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The Three Amigos
Saddle up - or not - and chill
There is this generally accepted belief that geldings are docile and loving, while mares can be moody and challenging. That’s because stereotypes exist everywhere, even in the horse world.
Normally I would challenge any broad sweeping generalization. To me, we generalize because we don’t want to look deeper and can’t be bothered to truly understand or accept that living beings are changeable and multifaceted. It’s lazy thinking.
Admittedly, when it comes to my horses, there may be some themes in these stereotypes that ring true.
Ty is my gelding. He’s a stunning, muscular, and imposing looking Friesian from the Netherlands. And he is the sweetest soul. I’ve never met a more affectionate and kind horse. True to the gelding stereotype, he is mama’s boy and would sit on my lap if he could.
Walking into the barn on Saturday mornings I usually find Ty in the cross ties being groomed and prepared for training. His head comes up as he spots me, and I can’t help but come over to plant a kiss on his soft nose and step in close to wrap my arms around his thick neck. As I do, my blood pressure drops and outside stressors begin to fade away.
If I am sad, he drops his huge head on my chest or pulls me in with his chin for a hug. I imagine his voice to be some Dutch version of Barry White as he tells me, “Yeah, Baby. We got it goin’ on.”
And then there’s the original Gray Horse, my mare Trudy. A Tennessee Walking Horse, she is beautiful, she is opinionated, and true to mare form, enjoys her hormonal seasons about as much as the rest of us females do.
Trudy calls to me when she hears my voice in the barn, and I smile as her gorgeous gray head with pink nose pops out from her stall. She nickers and inquires, hoping that I’ve got something good for her to eat.
If I’m sad, she will tolerate a hug and sometimes will even forget to flatten her ears at me. But once she’s had enough, I hear what I imagine to be a heavy southern drawl saying, “Honey, you need to stop. Ain’t no one got time for your whinin’.”
And then there’s me. What stereotype am I? I am an older woman who came back to horses later in life, hoping to recreate some of the joy horses gave me as a young girl.
And oh yes, I’ve read articles written by “equine professionals” and heard “trainers” and young riders openly complain about the “old women” at the barn. They complain about incompetence, ignorance, physical limitations, as they make fun of the fear an inexperienced older rider may struggle with. As a horse owner, according to stereotype, I’ll either be too demanding or too timid as I stupidly hold onto a childhood fantasy with unrealistic expectations.
I have heard all of that particular stereotyping. And in two different barns, I was keenly aware of the derision and felt the contempt.
Thankfully Trudy intervened. Wanting to do the best for her pushed me to stand up, put on my big girl pants, and find a better home for us.
So now we three - the sweet gelding, the feisty mare, and the tenderfoot - have found a wonderful and safe place. A barn home where we get to be ourselves and are respected individual beings.
Right now, I am grieving the loss of an uncle and a brother. As I work through my grief and the complexity of my emotions, I find myself a bit unstable. I feel like I’m not always standing on solid ground. I find Ty, with his strength and stability, very soothing. While Trudy’s feisty nature some days is more than I can handle and makes me anxious.
To the outside eye, I might look like the stereotype, the older woman afraid to ride her own horse.
Yet, because I know we are in a safe and supportive place, I have been able to give myself permission to ease off the self judgement. To do what feels comfortable and not worry about it.
So, I ride my horses back and forth to their lessons and warm up Ty for my trainer before she competes on him or works with him on some new skills. My heart soars when I watch them work and see how much they able to accomplish together and I celebrate every competition win.
Later in the day, I get on Trudy and if I’m feeling anxious I do this thing: I get off. I will ride another day. I have nothing to prove to anyone.
I bought these horses because they are what I love. They represent the truest part of myself. They are majestic and stunning and have such beautiful souls. Their hearts synch with mine and we connect on a completely honest and pure level. They remind me how much love I have to share. So much that I even have enough for myself.
When I worry about someone’s judgement or stereotype, I put pressure on myself and lose all sight of my own goals as I try so hard to prove them wrong somehow. And that is when all the joy goes out of it.
What a relief it has been to realize I don’t need to feel judged. Particularly by myself.