God Given Passions Never Cease!

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There are a million reasons to celebrate in life today and on this day I am choosing to celebrate the ending of my sabbatical from a passion that has burned from within since I was a young child. I was somewhere near the 4th or 5th grade and the highlight of my days was picking up the new issue of “Horse Tales” a local equine enthusiasts newspaper published by Mrs. Elois Shackleford. As a child I was ate up with a love of books and by this point I had already read every horse related book at our school library and our town’s public library, at least twice. “Horse Tales” was my opportunity to read something horse related that was new and fresh but it also had a section about local horse events that I looked forward to most (of course this was in the “pre-internet” days). Then one day, I thought I had somehow struck the lottery when through a series of events I was blessed with the opportunity to meet the owner and publisher of “Horse Tales”, Mrs. Shackleford at her home near Gary, South Dakota. I remember this very keen twinkle she had in her eye and being in awe of her big black horse. The sun glistened off his coat in the evening sun like a reflection of shiny black pearl. I seem to recall his name being “Sundance” although it’s been many years now so I could be completely off; however, I can tell you for sure that he had a twinkle in his eye that said he was not only intelligent but a bit of shyster. Elois provided me an opportunity of a lifetime and allowed me to be apart of an article she was writing about the Silver Sage Ranch. My mom permitted me to travel with her to the ranch to shadow the interview process and I got far more than I bargained for, making many memories I’d cherish for a lifetime, including having my first up-close interaction with a draft horse, whom they affectionately called “Frank”. I was fortunate enough to be afforded the opportunity to write a couple articles for Horse Tales over the next year. I fell in love with writing as much as I had with reading, and the process of producing a paper so it was only natural that being a budding entrepreneurial spirit, I would do what would come next…….

The Silver Sage Ranch article in “Horse Tales” Newspaper!

The Silver Sage Ranch article in “Horse Tales” Newspaper!

Much to my classmates dismay, I pitched the idea of starting a school newspaper to my 5th grade teacher and she LOVED the idea! I was made editor and publisher and the paper was named “The Lancer Local”, after our school mascot. For two years I was blessed to write articles and piece together this publication. Mind you, this adventure too was pre-Adobe Photoshop so publishing the paper was literally proofing and formatting the margins of the articles in Microsoft Word, printing them, cutting them out and physically arranging them on the master copy which was then used to make a multitude of copies to be dispersed around the school. My paper publication days came to a close when I finished the 6th grade and moved to the “Jr High” which was at a different school and where I started more vigorous course work and athletics, leaving little to no time for my writing. We did put a copy of the paper in the school’s time capsule though and I believe someday when I’m in my 40’s some young kid from Canby Elementary will be trying to find me to invite me back to the school for the opening of the capsule. This will undoubtedly bring back painful memories for my fellow classmates when the Lancer Locale is once again unveiled…..I can already hear the groaning and grumbling that will ensue (if you could only see the smirk I have right now, I nearly belly laughed at the mere thought of this occasion, if you haven’t guessed by now they were not a fan of the extra workload).

The Lancer Local, First Edition. 2002.

The Lancer Local, First Edition. 2002.

