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October 3, 2013

Worth It

The downs of horses—and life—pale in the face of the glorious ups, like a lovely first ride on a lovely filly. Photo by Ben Johnson.

I'm not a terribly spiritual person, but sometimes the Universe shouts so loudly it's hard to ignore. This was one of those weeks.

I was, truly, very at peace about Cleo's passing. It's one of those really easy hard decisions, to put down a suffering animal, and I wrote my blog last Sunday night, cried my heart out, and that was that. It ran Monday, and immediately the texts, the phone calls, the emails, the Facebook responses, all so kind and positive and full of love. A little reminder of the power of social media, of course, but also a reminder that people are, generally, good.

Also on Monday I called Renee, my buddy and my favorite baby horse cowgirl, who's put about 60 days into Farrah, Cleo's oldest daughter. I try not to be one of those annoying clients who's constantly bombarding the trainer with, "Hey! How's it going? Is she perfect yet?" But I told Renee what had happened, and how I needed a little sunshine. Was Farrah ready for me to sit on yet? Yes. 

So off I went on Tuesday, where Farrah longed quietly, then walk-trot-cantered around for Renee quietly, and then stood at the mounting block like a statue while I climbed on. It was a beautiful day, and Renee and I were chatting and laughing and having a jolly time. And I had remarked for the ten thousandth time that Farrah doesn't look like Cleo - different body type, different face.

Until I got on. And I put my leg on, and she took one of Cleo's big, prowling-cat walk steps, and her ears flopped out to the side. And I was a goner.

And to Farrah's—and Renee's—great credit, my barely-under-saddle-3-year-old just stood there while I cried. Good girl.

I got it together and rode around, and Renee could not have done a more lovely job. (She was cracking me up—"I'm so sorry I haven't fixed the right bend yet!" Seriously? She's been under saddle for, like, 20 minutes, and she stands at the mounting block while her rider weeps!) By the time I got on she was a little tired, but I think she's still an impressive filly.

It was a great start to the week, and it only got better. My clients all had fantastic lessons, and then absolutely rocked a schooling show on Saturday. I got a phone call from Morven Park asking if I would be the test ride for the four-star combined test division they're running for the riders selected to represent the United States at Pau, and then gave the test a run-through at said schooling show and got a 74 percent, which is also what Johnny got on his best training level effort yet. Triathlon training is going great. The weather has been divine. I closed out the week with a bunch of my closest friends over to celebrate my birthday, and I had way too much sugar and wine.

And on Monday, my actual birthday, one of my best friends and I decided to go hike Shenandoah, something I'd never done in seven years of living only an hour away. It was a fortuitous decision, because the weather has been SO incredible, and because six hours after we left the government—and the park—shut down, so it was sort of our last chance.

But it was also fortuitous because, on the way down to the waterfall, we passed a fellow who told us that, with the drought we're in, the falls themselves were "hardly worth it."

I just stared at him.

Hardly worth it. Hardly worth it. Oh, sir, you poor dear, being well enough physically to spend an hour hiking to a waterfall in a beautiful, incredible publicly-owned place, accessible to you for practically nothing, in a country where you can hike around alone without worrying about being abducted or shot at by rebels. To have a job where you can afford hiking shoes. To be able to take the time off on a Monday to go enjoy national parks. Hardly worth it.

What goes down goes up, but, of course, what goes up must also come down. When it does, I will remember that guy, the waterfall that, even in a drought, was absolutely worth the few hours' hike; the first ride on my filly that, even in the twilight of her mother's passing, felt like all the hope and promise I never got to achieve with her mother. The Universe has a plan, I think. And I have faith.