Can you still be a horsewoman without a horse?
Miranda Lambert penned a song about the house that built her. The lyrics portray her revisiting her childhood home to collect old memories – hoping that by touching the place she grew up, and reliving milestones in her life, she could stitch the pieces together to find herself.
This summer, I’ve attempted to revisit the horses that built me. The horses that I’ve owned and leased over the course of my life. The horses who shaped my experiences, personality, and childhood. I wanted to take their portraits to immortalize the memories I have with them.
Click here to read about my first horse, Sunny. When I was ready to step up from my second horse, Raz, my parents bought me a palomino paint named Junior. The last horse I owned, Tahoe, made all of my dreams come true before I left for college and a horse named Vinny took care of me.
This journey of revisiting the important horses in my life has been deeply personal and emotional. Horses have truly shaped who I am today, and they will always be an important part of my life. Growing up with horses meant the barn was my school, teaching me life’s most important lessons. The barn was my church, allowing me to connect with the Lord in profound ways. The barn was my village, filled with my very best friends and support system. The barn was my hospital, fixing every broken heart and bruised emotion. The barn was my sanctuary, a safe place for me to dream and pursue the impossible. And in many ways, the barn was my home.
After graduating college, I found myself in a new, awkward, horseless territory. I had plenty of distractions to keep my mind occupied – a cross-country move from Texas to Oregon, my first full-time job, a wedding to plan, and a new passion in photography to explore. But no distraction can fill the void that a horseless horseman feels. There was an ache in my soul longing to lope on a horse, to run my fingers through a mane, and to kiss a muzzle.
I started taking pictures of girls and horses, and for several years photo shoots became my only equine exposure. Every chance I had, I would bum rides from friends as I tagged along to their barn to ride their horses. After our wedding, my husband Jake and I moved from Oregon to Texas to start two new jobs and a life together. We got our dog Dion and moved into an apartment in downtown Dallas.
So close to horse country, yet so far.
While her horse trainer James Saubolle was out of town, my teammate from TCU – Alexie Estrada – would let me come ride his horses with her. I got to ride the cutest little gelding named Sudsy and fell head over boots&spurs. “A Subtle Impulse” (his registered AQHA and APHA name) is affectionately known around the barn by his nickname “Angel” because he is truly that – an angel.
I’m not sure what the last straw was for Jake, but somehow I convinced him to half lease Sudsy last September. It may have been the begging, the tears, and/or the groveling. I was enamored. I deeply missed belonging to a horse, and a horse belonging to me.
For the past year I have adjusted to ‘life as an amateur.’ After work I race up to the barn as fast as I can, ride alone in the dark after hours, and spoil Sudsy completely rotten. Through riding Sudsy this past year, I’ve been able to reconnect with who I am. The circles of the curry comb melt all of my stress away. As I sit under the Texas sunset watching him graze, my worries and cares fade away.
Sudsy has been one of the biggest blessings in my life over the past year. Barn time has become “family time” as Jake and I pack up both dogs every time I go ride. Connecting to a horse who lets me cuddle and snuggle him endlessly has fed my soul in ways I never knew I needed. Sudsy is as honest, charming, clever, and good-minded as they come.
For the first time in my entire life, there is zero pressure when I go ride. No horse show to prepare for, no team to report to, no long or short term goals, no deadlines. I am riding for myself to have fun. I go to the barn and run around bareback, or practice patterns posted by the big horse shows. I turn on my worship playlist on Spotify and lope around singing my heart out. The euphoric high of a good ride can sustain me for days.
I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I can’t say when (if?) I will own a horse again. I don’t know when (if?) I’ll go to another horse show. But I can say with certainty that horses are a big part of who I am, and they will always play an important role in my life.
[Impromptu photo session of me & sudsy by my sweet husband Jake]