So maybe my editorial skills weren’t so great lol

So maybe my editorial skills weren’t so great lol

The next several years brought a lot of projects, sports, extra curricular activities and horse adventures; but aside from required course work, little-to-no “free lance writing”. I had always hoped I’d write a book one day, as did my parents and teachers who were frequently telling me “I would miss my calling as an author” if I became a veterinarian. However, the closest I came during high school to becoming “said author” was while in Mrs. Anderson’s English class, she had a love of the literary arts like no one I’ve met to this day. She had a way of reading a book that made the words dance off the page and encompass you in the story; so much so, that it was as if you were living the book and not just sitting at a mediocre desk on the 3rd floor of Canby High School listening to it. Mrs. Anderson had spunk and treated her students with respect while holding them to a high standard of being young adults. I do believe it was her love of theater that combined with her passion for reading and writing that allowed her to put her students in a trance every time she would pick up a book and start turning the pages. Even “those” kids who were always misbehaving and getting into trouble would shut up and pay attention. I was then, and still am now (thanks to Facebook) eternally grateful for her mentorship and friendship throughout the years. I’m sure if she reads this, she will start laughing because she will realize that I still have the inability to write a short and concise article, my ramblings and rabbit trails always prevail. So back to my English class, for our senior project we had to design a “shield” and a poster which would represent all of our passions and a “story” we wanted to share about a lesson we had learned. As I worked through this project I started to see the outline of a trilogy….to which I will go no further in explanation because whose to say I won’t one day still write said books and if I tell you about them now….well that’d just ruin the fun! For now though….the story ends there and said triology remains on my life’s “to-do” list.

I was pretty darn set on becoming a equine veterinarian and as such my course work and the height of the “bar” for which I completed it only grew with intensity as my collegiate undergraduate education ensued. My imagination was put on hold while I dedicated my time learning bodily processes in physiology, ways of the world in physics and of course “fun” organic chemistry structures (my apologies to Dr. Crittell if you’re reading this lol) and equations (that I still have never actually used…..). Although each instructor I had during my undergrad left a special impression (some good,some not-so-much) and many I am still proud to call friends and mentors to this day. Uh-oh….rabbit trail…….one instructor/mentor in particular deserves special mention, Dr. Williams, my physics instructor and boss throughout my undergrad. I will never forget the first day of undergraduate physics class when this tiny woman came skateboarding into our classroom, the chaos of creative learning through a multitude of toys and fun that ensued over the next several years was…dare I say? GLORIOUS! It could have easily been a different story, I remember breaking down and crying my guts out on my futon in my office trying to complete my first physics assignment, thinking I was never going to accomplish my dreams because I could never pass that class. I also remember the overwhelming sense of pride that followed the storm of whaling when I realized I had just figured out how to solve my first physics problem, more importantly I figured out how to approach the problems! When I say the professor you take for those tough courses MATTERS I couldn’t mean it more! I not only passed both my mandatory physics courses with an "A” but also took an elective and student-worker position in the physics department because of this one professor. I became a “geek” who enjoyed physics and surprisingly find myself still using it frequently today! She was then and still is the most “bad ass” professor any university could ever have and ECU should be so dang proud they landed her (even if she is a Arkansas Razorbacks fan (#haha). Truly speaking, very few collegiate professors take their teaching to the level that she does, she was always bringing in new toys to teach concepts (we had a closet full of stuff that makes Toys R Us look boring, which perhaps is a bad analogy given recent events….maybe Apple or Google would be better?). Being timely and prompt with grading was of the utmost importance and she somehow found that perfect balance of knowing when students are lying about their dog eating their homework and when their dog really did eat their homework and responded accordingly. Okay okay back to the story…..so long story short, my collegiate career had me reading text books and writing “scholarly” (aka: non-fiction and boring….) articles and papers at such a high rate that I had no desire to attempt writing or reading outside of what was required.

My life took a turn in my first semester of veterinary school at Oklahoma State University and I began to feel for the first time ever that I was on the wrong path. I denied it for several months but I never could shake the ill-feeling and wondering thoughts of what-if. It was undoubtedly God saying “you only THINK this is what you want but trust me”. In a traumatic turn of events I recareered to a master’s program in business and entrepreneurship instead. Looking back at the many struggles I had getting into vet school, the poor feelings I had while there and ease of which I flew through the acceptance process and course work in my Master’s, I can not attempt to deny that God didn’t have His hand on my journey. I am so grateful He has because I can honestly say I have never been more happy than I am right now. He has provided me a life I love, a career I enjoy and find value in, a business I truly love and path to travel that I look forward too (even though I know it has a few Mt. Everest’s on it, those mountains no longer scare me but instead excite me! Challenges are not to be feared because although they sometimes cause stress and pain, they also promote growth)!

