My BACK IN THE SADDLE horse project started today. I haven't been doing horses seriously for a few years. In fact, I didn't hit any leather at all in 2015, a year totally consumed by producing an album  and big family events like my daughter's wedding and my other daughter's premature baby girl.  But 2016 feels wide open. No big music projects. No big family events. So, this is the year I declare "The Year of the Horse."

In spite of that staunch proclamation sounding so certain, I'm actually very nervous about it. I'll tell you why. That is I'll try and tell you why because I've been trying to figure out how to explain it. You see, I have been experiencing an odd sensation the past year or so. It's this: every time I think about getting back on a horse, I get extremely emotional and I feel like bawling. And sometimes I do. It's weird. It's confusing. It's embarrassing. What's it all about?

I have loved horses and enjoyed their company all of my life. As a little girl, I rode a Yellowstone National Park dude horse. I rode my very own Black Jack, the first horse of my childhood dreams. I learned horsemanship through 4-H, and years later, I taught horsemanship as an adult 4-H leader coaching my own daughters and others in Western and English riding. I've ridden ranch horses working cattle.  I've won buckles barrel racing and bending poles. I've raised AQHA performance horses, showing at halter and exercising colts. I've shown reined cow horse and was Montana's NRCHA High Point Non-pro Limited Champion in 2005. All in all, I've had a wonderfully memorable life with horses.

And now, after a few years being off, I'm getting back on. So why the tears? Well, I think it has to do with age. I admit. I'm no spring chick. And age translates into a couple of things. The first is, I am older and, I believe, I am wiser. In other words, "the older I get, the less I know."

Since my marriage to Merritt, I've been gifted with opportunities to rub elbows with some of the best horsemen and women in the industry, from local to international. I've learned from close neighbors like Ward Fenton, Scott & Stacy Grosskopf, and Edee Weigel to extended neighbors like Montanan trainers Travis Young and John Ensign.

Merritt's life-long friendship with Dr. Robert Miller, who developed imprint training in new-born foals, has opened doors to amazing levels of knowledge through Light Hands Horsemanship participants Eitan Beth-Halachmy of cowboy dressage. AQHA legend Jack Brainard. World-class mule man, Steve Edwards. Sport horse trainer, Lester Buckley. Natural horseman, Richard Winters. I've learned a lot. Mainly, I've learned how much I DON'T know about horses and the art of horsemanship.

And here's another saying: "Ignorance is bliss." Ah, yes. I thought I was fairly decent as a horsewoman until I met these world class people. That blissful ignorance quickly disappeared. To say I was knocked down a peg or two would be an understatement. Four, maybe five, would be more like it.

Paradoxically,  I have never been an egotistical horse person. How many of those do we know? The ones who think they've really got it all down and can't be told anything?  Because I didn't want others to view me that way, I would never call myself a "trainer." I'd say, "I ride, but I'm not a trainer."  Now, I know that's an oxymoron. Anyone who really rides, verses "sit and steer," is a trainer. A horse is an intelligent animal in a constant state of being trained. And the rider, hopefully intelligent as well, is in a constant state of training the horse who is in a constant state of being trained by a rider get what I mean. This was a revelation to me. A whole new level of responsibility as a rider. One that intimidates and, quite frankly, scares me.

Which brings me to the second consideration for my tears: age and the fear of getting hurt. Another blog topic I will leave for another day. For now, I think I'll just go brush on my pony and ponder the notion that I might have to call myself a trainer, after all.


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