horses. I just can’t let go of that brown mare quite yet. I really don’t want last year’s run to be our last together, but she’s given me 16 great years and doesn’t owe me a thing. So if that run was our last together, I can accept that. She will have many more runs with Shaun and Chance hopefully.

2013 BBR World Finals, Oklahoma City, OK.

2013 BBR World Finals, Oklahoma City, OK.

Struggling

Maybe you could call it a mid-life crisis, or maybe it’s an identity crisis. Not sure what I want to call it, but lately I’ve been struggling. Struggling with who I am and what I want to be. Work is the same, and I enjoy going to work every day. At home, it’s harder. I have a 3-year-old and a 3 month old. It can be a challenge since my husband works 40 miles away and has farm chores down south after he finishes at his full-time job. Quite a bit of the time, it’s just me and the boys.

Flash back 5, 10 or even 15 years ago, and you would find me a lot more selfish than I am now. I was concerned with was what rodeo or barrel race was next and how I’d spend my next paycheck. As much as I hate to admit it, my horse was my number one priority. I can think of a dozen or more times where I spent my last dime to buy feed, a needed supplement or pay an entry fee. There was more than one occasion where I skipped a family function to go to a barrel race or a rodeo. There was more than one time when I went by myself because no one else wanted to go with me.

Now I’m lucky if I get to ride my horse once a week. Twice is a stretch sometimes. I sometimes have a willing babysitter, but I don’t always want to extend her too much. Other times I just don’t have the motivation to line up the babysitter, distract the 3-year-old and take the half our to ride and enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy riding and competing. You can bet your sweet ass I miss the adrenaline rush. I guess that’s part of my problem. For so long, barrel racing defined me. And now I’m not that person. Sometimes I don’t like it. I haven’t competed since September and I’m missing it. Bad.

Back when my horse was ten years younger it killed me to miss a race. I absolutely hated sitting at home. Now, I live vicariously through those who still get to go. My mare’s 22 and she’s got bad knees and ankles. Sure I’d like to run her again, but at the rate I’m going she’ll be 23 before we go to another barrel race. That is if I ever get off my ass and ride.

I ran across this on a friend’s Facebook today, and found it way too appropriate. I need to stop waiting and just do it.

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All the pretty horses

IMG_0145I’ve been trying to write something about the loss of my sister’s horse for a month now, as words have escaped me. I finally sat down and just did it.

Horses come in all shapes and colors, and there’s likely one that will be pretty to someone. My sister got a gray gelding probably 7 or 8 years ago, and he was the prettiest gray I’d seen in a long time. He always managed to grow the longest mane and tail. Granted it was a pain to deal with at times, but it was long and flowing. His gray coat changed colors several times throughout the year, almost as if he was a chameleon.

Okie spent some time on the race track and a ranch. He was the kind of horse you could climb on and ride with no issues. When my horse had colic surgery in 2006 I borrowed my sisters horse Star first so I had something to ride and occupy my time. Okie later came to stay with me and I really enjoyed getting to know him and ride him. You could let him trot all day and never get wore out. Sure he did have his quirks, but all horses do.

One evening mid-March, I got a text from my sister that they had lost Okie. Stopped me in my tracks. My reply, “What? Why?” I was shocked. When I learned of the details, I was heart broke. Okie was such a kind, gentle soul. It was good to know he didn’t suffer long, and I hope he’s found his way to greener pastures where he can run – and that sucker could flat run – and be free once again. It was a good ride Okie, we will miss you!

My sisters son, Klayton and Okie in September 2012.

My sister’s son, Klayton and Okie in September 2012.

Stuck

I haven’t blogged for two and a half months. I can’t decide if I want to continue to write on this blog or not, but part of me thinks I ought to. My brain tends to get clogged up with unnecessary junk from time to time, and I’m beginning to think that is unhealthy. I looked back at a few of the blog posts on my list that I started but never finished, and many of them spin negative. I’d like to say I don’t know how that happens, but then that’d be a lie. My mom was negative, some of my coworkers are and eventually I become that way. Sometimes I try not to be, other times I just really don’t care.