He merely opened my heart and my schedule to do the many things I enjoy in life! Of course if you know me at all, that first and foremost means riding, training, showing and competing with my horses. However, as you probably guessed….this also includes writing again! I’ll leave it up to your imagination if a book will be in my future but for now I am proud to announce that my first free-lance article, post literary sabbatical, has been published in Oklahoma Horses Magazine! I do hope you will check it out! It is nothing special….but it is something very important….a “start”.

This article highlights a program called the LG Legacy Project, a multiple world champion barrel racer has chosen to leave his legacy in a big way that involves coordinating with other very successful barrel racing industry titans to teach talented youth how to recareer some black-type, high dollar race horses from the track to the barrel pen….and doing it all on a timeline! He’s providing the students a learning opportunity and experience few get in this lifetime and giving reject race horses a better chance at life through a second career! I hope you’ll check it out! Oklahoma Horses Magazine is a fairly new publication but is gaining stature quickly, they have seen great support in the equine industry and provide not only some entertaining local equine stories but also are a great resource for finding what equine events are going on in Oklahoma. It’s the start of many adventures I have coming down my pipeline, rest assured I’ll keep you posted.

***SPOILER ALERT*** Double M Performance Horses has some exciting news to be released in a few weeks! (No mom….I’m NOT pregnant, if this should ever happen I wouldn’t tell you over a blog post!) Those are my “thoughts from the barn”! Check out our “News” page and check back frequently to see updates on what’s going on here at the Double M Ranch!

You can view the online version of Oklahoma Horses and purchase subscriptions here: www.http://oklahomahorsesmagazine.com/

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We Wrote Our Own Story....

We were legends....loving you baby it was heaven.....

It was in the spring of 2002, I was 11 years old, my family (along with the rest of the country) was still grieving over the tragedy of lives taken too soon. The rainbow on my horizon was that all the money I had saved babysitting was finally adding up and I was about to get my very first horse! I spent many hours dreaming of all of the adventures we would go on, no longer bound to time by the woman whom I leased my previous horses from, the voyages that would ensue were sure to bring me more joy than I could fathom. I was finally going to get to be the girl posed so perfectly, so happily in all of the equine books and magazines I’d collected over the past 7 years of what my parents thought was the typical horse-crazy stage every little girl goes through. They would soon find out it was more than that, I was blessed not only with a deep set passion for all things horses, western and rodeo but I was also blessed with my first horse, a 3 year old paint filly named Kickin’ Up Pebbles.

Pebbles wouldn’t have been my first name choice but it was the name she arrived with and according to official cowboy legend, it’s bad luck to change a horses name, so Pebbles it remained. However, I added the “Kickin’ Up” to the front in anticipation of the many rocks that were sure to fly out from her feet as we thundered through the country side (and the barrel pattern) at a high rate of speed. Now, I know what you are thinking, an 11 year old girl and a 3 year old untrained filly (yes, she was barely halter broke when she arrived), that’s a bad decision. You wouldn’t be wrong, it was a classic case of the inexperienced horseman’s version of “they can grow old together”. To make matters worse we found out she was pregnant, which meant putting off my training and our adventures that much longer. After much preparation in the freezing cold temperatures of late winter in Minnesota, my dad and I had prepared a stall for her. Several “Foaling For Dummies” books later (this was before Youtube was all the rage of course) and trips to our vet to try to determine a rough due date, we were “ready”.

