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.)

Unfit for polite company

Last week I drove to southwest Oklahoma to do an interview about a rodeo Bible camp. I love to get to go to Oklahoma, and I love rodeo, so it was a win-win situation. Driving home from the meeting I had plenty of time to think. One thing the guy I interviewed said really stuck with me. “We try not to scare them with Hell.” I couldn’t agree more. I’d probably be more into organized religion hadn’t it been for someone like Mr. Taylor.

Growing up I attended a Lutheran church with my family. For as long as I can remember, I didn’t like going to church. It wasn’t what they were teaching, but how they were teaching it. As a kid we were taught right from wrong by our parents, but also had to obey the religion we were being taught. I really didn’t like that. By the time I was in high school and later college, church became very unappealing. Our pastor was black and white. there was no middle ground with him. You were either good or bad an if you were the latter, you were going straight to hell. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200. Once he said there were no animals in heaven. I had a tough time believing all of God’s creatures weren’t included in the ever after.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend other churches and find my self comparing those to my childhood church. One thing remains clear, you don’t have to go to church to believe in God. I believe in God, and often pray. I pray for my family, friends and guidance through difficult situations. And I believe God has helped me in those times of need.

I ran across this quote some time ago, “Cowboy Logic: “Going to church makes you a Christian about as much as watching a rodeo makes you a cowboy.” I believe it’s totally appropriate to my feelings about organized religion. I’ve heard religion and politics referred to as things you don’t talk about in polite company. I agree with that. No two people will agree on either subject and it will not be a pleasant experience if they do disagree. However people can agree to disagree.

My favorite little country church, Zion Lutheran near Offerle, Kansas.

My favorite little country church, Zion Lutheran near Offerle, Kansas.

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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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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Morning rides

Lately its been hot. Hot enough for the screen door to burn my hand when I went to open it. Ok, not really, but my fingers felt the sizzle. So when I get home from work and it’s still in the 90s I have zero motivation to let it cool off and then go ride, especially since I don’t usually have a baby sitter from the hours of 6 to 9 p.m.

My solution? Get up at 6 a.m., and ride when it’s still cool and Shaun’s still asleep. Works for me, even though I’m not much of a morning person. I somehow have much more motivation to get up and ride than I do in the evenings. Completely surprising to me.

Here’s a couple of views from my morning rides this week. Pardon the crappy Blackberry photos.

Stuck in memory lane

Before yesterday I have only been able to ride my horse twice in the last month. Sure there were times when I could have snuck out of the house while Shaun was sleeping or put him in his dads arms and said, “I’m going outside,” but I haven’t. I have a million excuses, but mostly it’s hot out and I’ve gotten rather lazy when the temperature creeps above 95. And I like hot weather.

So last night I decided it’s time to ride as I want to go to a barrel race in two weeks, so I better get after it. I almost wimped out when I got out of the pickup at the house and there was a stiff 30 mph wind and it was in the 90s. But once horseback I was glad I did.

We have three horses at our house, Kate, my mare and the little bay mare. They all three can be ridden but one is rough to ride and not much fun and the other is a lot younger than I like. Mine is just perfect and at this point in her life, fun to ride. It’s very easy to crawl on the most familiar horse on the place. And I’m perfectly happy with that.

The mares come in for their evening meal.

My husband has told me that I could take the little bay mare and see if I want to run barrels on her. Since he has said this I have been on her a grand total of one time. I rode her in the round pen, and she’s soft, responsive and buries her butt in the ground. I’ve seen her “work” in the pasture and pen. She is athletic and catty. Looks as though she would be fun to ride.

My sister keeps asking me when I’m going to start riding the little bay mare. My friend Mindy keeps emailing me leads on other horses. They seem to think I need another horse. I’m perfectly happy with my 20-year-old mare. We’ve gotten along just fine these last 14 years together. Even my horseshoer asked when I was going to ride something different.

I hate to admit it, but I really don’t want to ride any other horse than my mare. She’s turned into one of those “once in a lifetime” horses and no other horse will live up to her. I’ve been places and accomplished goals with her that I never thought possible. Sure, that might mean when she’s gone that I will either quit riding all together or start something else. It’s hard to imagine not riding, so I guess I better get used to riding another horse sooner rather than later.

