Purpose That Defines Us, Purpose That Binds Us

Apr 11, 2013 - 1:25 AM
Helping others communicate with their horses might be higher calling. Photo by Kevin Richards.

I’m getting down to the wire training for my first triathlon, next Sunday, and that’s meant some time on my bike trainer, watching movies in my apartment. I pick movies that are inspirational—you know, with lots of heavy music, gunfire and punching people. Last week, it was the Matrix Trilogy.

The Matrix movies, in addition to all the violence, sex and robots, were pretty clever and spend a lot of time talking about the meaning of life, about the purpose for us, both as a species and as individuals, for being on this earth. Heady stuff, as I’m in a flop sweat, wondering what the purpose of this godforsaken triathlon is. (Then I remember: I’m trying to find new and innovative ways to allow myself to eat cake without becoming the size of a 747.)

I’m not a spiritual person, but there are coincidences in life that strike me, always in hindsight, as the guiding hand of fate. When I broke my femur in 1994, age 9, I emerged from months of hospitalization, body casts and physical therapy still barely able to walk. I started taking riding lessons. You can see where that’s led.

Billy’s entrance into my life couldn’t have been chance; he gave me my career, then spent years in the leased care of others, providing not only security for himself but also a financial boost for me at a crucial time in my business’s young life, and he continues to give me joy with his young rider, Kristin.

And the timing of the not-so-great stuff has to have a purpose, too. This thing with Midge will get better, and it will teach me something. I haven’t figured out what yet. (Other than that binging on key lime pie and Mike’s Hard Lemonade post-diagnosis as a coping mechanism simply means more hours on the stupid bike. Not necessarily a good trade-off.)

I don’t subscribe to any specific faith—I think my church is my arena, and my sacred commandments are half-halt and give the reins often, ride your corners, etc.—but 13 clients of mine went to a horse show this weekend. And after all those hours of Matrix-induced pondering, I got a little insight into my purpose.

This weekend, a student took her homebred, home-trained horse to his third level debut and sewed up her USDF Bronze Medal. Little Kristin took Billy, who was WILD, to the JR/YR High Score award, a 69 percent at second level. A third student won a massive, MASSIVE training level class on an Thoroughbred he and his wife pulled off the track and rehabbed themselves, besting much fancier horses.

And the ones who may not have achieved big scores or big ribbons still had tremendous achievements. The one who was ready to give up on her horse five months ago (as was I!) who stuck it out, has made him into a lovely, rideable picture. The one who went from meek to RIDING. The one who, just last week, found a completely new approach to contact on her enthusiastic and sometimes-strong horse, and produced just beautiful work in her test as a result. The one with a horse so hollow left you’d think he’d travel in circles all the time who found real straightness. 

And the joy! So many laughs and smiles. So many people appreciating their horses in totally new ways. And I’m just one piece of that, of course, but I’m a piece.

Every little girl wants to go to the Olympics, and I’ve long since stopped being little, but that Team dream is the same. And I’m going to keep fighting for it. But in the event that being the next best thing in dressage, the Great Shining Hope of the sport, doesn’t pan out, I have been blessed, by fate, by God, by the cosmos and the universe, by the Machine World, with this incredible opportunity to teach people to get along with their horses better, to make sweeter music together.

At the end of the final Matrix movie, Agent Smith comes to realization that the purpose of life is to end, a purpose that is starting to feel like a real possibility as I think about biking 15 miles, then popping off and running, all in a bathing suit. But in the event that I do not die next weekend (don’t count on it), I will keep exploring my real purpose. And in the mean time, I think I’m going to watch movies that are way, WAY less existential.



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