Hurry up and wait, day in and day out I was up every two hours trudging through snow from the basement bedroom in my grandparents farm house to the barn some 400 yards away and back. The cold would sting my face, having the same effect on my shivering little body that being shaken awake during a deep sleep has. By the time I would get back to my bed and fall asleep I only had “minutes” of rest before the next alarm would go off, back to the barn I went. After weeks of waiting, still no baby, I got worried so we took her to the vet to be palpated. “I’m sorry but I believe the foal is dead” were the first words from my vets mouth, they hit me like a ton of bricks. Before I could go into an all-out depression resulting from the loss of the little unplanned miracle and my personal failure as a horse-owner (or so I would have thought then), she said “oh…wait, nope it was just sleeping, I was able to wake it up and its moving” as she pulled her gloved arm out. “I’d say she has a solid week, maybe two before this little one arrives”, music to my ears, for the first time in weeks, I was going to get to sleep through the night. I’m sure every experienced horse breeder reading this is giggling about now, yes your suspicions are correct, Pebbles foaled a beautiful chestnut filly the following morning, all by herself as her little human slept silently in the warmth of her bed…the filly was affectionately named “Pebbles Patience”.

All those years ago I vowed I would never sell my little paint mare for she had taught me more than I could have ever learned in a classroom and had blessed me beyond measure (those stories could be a book all in itself). Fast Forward 16 years….Pebbles and I have been all over the country together, we drove cattle on the great Kamrath Cattle Drive through the heart of Gary, SD, we ran barrels against some of the toughest competition in college rodeo in the red dirt of Oklahoma and partook in adventures of all kinds everywhere in between. She’s now 19 years young.

Two years ago I decided to semi-retire her from the barrel pen, I knew she loved to go but I had younger, faster horses and was really wanting to push myself and my training to the next level so I felt I needed to focus on them, consequently there wasn’t enough room on the trailer most days. Pebbles spent her days chilling with the broodmares in the pasture but noticed every time I’d take another horse out to work it and always made me aware of her disapproval. The guilt was getting to me until one day God presented me with a solution.

An old friend from the past had posted on Facebook that her daughter’s horse had passed away and she was scared to ride any of her other horses. I remembered what it was like to be her daughters’ age, wanting a trained horse I could feel safe and learn on, one that I could also win on but not having the money to purchase one. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to give back to the industry I dearly love, it’s no secret that the kids of today will be the competitors of tomorrow and it’s our duty as adult competitors to help cultivate this love for the western way of life, for the horse and all it has to offer. After screening her properly and successfully creating and signing a legally binding lease, Pebbles was on a trailer back to the north country to be this little girls unicorn.

The first year was great, I received photos and videos of her daughter showing her in 4-H, proudly displaying her many blue ribbons and pictures of her with the biggest smile while trail riding. I thought to myself “thank you God for your gracious plan”. As you have probably guessed by now, all good things must come to end and come to an end they did. After the first year of her lease things started to go down hill, the lease was breached on multiple occasions and I began to fear for the care of my horse. We were patient and cordial but diligent in trying to seek solutions but to no avail, in November of 2017 we made the long 15 hour trek to north central Minnesota to retrieve my beloved mare.

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Upon our arrival, as I suspected I would be, I was disappointed in the level of care they were providing and I had another suspicion and worry that would come to head in the months to come. We were able to visit our families during the trip and got to ride around at our old stomping grounds, so it wasn’t all bad. Upon our return home I began to exercise Pebbles regularly, worried her excessive weight would cause her to founder but after two weeks of being stalled and lunged for an extended period each day, I saw no results. In January, I took her to the vet who confirmed my long-seeded suspicion, much to my dismay my 19 year old mare was bred. After conversing with the lease holder about this issue and her denying that it could have been possible and making up every pathetic excuse in the book, I severed all ties with her, still astonished that she could be so careless and disrespectful. Proof that time changes people because she was no longer the young woman who cared so dearly for her horses that I fondly remember.

The vet estimated she was due to foal April/May, the 3rd week of February she started building a bag. I brought her in to have her caslicks cut and have her checked again, thinking perhaps he had just estimated the date wrong. After her second palpation he stated he thought she still had several weeks left before foaling based on the position of the foal. I had a bad feeling, not one that’s easily explained but this whole deal wasn’t sitting well with my “gut”. Within a week her bag was full, she was waxing and streaming milk. I wasn’t prepared for the foal to come this soon as my closest due date wasn’t until the 23rd of March and found myself a little amused (and equally as worried) while I rushed around making preparations for her to foal, thinking about all the prep work I did when she had her first foal, 16 years ago.

