As the calendar shifts to a new year, I decided to revisit what I wrote on this blog last year and the year before, and reflect on what has changed and what has stayed the same. (You can read what I published on this night exactly one year ago here: http://www.threerivershorsetraining.com/3r-blog/2015/12/31/doing-things-well-part-3-a-new-year-question). I write this entry today both for those of you who will read it, but also for my future self, who will hopefully read this again on this night in 2017.
I covered a lot of ground in 2016. I started the year in Bozeman, MT, having recently closed the Three Forks facility and moved my husband to Eureka, MT. I helped him move with two of our horses, turned the rest of the horses out elsewhere and hit the road. I took a quick trip to Portland, OR and the coast, but soon after that I rushed down to Arizona with a sick dog hoping for a medical miracle, but instead just got a month of sunshine and walks before she left this world on Valentine’s Day (http://www.threerivershorsetraining.com/3r-blog/2016/2/16/a-tribute-to-mollie). From Hawaiian beaches to a Chicago trip full of babies to New York City conversation, I tried to soak up inspiration. One final stop in Phoenix and my truck packed with dogs (some old friends, and some new to the journey), I headed back north.
Home in Montana I taught between Bozeman and Billings, and acclimated to Eureka, now our home. My husband and I moved in June to our new property, selling the Whitehall home we thought we would be forever but turned out just to be a stop for my horses, and purchasing what is as close to a fantasy as I ever thought could come true for us.
In April I started working at a therapeutic boarding school, discovering a love for working with teenaged girls I could never have predicted. Staggering was how comfortable and right the work felt—and so quickly. Some of this work involves horses and dogs, some without, but finding new inspiration in these young women has been a surprise and a gift that cannot be overstated.
When I read my blog on this day last year, what strikes me is that my inner turmoil about the “right” way to occupy space in the horse industry is just as great now as it was a year ago. I’m no less confused about how to work responsibly with animals that have to choice as to if they are in your life or not. What I have experienced, though, is the gift of working with young humans in a similar predicament. The girls I work with now are stuck at this school, without the autonomy to leave. In fact, strangers, who then transported them to treatment, surprised many of the girls in the middle of the night. The fear and trauma of this event preferable to the possibility that they run away or hurt themselves because they know they are being sent to treatment.
There are so few of us that are not equines who know what it must feel like to have our kidnapping endorsed by our guardians, for our own good. These girls know what it feels like to be a horse taken to training. I may be a kind and helpful trainer or horse owner (or, in the case of the girls, therapist), but the horse still did not choose me, and that power inequity must never be forgotten. I still do not know how to best manage and respect this dynamic, but now I have humans that can articulate an experience I never thought I would hear described in the English language, trying to help me understand how domesticated horses must feel every day. While I do not have concrete answers, I do know that the power of this shared experience between the girls and the horses at school has been incredible to behold.
I also have not taken any horses into training in 2016. I don’t yet know what my plans are for 2017 in that regard. For now, I am without an indoor arena and under plenty of snow, so it is nonissue! I have immersed myself working at the therapeutic school and plan to continue this learning as I wrap up my Masters degree and build what I am calling the Animal Centered Therapy program (a divergence from Animal Assisted Therapy that I will elaborate on in later blogs) at the school. I will still teach private lessons and clinics throughout the state on a limited basis as I did this year.
I have dog classes in the works in Eureka that should begin in the next month, and I am excited to try a new aspect of teaching (group lessons with dogs and puppies). I am spending time at the animal shelter here, which I find really fun and rejuvenating, because I get to work with types of animals I don’t normally have access to and get creative (my most recent project is a ten month old, intact male purebred Plott Hound with minimal socialization…certainly not my normal “type” of dog and therefore really intriguing to work with and fall in love with!).
As always, I bring in the New Year thankful for all of your continued support and guidance. I have learned more through this business than I ever thought possible, and even though the majority of my time lately has been spent working in a different setting, 3R proves to be a never-ending teacher. I can easily say I have learned more from animals and my business than I have anywhere else in my life and I quote and use these lessons daily. For this, I am endlessly grateful.
Happy New Year.