Sunday, April 22, 2012

344 days later.....the story no one saw...

"I’m gonna take that mountain
Ain’t nothing gonna slow me down
And there ain’t no way around it
Gonna leave it level with the ground
Ain’t just gonna cross it, climb it, fight it
I’m gonna take that mountain"

Three hundred and forty four days ago I walked into Woodloch stables praying to live through the next hour of my life. I wanted nothing to do with horses and I couldn't believe I let a friend talk me into even trying to ride one.

Today I walked out of Woodloch with a blue ribbon and a host of other ribbons.

I still have a hard time believing the journey of the past year. How I went from terrified to exhilarated. From city slicker to cowgirl. Every day I have to remind myself this is all real. Even after today it still is hard to comprehend.

Our outcome today far surpassed my wildest expectations. Our placings were...

Showmanship 14 & Over - 4th place
Open Walk/Trot Horsemanship Rail - 3rd place
Open Horsemanship Rail- 7th place
Open Walk/Trot Western Pleasure - 2nd place
Open Western Pleasure - didnt place
Open Walk/Trot Horsemaship Pattern - FIRST PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Open Horsemanship Pattern - didnt place
Open Egg & Spoon - 6th place
Open Trail - 6th place!

A blue ribbon, any ribbon was not on my radar, even in a fun show. My goal was to not make a fool of myself, if I could have just reached that bar I would have walked away happy. I couldn't have even dreamed of reaching the achievements I did today.

But the real achievement today, the surprise I promised in the last post, had nothing to do with ribbons or placing, it had to do with conquering a personal goal, to regain something that was stolen for me.

Some of you will know this from reading previous posts, but very few people cheering for me today had a clue what really went on today. 16 years ago I was paralyzed on my right side (botched surgery) I had to relearn to walk, to use my hand. I got back to functional, but much of that time was little more. Two plus years ago I started working with a personal trainer and got back more mobility, riding has brought me even more, but there was still one piece I couldn't do, jogging. I have tried on the treadmill, I have tried alone in parks and on back roads, I could not make my body do it. I had asked a couple people to help me relearn how to make my body work, but it hadn't gone far. I had pretty much given up, and then Joker came along. I finally had my patient, non-judgemental running buddy, who didn't care how silly I looked or how slow we went and who wouldn't tell anyone what we were working on.

So last fall Joker and I started training. One step, then two, then a few. We would go out on the track, down by the rodeo arena, anywhere people wouldn't see us. Holding his lead rope gave me enough balance to not trip over myself. Joker would wait, make sure I was balanced and then move with me. Never running ahead, just waiting for me, he knew he had an important job. For as much as I trip over my own feet walking, I never once fell learning to jog with Joker.

When I decided to show this all took on new meaning. One of the classes I had under consideration was Showmanship. In this class you are next to your horse, not on them, and you move together through a pattern. You are judged on how well you move together, how your horse starts and stops with you, how your horse pivots. It was something I longed to do, but something I knew I might never do. Because an integral part of Showmanship is jogging with your horse, in uneven, sandy, deep arenas.

As show season got closer my riding coach and I had to make a decision, and in March we pulled Showmanship off the table for this year. I let my fear momentarily get the best of me and agreed it was the best plan. But my heart broke at the decision, it once again meant my body would win. Yet another thing my heart wanted but my body couldn't deliver. I came away from the decision saddened but also frustrated, not ready to give up.

So I went and had a long talk with Joker (ok I talked and cried, he ate grass, that is usually how our meetings go) and we decided neither of us was ready to give in. So we stepped it up, going and jogging in the arenas when no one was around. Since March I cant even count the number of hours we put in. And no one knew, til last Monday. I had signed up for Showmanship at the Fun Show (allowing people to assume I would walk the jog portion) and had a couple details I needed to work out in my riding lesson. When we got to the point in the pattern my coach offered me to walk that part, but I got to say the greatest words ever "nope we've got this one" and off Joker and I went. It wasn't fast, it wasn't picture perfect, but together we jogged. We had done it!

I still can't jog by myself, don't know if I ever will be able to, but as long as I have my loving patient friend Joker by my side, I am normal. I can do what others do. And that is better than anything I could win!!!!

The video of our Showmanship class can be found at:


  1. You are Amazing!! Thank you for setting an example! Keeping the Faith! - Allowing your Joker to be your Best Partner... I am so proud to know you and please know you encourage me!
    What a Blessing you are!

  2. Congratulations, Pam!

    Nice ribbons also.