February 28th she goes into stage one labor, pacing, sweating, up-down-up-down, rolling, pawing, biting at her belly, twitching, tails up….hours pass, too many hours, she’s this way for an entire night. I didn’t sleep a wink, watching closely on the foaling cam all night, ready to rush out and assist whenever needed. Morning comes, no foal. She starts to settle down. I get worried and call the vet. I’m given two options, bring her in and have her palpated again (recommended) or keep a close eye on her throughout the day and if she remains comfortable then she was probably just working to position the foal. I was also told to check her vulva to see if membranes were present (an indication the foal is breech), I did as I was told, no membranes and Pebbles remained comfortable, eating and drinking all day as usual so I decided to give her one more day before bringing her in to have her palpated. That evening I noticed how much her shape had changed, each time I pushed on her side, she urinated, I knew the foal was in position and she was showing signs of being ready to foal again, relaxed vulva, streaming milk, engorged teats, wax etc. She rests comfortably in her stall all night and by the following morning, still no baby.

I’m now more worried than ever. I call Oakridge, make an appointment for 11:30am and as per tradition, go to breakfast with my husband while monitoring her on the camera. He’s joking the entire time, frequently saying “has Pebbles had her baby yet”, he’s trying to be charming and get me to relax because he knows I’m worried but I’m certain he doesn’t know just how worried I am, I can feel somethings not right.

We return home from breakfast, Pebbles is laying down, I approach her and she’s resting easily and gets up in anticipation of her breakfast. I feed everyone and go in the house to change in preparation for our vet appointment. I go outside and Pebbles is down again, she ate all her breakfast and is in fact still eating her alfalfa but I can tell somethings up. I wait and watch patiently and then it starts, contractions. She’s straining, pushing, straining, pushing, I see the sac appear and immediately can tell something isn’t right. I call Oakridge while I enter her stall to break the sac, all that comes out is some hair…..I put on a palpation sleeve and palpate her, to my great dismay the foal is breech. I holler to my husband to get the truck and trailer and with in minutes she is loaded and I’m flying XX miles per hour to the clinic, thinking the entire 30 minutes that I may lose my beloved mare and most certainly her foal. I had a fleeting thought about the danger of getting pulled over while traveling at this rate of speed, I’d likely lose my license and it is unlikely a police officer would sympathize with me because to him it would just be “a horse”.  I put those thoughts out of my mind and began praying, I found myself pleading and bargaining with God like most imperfect humans do when they are facing trials, tribulations and are in the wake of a great loss.

I arrive safely at the clinic, pull up by the ICU, throw my truck in park and rush to my trailer. Never in a million years would I have expected what I saw next. Trailing out from under my trailer door was a placenta, when I opened the door and solid black foal lay on the mats of my trailer with a painted mama watching intently over her, wondering what the fuss is all about. The staff at Oakridge was quick to act, ligating the foals umbilical cord on the trailer and carrying her into the ICU, mama following willingly. She was small but was a fighter, breathing well on her own, all the while trying to stand, I could see her mama’s fire in her. She was placed on a soft mat, heating pad and oxygen while they checked over mama. Determining Pebbles was good to go, they sedated her to settle her down while they turned their attention to her foal. At this point I’m covered with unmentionables and still shaking from the adrenaline rush, thinking it’s all going to be okay. That thought was clearly preconceived.

Our vet makes me aware of the greatest danger of premature foals, the lack of mineralization and formation of the lower hock bones and knee bones. Without at least 50% mineralization it is unlikely the foal will survive and live a quality life because when they stand for the first time they will crush the joint and unformed bones. My heart sinks, still holding onto a small hope she’ll be okay and she was small for some other reason. They carry her foal into another room to take radiographs which confirmed his suspicions, the bones had not yet formed. It is now up to me, although he truly hates the facts, his recommendation is to euthanize the foal.