On one of those afternoons I was sitting on my butt in the house watching Shaun play I thought about how my life has changed. From 2003 to 2009 in the months of May/June/July/August my life was consumed with Kansas Professional Rodeo Association rodeos. I was either worried about getting through on the phone line to get entered in the performance I wanted or what the ground was going to be like when I got to the rodeo. A lot of the time I would leave on a Friday afternoon and not come back home until the early morning hours of Sunday. I’d sometimes hit a jackpot during the week as well.

I have a wall in my home office with a lot of the photos of my mare and I running barrels. My husband calls it my shrine. I call it a lot of hard work, accomplishments and goals. I can never have too many photos of my horse running barrels and went looking for some. Found them on a local photographers website, www.lonesphoto.com.

Here’s a couple I found.

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One of these days I will get another horse, whether it be Spence’s little bay mare, or something I buy myself. It will just be in my own time.

Respectful

Respect and appreciation for those older than me has always been important. Through the years I have learned from other people, whether it be in my professional career or in the horse world. Everyone has something to offer, be it good or bad, you can learn from them.

When my sister and I started out with horses in our early teens, we didn’t have parents who rode. About the only thing our dad taught us was how to saddle our horse and where to ride in the pastures. No fault to him, but he really didn’t have a teacher either. Through 4-H we learned the basics and even attended a number of horsemanship clinics. Those, in my opinion, are the most important for a person who wants to ride and have horses. I still draw on those experiences each time I swing a leg over my horse. I also have respect for those horsemen and women who continually go out there and compete and win at their given disciplines.

When I started running barrels, I looked to the gals with whom I competed with. Just by watching them you could see how soft their hands were, where their bodies where when they were running and what it was like to win. We compete against several NFR qualifiers here in southwest Kansas, and I even went to college with a WPRA world champion. I’ve always said, you are only as good as your competition, and around here we have some pretty darn good competition. I have a lot of respect for those gals whom I call friends and try to learn from them.

I was a director for the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association, and currently am the secretary for a local barrel racing association, so I hear and see a lot of things, both right and wrong. However, I have the utmost respect for those gals who try to make things better and work for their respective associations.

I got a phone call last night from one of the gals whom I have looked up to for a long time and respect her skills as a horsewoman and barrel racer and only hope I can be as tough as she is when I’m her age. She told me about her encounter with another barrel racer from our area, and although I hate that she had to deal with this person’s ugliness, but I have to say that I was not surprised by it. I too have been on the receiving end of her wrath. Some people will never change.

No matter what sport you are in or what hobby you enjoy, respect the people you are around. Everyone has something to offer, even the ones who want to be ugly.

Running at the Syracuse, Kan., KPRA rodeo in 2009.

It’s just a horse

If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase, “It’s just a horse” I might be able to buy another one. My horse is far from just a horse (at least in my twisted little head she is).

My mare, Sweet Heart Slew turns 20 today, and as she was standing it the fog this morning, I thought of all the times and trials we have been through in the 14 years I have called her mine. See my earlier post, Impending doom here.

Here’s an appropriately titled poem, Just a Horse, I found online. I am unsure of the author since it was not provided.

From time to time, people tell me,
“lighten up, it’s just a horse,”
or, ”that’s a lot of money for just a horse”.
They don’t understand the distance traveled,
the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a horse.”
Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a horse.”
Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a horse,”
but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a horse,” and in those days of darkness,
the gentle touch of “just a horse” gave me comfort
and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “just a horse,”
then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,”
“just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a horse” brings into my life the very essence of friendship,
trust, and pure unbridled joy.
“Just a horse” brings out the compassion and patience
that make me a better person.
Because of “just a horse” I will rise early,
take long walks and look longingly to the future.
So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a horse”
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
“Just a horse” brings out what’s good in me
and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.
I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a horse”
but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being
“just a woman.” So the next time you hear the phrase
“just a horse” just smile, because they “just” don’t understand.