This weekend a few colors are on my mind - and my daughter's too. Blue and red and yellow. First place, second and third.
This morning, Kate is chasing her dreams in Pomona, California, riding for the University of Montana Equestrian Team in the IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) Zones Championships, with her eyes fixed on the National Championships later this spring in Lexington, Kentucky.
I ache when she's showing and I'm not with her. Kate and I spent her childhood 'at the barn'. At first it was lessons on Saturdays, soon I was picking her up from school and taking her twice a week, then three days - you get the picture. By the time she was in Junior High - six days a week.
Not that I'm complaining - I loved it. But a daughter with an expensive hobby meant mama needed to earn a living! Thanks to daddy, when I was on he road working as a stylist, he'd kick in, sit in the truck with his laptop and work while she rode. Ya do what'cha gotta do. Honestly, when she could finally drive herself to lessons we were thrilled!
Now, anyone out there who's trotted down this dirt road already knows what came next. Yep, horse ownership! And let me tell you - owning a horse in the city is nothing like owning one in the country. Maybe we should have stuck to soccer!
It was my doing that Kate was introduced to the barn. I have ALWAYS loved horses and selfishly, I wanted to ride again. I thought this would be a good sport that we could do together. Had we lived back in Idaho or Montana or just about anywhere outside of an expensive city, this would have been a no-brainer. But here? You'd best be bringing home a big paycheck, and I wasn't! So, I'd watch, she'd ride and that made me happy.
Once we owned Ella, our tall, lanky, CRAZY Thoroughbred, we were in this 'horse thing' deep! That is to say, if money was tight before, it was darned near non-existent by month's end! Buying a horse is the cheap part. Maintaining one a whole other story. And of course, on top of care (vet and farrier's fees) and feeding (not just any 'ol hay, but a special blend, plus vitamins and other supplements) came training. Serious training. Plus show fees, riding clothes, boots (a few pairs), helmets (not just one, thanks to Kate's growth spurts), saddles, bridles, blankets and . . . the tack store owners would rub their hands together in anticipation when I drove up!
Ok, I wasn't ignorant. I knew all of this was in the cards. I loved it all, just as much as Kate did. I poke fun at our 'Ella years', but I'd easily do it all over again. I'm happily reminded of those years each time I walk by Kate's ribbon-lined room.
Sadly, tragedy struck when Kate was a junior in high school and we had to put Ella down. Although this is a story better told on another day, in the end we were all heartbroken. At this point with college bearing down like a roaring freight train we weren't going to buy another horse. We ended up making a simple choice between another horse or tuition.
It was hard for Kate to hang around the barn after Ella. Her trainers were kind to her and kept her riding as much as they could. But Kate didn't have 'her own ride' and it was tough for her. By the time she graduated from high school, she seemed to have lost interest.
When Kate decided to attend the University of Montana, I thought maybe she'd be interested in their riding team. They had a young team, but in the few years it had been in existence, they had done well. Before she graduated, I encouraged her to look into it. She didn't. In June we were to drive to Missoula for orientation, take a look around and get familiar with where she'd spend the next four years. Finally a day or two before we left, she emailed the teams trainer. We made an appointment at the barn and added it to our agenda for the week.
After we met with the team's president, looked around the barn, and inquired about about fees and schedules, I had my checkbook out! Here we go again.
It's Kate's second year now and she's been nominated for team president next year! Had she not had her kidney episode a month ago, she was on track to win Regional Champion. However because of her illness, we thought her year was done. Remember the fiasco in Dillon, MT? Needless to say, she risked that kidney and rode anyway and came away Regional Reserve Champion and made it to Zones. In a few minutes she'll ride in her first class.
Needless to say, I am a proud mama.
Yesterday while we talked on the phone about the upcoming weekend, I gave her my usual two-cents worth of pep talk (I'm sure much eye rolling was going on!) I always finish with, "Remember, it's not the winning that's important, it's the journey." Sure, if she ends up in the top third we'll whoop and holler ourselves all the way to Kentucky and the Nationals later this spring. But whether she ends up with blue, red or yellow - or no ribbon at all - it won't matter. She continues to pursue her passion, her true colors burning brightly.