My first thought is this foal has survived so many odds already, how can this be? She was literally born breech in my trailer while I was driving at heinous speeds and was bright eyed, breathing well and acted like she could take on the world and I’m supposed to end all of that? I took some time to clear my head, did a little research, called my husband and in the end decided it would be too cruel and inhumane to put her through the extensive treatment, she didn’t deserve that. Just after noon, Pebbles foal was laid to rest. I loaded mama and her deceased foal in the trailer, went home, put her in her stall with the foal to figure out what happened and to come to terms with it on her own time. I had a very important appointment I needed to get to and got myself as ready and prepared as I could and headed out.

Keeping a close eye on mama on the foal cam, I suffered through my 2 hour appointment and rushed home (adulting really sucks sometimes). I arrived at her stall minutes later and could tell something was up. Her hair was all standing on end, she was shivering all over (it was 65 and sunny), her gums were pale, gut sounds hypermotile, her temp was normal. I called Oakridge to see if this was normal, my vet said it was definitely not and asked what her heart rate was. I thought to myself, I’m an idiot why did I forget to take her heart rate but she seemed quiet and calm, besides the shivering, so it's most likely not elevated. Boy was I wrong, her heart rate was elevated to 82 (for those who don’t know the normal range is 24-40bpm)! I knew something was again terribly wrong, she was given a dose of Banamine while at the clinic only 5 hours ago. For a mare who was eating alfalfa while foaling breech (which speaks tremendous volumes to her toughness) to have a heart rate of 82 with a full dose of pain meds on board, told me the situation wasn’t good so back on the trailer she went and back to Oakridge we went.

Upon arrival they palpated her, ran blood work and scanned her. The trailer ride must have done her some good because she passed a small stool, her heart rate had dropped to 65 bpm and her gums had some color back in them. Her bloodwork came back normal, a good sign that she wasn’t bleeding internally. However, her colon was displaced and distended (not entrapped, thankfully (google "nephrosplenic entrapment" FMI) which meant she would be staying there on fluids for a while, getting lunged to try to get that colon back where it belongs and functioning how it’s supposed to. After 4 sleepless nights and an exhausting day, I left before they finished Pebble’s exam, too exhausted to function. I trusted them wholeheartedly and knew they would do their absolute best to care for her. As I pulled out of their parking lot I said one last pleading prayer for my mare and journeyed home. She remained at Oakridge for another day and a half before returning home, healthy.

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The following morning after dropping Pebbles off at Oakridge I spent a significant amount of time in thought and prayer with God while waiting for the phone call and update on her condition. During all of this I had hatred in my heart for the girl who let this happen to my sweet girl, in addition to my stress and anxiety. I had intended on writing this story in contempt of this woman’s behavior, in an effort to warn others about people like her and guarding your treasures. However, as He usually does, He worked a miracle that morning and allowed me to release myself of the anger and hostility I held towards this person and their wrong doing. It was then I saw the opportunity to use this tragic experience as a lesson from God, make no mistake, I am far from a perfect Christian and I am certainly not a preacher, but here it goes anyways.

 I can’t tell you with any certainty why this happened and am not sure if I will ever know but I can tell you it was all part of His plan and it happened for a reason. The test of a person’s true Faith is during times of trials and tribulation, not during times of blessing and wealth. The Bible says: "Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10). I can’t help but think during times like these that God is sculpting us for bigger things to come, these trials will prepare us to stay humble and appreciative during our greatest achievements and highs (knowing all the while how quickly it can be taken from us) while simultaneously giving us strength when we are at our lowest, resting assured in His great power and will.  "The pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming." (Romans 8:18).

Think of your relationship with God as a dance, He will always lead but the better you get at following the more extravagant and beautiful the dance. It’s difficult to dance carrying baggage and in rough terrain which is why we must leave the baggage and frequently work on our footwork. Together you can two-step your way up any mountain and out of any valley. It is true, you can dance alone but similar to dancing, life, is just better with a partner.