In the past months a lot has happened. Kashe the Corgi disappeared and has yet to return. A couple of calls to the neighbors merited nothing. Countless miles driving around the “neighborhood” found nothing. A couple of days after he left, the neighbor to the north called and said they had found a dead dog in their pasture, but wasn’t too sure if it was ours because it was pretty weathered. In my mind Kashe went to find a better place so I wouldn’t have to make a decision to put him out of his misery. He was blind and had trouble hearing. He didn’t eat the best and was sleeping a lot. He’s been with us since 2003 and before we got him he didn’t have the best of life. I’d like to think he had a good time with us for the 10 years we had him. He went to countless rodeos and barrel races, and was my favorite. I will miss the stubborn, rowdy guy.

Also during that time announced that Shaun is being promoted to a big brother. “Number 2” as I have been calling him, will make his appearance in February 2014. My husband is excited, and I have my moments. I sure don’t miss being up in the middle of the night with a crying baby, drool or the spit up. I survived the first, I guess I can probably survive another. I just have to make it that far first.

Because of a sore horse and being pregnant, I haven’t been on my mare since Labor Day. She ran pretty good at the barrel race that day, and even though I felt like Whiplash the Monkey, I managed to stay on and not embarrass myself too much. Then a couple of days later we got some rain and consequently one of her front shoes got sucked off. I didn’t know it and when I found it I was already planning to leave to go on a work trip. The horseshoer called while I was gone and he managed to get it tacked back on when he was in town. Between then and a day in mid-September when I actually had a babysitter and could ride I found her sore. And she’s still sore. Even after a set of new shoes and pads. Guess we will see. Muddy pens again this week aren’t helping her cause, but maybe by the weekend the fence around the horse trap will be safe again and she can spend the winter turned out some. I just hope she can stay safe turned out with the other two fat mares.

Now that we’re on the downhill slide to the end of the year, I guess I better get after getting a family photo taken so I can get Christmas cards ordered. It’s not even Halloween and it seems like marketers are already cramming it down our throats. Seems like once it’s the week of Halloween, they skip right over Thanksgiving and go straight to Christmas. Boo.

Until next time.

Sweet Heart Slew

Sweet Heart Slew

Best April Fool’s day of all

Fifteen years ago today I was a freshman at Hutchinson Community College. I had money burning a hole in my pocket earmarked for a new horse. I wanted something young and fast, and that fit in my limited price range. When my sister told me about a consignment sale at the local sale barn, I just knew we’d find something there. At least it was easier than calling on classified ads in the paper.

We walked through the pens out back before the sale and I was beginning to get disappointed because nothing really caught my eye. Looking back on it, I’m not even sure I laid eyes on the 6-year-old brown mare that eventually would be mine, but I do remember when she went through the ring. She was long, lean and seemed pretty nice. Brown, with a black mane and tail and not a speck of white on her. The trader who had her had his kid crawling under her and weaving in between her front legs. Then they started talking pedigree. All I remember hearing was Seattle Slew, and I was hooked. He was the 1977 Triple Crown winner and is still the only undefeated winner.

I’d conned my sister into bidding for me, and we got my mare bought, $125 more than what I had so I had to sweet talk her and mom into loaning me the extra money. Mom still claims she owns the tail.. Probably the best $1,125 investment I’ve ever made.

It’s been a long 15 years with a lot of highs and some lows. From the first ride on her when she about run off with me, and to realizing how fast she really was. The first jackpot we won in Holly, Colo., and our first rodeo check at Ashland, Kan., to the knocked down barrels that “would have” won, we’ve been through a lot. I about lost her twice (July 2005 and April 2006) to colic and have been sidelined with our fair share of injuries. I’d always wanted to get her bred, but never could find the right stud to pair her with, and when I had settled on one I didn’t have the money. Now she’s 21, and I’m perfectly content with just having her healthy and happy. I wish we could have another 15 years together, but with horses you just never know how long they will be in your lives. I hope she’s around for a lot more. There’s a little boy who adores her, and someday he wants to ride her all by himself.

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