By Ivorie Nicole
Little me looks so much like my son, Hunter but that picture was taken back in the 90’s in a small town in Wisconsin. I still remember the excitement and rush of adrenaline flowing through my tiny veins and the rush of fear when I realized how far from the ground I was when I looked down from that saddle. I felt so strong, so special that I had the chance to sit in such a large majestic creature it made me glow from the inside.
This is where my courage to explore beyond my limitations began. So many things have enabled and encouraged me even when I felt hindered, I never stopped exploring, or pushing my boundaries because even though
I didn’t have much growing up I always knew I would own horses. As a child, some would say I acted like a spoiled brat even though I definitely wasn’t spoiled, I just knew what I wanted and would find a way to get it. Spoiled and determined are two different things. I dreamed every day for things and it didn’t matter if it took a year, 1 hour, or 10 years I always would get it; if I worked hard and truly wanted it.
Learning to care for horses in a small freezing little country town really tested my dedication. Handling, feeding and caring for 1200lb+ beasts in Winter’s with blizzards, negative degree weather and snowstorms is quite an experience. It’s hard work, it’s freezing, it’s intimidating and it’s challenging; it will reveal the true inner self, the inner cow girl. Despite my graceful photos with my two beautiful buckskins, I in fact shovel shit. My cowgirl stars are earned and I’m proud to boast.
I had chronic asthma and allergies as a child. I had inhalers everywhere; school, the car, my pocket, every family members house, anywhere I was, there was always an inhaler within arms reach. My asthma was so bad that I had a breathing machine at home and for a period of time I was on steroids to prevent my airways from closing. My asthma made a lot of things difficult but I was going to find a way to beat asthma one way or another because nothing was going to stop me from riding.
The barn in Winter would get so bad I would have to wear air filtered masks to try to protect my lungs from the dirt, mold, dander or any other things trapped inside the barn that was trying to kill me. As a little girl, I would always minimize my pain believing that I could overcome anything and would look for solutions instead of the problem.I felt victimized by my asthma, I would look at my sister confused “why can she breathe and I can’t, there’s nothing wrong with my body, everyone has to breathe, my body can’t not want me to breathe, and she sucks at riding horses so lord, just let me breathe” there was nothing I despised more than being told I was incapable of doing something. Like who are you to tell me who I am and what I am capable of?
Riding horses only fueled this desire to prove myself. The first time I sat on a horse I was younger than 5 years old, the second time I sat on a horse I was was 12 years old. This time it was my turn, I hold the reins.
I’ll never forget what my trainer told me when I was tacking up one cold Winter afternoon. Horses have taught me so much about myself, so much about life. Horses are a symbol of freedom, an emblem of power, a reflection of spirit, it’s true the power of a horse is in my blood. It always has been, it always will be; what she said has shaped everything about who I am.
My trainer looked at me, very clearly she told my petite 12 year old self “ If you’re afraid, you’ll never be able to ride. He can sense you, if he knows you’re afraid, he won’t trust you to ride him or for to guide him and if he doesn’t trust you, you will never be able to ride.”
She scared me, because I realized this riding thing was 100% up to me.
Thoughts of doubt ran threw my mind hard as I wheezed through my breathing mask. “Do I want to even ride, is this right for me? Should I risk my own safety? Am I even strong enough for this? Am I showing I’m not strong enough because I can’t breathe? Is it even worth it to put myself into a position like this?”
Yes, yes it was, it’s in blood. I got on that horse every chance I got. When I had to ride a different horse I felt like I was betraying his trust and inhibiting my growth. I wanted to perfect myself through him, through General, the largest and darkest thoroughbred on the ranch. Day by day, I learned how to manage my fear and use it to be better.
Riding taught me how to understand and channel my fear. Riding taught me to communicate my fear in silence while working on building trust and setting things up for the future on small consistent act of trust at a time.
I learned forgiveness through praying my horse will still accept me after I did something wrong during riding. This taught me a valuable lesson that I can make a mistake and be forgiven. I learned forgiveness for myself and for him through finding the patience, understanding and tolerance.
Riding has shown me what love is.