#HaveFaith #DreamBig #WorkHard

A HEAVENLY GIFT

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My husband and I went to watch 12 Strong last night, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the story line, it is based on the true story of the horse soldiers in Afghanistan. The first successful American infiltration and attack in Afghanistan post the 9/11 terrorist attacks was by 12 American special forces military men who teamed up with an Afghan war lord to overtake several small villages that would ultimately seize to deplete the Taliban’s main supply chain and free the villages of the Taliban’s grasp. Unbeknownst to the American special forces team, the war lords fought via horseback, once trust between our  team and their war lord was established, the war lord provided our guys with horses to carry them over the rough mountain terrain and ultimately into battle to secure our first successful attack in the War on Terror!
In my opinion the movie was well worth watching and as I watched it play out scene by scene I was continually reminded of my favorite Bible verse Proverbs 21:31 “The horse is prepared for the day of battle but the glory be to God.” Although it was just a movie there are hundreds if not thousands of true stories of trusty, selfless steeds who have carried our men and women bravely into battle. Those men selflessly volunteered for a dangerous mission with minimal odds of survival (much like many stories in the Bible of men and armies defying the odds) and by the grace and protection of God and their steeds, they not only survived but triumphed! As I thought about how their equine partner’s servant heart plays out in today’s arena, I couldn’t help but write a few things down! I hope this serves as a reminder to each and every equestrian, of how incredibly blessed we are to do what we do.

God Bless our Troops, Public Service Men and Women and the Equine and Canine Units that protect and serve as well! <3 Thank you for your service!

A HEAVENLY GIFT

Let me ask you this, is a horse born knowing its destiny? Are they born knowing how to suppress their natural flight instincts and to trust what they don’t know and fear? Are they born knowing they will be dependent upon and at the mercy of the people who raise them?

Being more specific, are own sons and daughters of Topsail Whiz, Gunner or Wimpys Little Step born knowing they are royally bred and expected to become the next generation of elite reiners? Are own sons and daughters of Dash Ta Fame, Firewater Flit or Frenchmans Guy born knowing they are royally bred and expected to become the next generation of elite barrel horses? Are own sons and daughters of First Down Dash, Corona Cartel and Mr Eye Opener born knowing they are royally bred and expected to become the next generation of elite race horses? Are own sons and daughters of Highbrow Hickory, Metallic Cat and Peptoboonsmal born knowing they are royally bred and expected to become the next generation of elite cutting horses?

Are they born with the passion, determination, self-confidence and skill set to become the next world champion in their pre-determined discipline?

I would argue that the answer to every one of these questions is “no”. If horses were born knowing how to suppress their flight instincts and fears, they wouldn’t run away from people and when restrained, squirm and kick at them. If they were born knowing they would become dependent upon people for their needs, they wouldn’t try to run away if given the chance. If reiners were born knowing they were bred to be reiners they would begin practicing their spins and sliding stops the minute they stood up, likewise barrel horses would practice their rate and turns, race horses their clean breaks and long strides, and cutters their cowiness and quick, concise movements.

Responsible breeders have selectively bred horses through many generations to portray physical and some mental traits that equip a horse to do its predetermined discipline better. However, it goes without saying that there isn’t a breeder in the world that can produce a foal that is a guaranteed champion. What then is the missing link? Why can a prospect who is bred to the hilt for its discipline, completely flop?  Obviously, humans and divine intervention are the missing link, since divine intervention is out of our control, lets focus on humans; owners, care-takers and trainers.

