Fifty-two years on horseback has created some of my most cherished memories, biggest victories and indelible scars. God willing there will still be many more; years, memories, victories and yes, even scars.
As I analyze my aging body I see the gray intertwining with my brunette strands, my crooked nose, the knobbiness of arthritis and I feel the argument my joints and back declare every morning as I arise from bed. More days than not I will consider climbing back under the soft covers for just a little more rest but instead choose to be thankful for the aches as a reminder of a life filled with activity and having spent it doing things I love to do.
As I dress I see the bump on my right kneecap; that was from a youngster I had in training, years ago, he tried to swerve around a jump and knocked my knee into the solid standard. I run my hands over my legs and feel the indentation on my thigh shaped like a hoof. I remember sitting on the ground wondering what happened after the horse kicked me; I never saw it coming. Putting my socks on over my toes I can still see the purple left from the large young horse standing on my foot and the tell-tale scars on my shins from saddle rubs.
As I put on my shirt my right shoulder complains; which it has every right because how many times over the years did I tuck and roll on that shoulder? Thanks to my right shoulder I have very few pieces of my body that were actually broken. So I show it some TLC by putting some ointment on it to dull the ache.
As I stand up my lower back makes sure to have its say. Rubbing my hands on it to loosen it up I recall the doctor asking me when I had broken my back? I told her that I had never broken my back. Her response was that the MRI doesn’t lie. Well, what do you know? No wonder I don’t bend as well as I used to and my back aches after a long day of teaching. I smile as recall her reaction …all she could say to me was “Oh, you horse people!!” I guess to we horse people what’s another ache or pain? There is still always work to get done and it isn’t going to get done by itself.
With every physical scar I can probably recite to you which horse and the circumstances, not in an angry or regretful way; each horse means something to me, because I have built a relationship with it. Over the years I have learned so much about life through my work with horses; each one has its own story and it has been my job and privilege to write a chapter or two in its life.
A character on a favorite series made the comment that scars remind us where we’ve been but don’t have to define where we are going. I’ve always valued those words. I agree. Looking at and feeling scars from my life I realize each one was a lesson; sometimes the lesson was simply about my own character, perhaps the most important lesson of all.
This brings me to all the scars others cannot see. We all have some. Through my time spent interacting with horses I know those scars require the most time, patience and love to heal. Horses want to heal, they want to hope and they want to survive. I have learned we can wallow in our scars and remain a type of victim or we can choose that our scars are a piece of our journey, they don’t need to remain baggage. Through my scars I have developed wisdom, and hopefully, become a better trainer and friend.
The barn is a therapeutic place for many of us. I think it’s because in those big, soft eyes we see no judgement or condemnation. I watch how thrilled people get when a shy horse slowly shows trust in them or the abused begins to show hope again. Whether the scars are physical or deeply imbedded take a clue from a horse trainer you can move on and still greet each new day with hope and learn to trust again. When you feel those old aches and pains say thanks for the reminder but I have today to fill with new memories!