Well, HAY THERE!
(Haha, I crack myself up sometimes).
That's Bumi in the picture. She's one of the guest horses I've had since March. She's a real sweetheart and a very lovely horse to ride. She very cooperatively walked around with her breakfast stuck on her face long enough for me to whip out my phone and capture a photo.
I know I've written about it before, but I am struck constantly by how much I owe where I'm at horse-wise to the loving support of other people. My horse journey has been influenced so much by my parents and my husband, all of whom have willingly given up whole days to make sure my children were fed and cared for so I could go enjoy time on my horse. My deepest gratitude is for my friend Michelle, who has unselfishly driven hundreds of extra miles over the last three years to pick up my horse and me for trail rides and clinics. She's kept horses at her place for me, she's shared her doctoring skills and her advice, and most importantly she has shared her friendship.
The love of horses, or "the sickness" as some call it, is somewhat indescribable. When you have it, one of the things you simply need in order to feel truly happy, to be truly yourself, is a horse in your life. Its also a real luxury, because horses are expensive to feed and maintain, and if you don't live somewhere you can easily ride at home or have the money to find a good boarding facility nearby or don't have a truck and trailer, you can't really ride your horse much, and that sucks. My relationship with my horses is as deep and as meaningful as it is with thanks to Michelle's willingness to sacrifice her time and diesel to make sure I got lots of rides in. I owe most of the miles I put on my horse the last few years directly to her.
This year I was lucky enough to find a truck and trailer I could afford. They're far from new, the trailer especially, but they have made it far more possible for me to just go and ride when I want to. Michelle doesn't have to go 30 miles out of her way to collect me when there's a clinic or a trail ride the opposite direction from her place. I can get my own hay when I need it and not pay extra to have it delivered. It makes a huge difference for me, and this summer I've gotten to ride even more.
I have a couple of friends who don't yet have a way to haul their horses and pick up their hay. I sincerely hope this doesn't come off as sounding preachy, but I have it in my mind that I have a responsibility to be a "Michelle" for others, to make it possible for them to enjoy their horses. They are big shoes to fill, and I'm pretty sure I'm not as generous or gracious as Michelle, but I commit to making the effort. Its worth it to see more horse people getting to do what they love, and having more friends to go on our trail rides with us.
My friend Debbie gives riding lessons to kids for prices most trainers wouldn't dream of giving, because her mission is to get as many little girls to fall in love with horses as she can. She does this not just to create the next generation of riders and keep the sport of riding alive, but because research shows us that by age 10, if a child doesn't have a passionate interest in something, they won't have something to keep them focused and on track during their teenage years. A sport or hobby can mean the difference between graduating and maybe going to college vs. getting involved in drugs or getting pregnant. Make riding lessons affordable and therefore putting horses within reach of more families is just her way of paying it forward. The great feeling of watching little girls beaming with pleasure the first time they are able to canter or go over a jump, that's just the frosting.
I was cleaning stalls a couple of weeks ago and I heard feed sacks rattling. I figured SG was just out throwing scratch to the chickens and he would eventually come and find me, but after a while I didn't hear anyone. When I went to put the poop fork away, I found someone had left three bags of horse feed outside my feedroom door. I had just been thinking that day about what supplies we needed and fretting about a lack of both time and finances. Someone paid it forward, and it made my day. Hell, probably my month.
There are times we pay it forward and the people we help don't appreciate it or they take advantage of our kindness. But we don't do this to get something in return from others; the return comes from within, from our own sense of being OK with who we are and what we do. Intent is important. I can't set expectations for how others will react or what they will potentially do in return for me, that only muddies the waters of my giving. I struggle with this sometimes, but I know what's right for me and so I have to continue to strive for healthy thinking.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by this world. Its easy to feel the weight of all the tension and fear from our crumbling economy, our bitter political rivalries, the horror of war and violence. Focusing my attention on the things I can do rather than the problems I can't solve helps me feel somehow less frightened of the enormous challenges we all deal with. Doing something positive helps take away the sting when one of my kids is having a tough day or I come home from work feeling defeated. Maybe we can't change the whole world, but we can sure change something small for someone else today.
How do you pay it forward? What ways have other people paid it forward that made a difference for you? Share your stories!