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A Year of Hope...

A Year of Hope...

By Betsy Kelleher

      I love to plan. Planning gives me hope and I love the anticipation of something new and different. I received my first seed catalog not long ago, and even though I don’t garden anymore, just the memory of that process helped raise my spirits. Now is the time to make lists and plan for the year ahead. The coldest days of the year are hopefully behind us and I’ll soon be riding on that wooded trail behind the barn again. And March 6 through 8 is the Illinois Horse Fair in Springfield, which means it’s almost SPRING! I’m excited—after last year’s cancellation, this year’s Fair is long awaited! Hope to see you there!

     I feel I need to look ahead right now, after two months of watching a son’s battle with cancer from an anxious point of view. Sometimes I just need to deal with my own life again instead of other thoughts while waiting for his slow progress toward remission. Our four horses have had only basic care for some time, and I’m sure they are ready for our special attention.

     With access to an indoor arena, I have no excuse for not riding over the winter, and I applaud those in our barn who have been riding faithfully. It will pay off this spring! On the other hand, I have much to do to catch up. I started checking feet first, seriously cleaning and treating any signs of problems. The farrier will come soon. This year I will take measures to prevent any “scratches” on those ankles by trimming that heavy fetlock hair when it warms up and watching for extra moisture in that area. I learned the hard way two years ago on that one, and I found that a mixture of Listerine and mineral oil does wonders!

     I’ve also learned something from a yahoo discussion group I joined a couple years ago. Crosswinds Equine Rescue, with AnnMarie and Mike Cross of Sidel, is a fantastic source of training tips and horse wisdom! Last year Mike took a mustang to the Midwest Horse Fair’s Mustang Makeover, and this year, the two of them have THREE mustangs to train in 90 days! They share each small success in their frequent emails, and it is inspiring and educational. I have seen how their slow and easy training methods get better results. Most of our problems come when we push for too much too soon.   

     Remember that horses lose muscle over the winter if they haven’t been ridden, just as we get out of shape ourselves. We aren’t ready for a long hard ride and it will take some time to get back in condition! That process alone is a major planning issue. Cleaning four stalls a day hasn’t helped my tummy, and I believe it’s actually taken a toll on my back. And in spite of the exercise involved, it really doesn’t qualify toward getting me ready for regular riding. So I’m looking over my shelf of exercise videos, just in case I get the urge one of these days.

     March will include a vet call for shots and Coggins testing, and I’ll be getting out the wormer that I bought on sale a while back. In the meantime, I hope to start some ground work and some back-in-the-saddle time. After not riding at all for two months, this effort will need a good push to get me past that initial reluctance. I’ll probably invest in a couple of refresher riding lessons.

          I had a dream not long ago, however, that actually got me excited about riding again. I was riding Traveller and we were at Queeny Park and I cantered him for a long way—a smooth, controlled, amazing canter. I headed for the jumps but none were there, and I was disappointed. I wanted to “fly without wings” and feel the thrill of it. After all, this was a dream and I didn’t have to be afraid. As we cantered, I heard Connie Owens talking to someone, “Betsy’s horse looks good out there today!” And I was pleased.

     When I awoke, I remembered the time I entered Traveller in a show at Fox Fire Farm and did the trail class (in 1999, I believe). I came off during a practice jump when Traveller seemed to think a certain one-footer was much higher and he wanted to be sure he cleared it, and Connie warned me sternly about getting my heels down. I almost scratched because I got scared, but I actually enjoyed the ride and Traveller won a fourth place ribbon. And I remember Connie telling me later, “You looked pretty good out there.” I felt that I’d been given the ultimate compliment.

     Unfortunately, I can’t live on memories and dreams or one-time endeavors. I need to actually work with my horses regularly and get up in that saddle and get serious. I just find it much easier when the temperature is over 45 degrees.

     Last year, my goal was to ride Lady down the road with confidence instead of panic! We did quite well toward that goal (with help), and I will continue to work on that. But this year, I am seriously considering a new direction. I’ve always wanted to “do dressage.” But Traveller isn’t up to it, and I now I have two gaited horses. So after some thought and research on this area of dressage for gaited horses, I may just give it an honest try. I ought to cut down our number of horses, and I have talked a couple times with a possible buyer for Rocky, but my husband feels I should keep him, since he is really our best horse. With the cost of hay and gas down a bit, the situation doesn’t seem as critical. And since Rocky can gait or trot as well as canter, I’m feeling a bit excited over the possibilities.

     I like the feeling that I could do something more with a horse than I have done in the past. It’s a challenge, and it’s exciting. That feeling in itself is encouraging, because I haven’t felt the desire to do much for awhile—just too tired and worried about other things. So maybe it’s time to lift my head up and get started on my lists and plans!

     You younger folk out there should enjoy your energy while you’ve got it and take advantage of your opportunities. As you get older, that energy seems to disappear too quickly, as well as your desire to even DO something. I’m glad I enjoyed some competitive trail rides when I was younger, and some hunter pace events. Guess I shouldn’t give up on everything just yet; Lady did good for me on her first hunter pace in 2007. I’d love to see what Rocky would do on that type of event.

     Every morning when I wake up, I thank God for another day. I pray for my son and his family, for their strength and healing and for comfort. I ask for guidance for myself, and for wisdom. And I am glad for each day that brings hope and opportunity. This country has a new opportunity as well, and no matter what party we support, we need to pray for our leaders and give them a chance. After all, God is in ultimate control of every situation, and God has brought us to this point in time. Watching the inauguration was inspiring to me. May God lead our people and our country to better days. And may each of us realize how great is our God in both power and love. 

     In Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV), the writer says: “…therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” And I myself also hope in God’s faithfulness. He may not give me what I want each day, but He will be with me wherever He leads me, and He has a purpose. I’m sure He doesn’t need to make lists as I enjoy doing, but I’m very thankful that He does have a plan and a purpose in all His workings. In Jeremiah 29:11, we read, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” One of my goals for 2009 is to take more time for Bible study and meditation—because I want to better understand how to be a part of His plan.

(Originally published in the February 2009 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)

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