You Can Always Do Better
I did well in school, receiving the Student of The Year award during the sixth grade and was in the National Honor Society for many years. Doing well in school was something I had to do. Being around horses was what I loved to do. I couldn’t wait until my next lesson or barn time. My mother used this as leverage to keep me heading on the path to a successful future. Though questionable at times, it apparently worked!
While my mother was trying her best to keep me on the straight and narrow, my grandmother pushed her role to include parenting my mother and me. Frustrations grew as my grandmother tried to control all aspects of both of our lives. It wasn’t until my early teenage years that I was allowed to pick out my own clothes. I never learned to cook or do laundry despite my mother trying to teach me these life skills as my grandmother would step in to take over. The only thing I can attribute her controlling nature to is her difficult childhood. While I’ve been told that everything she did was out of love, it only suffocated me and fed my desire to leave home.
With about as much understanding as a teen could grasp, I knew that getting good grades would lead to college scholarships. I had my sights set on college and I knew this was how I was going to gain some freedom in my life. Though I succeeded in consistently bringing home A’s and B’s, there was constant pressure to do better. While my mother often told me how proud she was of me, the drive to always do better was a theme in my household. I could come home with an A- on a report card and my grandmother would tell me to get an A the next time. Both women were making sure that I had many more opportunities than they, but my grandmother’s devotion to this mission was overwhelming.
The Farm Life
I saw my father every Sunday and every fourth weekend as decided by a court when my parents got divorced. I was two when they got divorced so this style of parenting was the norm for me. I knew nothing else. While my mother and grandmother laid down boundaries and were invested in most everything I did, I don’t ever remember my father being involved in my school work or my life during the week. Time spent with my father was just a blip into another life until I returned to my regular one.
My father owned a dairy farm. The farm came first as it does for most farmers. I learned quickly that this was not the lifestyle I wanted for myself and vowed that I would never marry a farmer. Funny how that worked out! Milking cows was a new level of commitment. No thanks. In addition to milking, there were crops to harvest, equipment to work on, and fences to fix. It was a busy life that left little time for much else outside of the farm.
While my father was busy farming, I enjoyed playing with all the dogs, cats, and calves and then coming home smelling horrible. While we don’t have cats on our farm now, I still enjoy being outside playing with the horses and dogs, and checking on baby calves. The aroma coming from my clothes can be questionable on certain days. Some things never change!
There were chores to be done on a farm. I helped my stepmother clean the house, I helped mow the lawn, and I helped prep the barn for milking. I remember driving a tractor when I was old enough and helping with hay if I was lucky enough to be there on that day a load was brought in. Though I was only there for a few hours one day a week, I was required to chip in when needed. This lifestyle was much different from home, but it also gave me further insight to agriculture that many children never get a chance to see.
My First Horse
I always dreamt of having a horse on my father’s farm but it was never going to happen. He did not like horses and I was only there once a week. I would imagine riding all afternoon on the farm and then going over to Fair Hill to explore their trails. Reality check: If I wanted a horse, I was going to have to figure out another way. Don’t underestimate the power of a young girl with a dream!
His name was Checkmate Chaz, a small shiny chestnut Morgan. While I don’t remember the details that caused the owner to decide to sell him, I do know she had come off and had a cast. Because of his temperament, his price was going to be drastically reduced. Sounds like a great first horse! Rest assured, this pattern continues throughout my life. I always thought I could turn the damaged ones around. I’ve not been successful yet. Cheap horses are cheap for a reason!
While I couldn’t convince my father to get me a horse, I did convince my grandfather to cash in $500 of saving bonds that were supposed to be for my college education to buy him. I worked out an arrangement at the barn I was riding at to work off part of my board. I would only be allowed to ride my horse under supervision or in a lesson, but who cares! I had a horse! I remember how excited I was to fill out his registration papers and transfer ownership to my name. Those papers were made of gold in my mind.
I knew going into horse ownership was not to be done lightly. I would be under the guidance of the barn owner, but I needed to pay partial board, farrier, and any vet bills. Not to mention tack, brushes, etc. I worked as a lifeguard at an indoor pool and at the barn year-round. I had a limited income and was not only responsible for my horse expenses, but I had a car loan and had to pay my own car insurance as well. Having my mother help me with any of these bills was a question that I knew I couldn’t ask. This was on me. I quickly learned how to manage my $5 per hour paycheck and stretch it as far as it could go! Enter budgeting into my life at age 16!
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