Isn’t it incredible that God has created a creature that out-weighs us ten-fold and is born with the natural instinct, power and stamina to flee or fight whatever it fears and yet we are so very blessed to be able to suppress those fears and form a bond and a relationship with them?  Furthermore, we are able to enhance that bond to instill trust and confidence which further develops into a desire, a passion and a work ethic to be the greatest at whatever discipline they do! They have no concept of winning or losing, they measure their success based solely on their human’s happiness and rewards. They learn to want to be the best because they were given a servants heart and the one they serve wants to be the best so therefore they develop try! It is truly an astonishing realization that there isn’t a horse or trainer/competitor alive that would be where they are today without the other. It’s a partnership unlike any other that should be nurtured and respected, one that is as rewarding and fulfilling to both halves. One that is impossible to deny or even describe, when each partner gives it everything they’ve got. I think it is safe to say that the bond that is shared takes time to develop and the responsibility lay in our hands to initiate and cultivate that bond.

It’s a pretty obvious concept, especially amongst the horse industry but one that is all to easily and frequently overlooked with the hustle and bustle of modern everyday life. Horses used to be a necessity to our way of life and are now a privilege, but regardless of their role, they have always been a blessing and will remain so until the end of time and we would do good to remember this. Always remember every horse you train or care for is unique and you are solely responsible for writing chapters in its book of life. Sometimes keys to unlocking success in the next chapter can be found in reviewing their past chapters, other times they’re a blank canvas and the bond, perseverance and passion you share is enough to fill the pages of numerous chapters. Sometimes it’s our job to write the introduction and then pass it on to someone else, other times we serve to write chapters somewhere in the middle and every now and then we get to write a complete book. However long you are charged with the responsibility of writing their story or of them writing yours is virtually irrelevant as time is a gift and no one truly knows when their clock will run out or their path will change. What truly matters is how rich the content on the page becomes, so do yourselves and your horses a favor work hard, be diligent and honest because you never know when you will write your next “best seller”!

The "America's Response Monument" constructed at the Twin Towers memorial, honoring the Horse Soldiers.

The "America's Response Monument" constructed at the Twin Towers memorial, honoring the Horse Soldiers.

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Carnies Of A Different Color......

Growing up my family always joked about the "Nelson's" infamous "gift-of-gab", we are said to have never met a stranger. I never really thought about the impact of that statement until last night. 

Backing up to a few days ago, after a very busy first week of classes for me and work for Mitch, we decided to take the day off and go to the local lake (McMurtry) for some kyaking, fishing and swimming. The freakish August rains we had been having cooled the water down to the perfect swimming temperatures and with fall on the horizon, the humidity was lower as were the temperatures and wind, making it the perfect day! After spending many hours out on "our island" as we so affectionately call it, we decided it was time to come home and stopped for supper at one of our most favorite restaurants in Stillwater. "Palominos" is a beautiful mexican restaurant that always has superb food and service, their ambiance is second to none in Stilly. 

As we are dining, pickups with very large motors are racing on the sports channel of their TV, Mitch and I comically watched as pieces of metal were flying in all directions because the track was so bumpy. Of course coming from Minnesota (where even people's "junk" is organized and clean), I commented smartly saying "wow, it looks like they're driving on Oklahoma roads" after a short giggle we realized we were not alone and an unfamiliar couple from across the floor was laughing too. Much to my surprise the gentleman commented "Missouri is even worse" and we had a chuckle. I was intrigued by this couple as they seemed to be light-hearted and friendly. As our meal progressed I overheard the woman say to the waiter how much she loved their salsa and asked if she could order some of it to go. With all my Palomino's pride, I couldn't resist asking her if it was their first time eating at the restaurant, she responded that it was and they loved it, also that they were not from this area. So naturally as conversation flows I asked what brought them to Stillwater? In all my wildest dreams I couldn't have fathomed the answer I was about to receive......

Mind you, these are well dressed, clean, slightly older than middle-aged individuals who carried an obvious amount of class about them......

...her response......."We own the carnival that is in town."

The look on my face must have reflected what my mind was thinking because they instantly started laughing and began explaining how they had inherited it from her father (who started it in 1944!) and it was a family business. Immediately (being a entrepreneurship masters student) my brain started flooding with a million thoughts and questions, after all its not every day you get the chance to talk to real life, civilized "carnie's!"

However, in an effort to not ruin their meal, I refrained and settled with letting my brain wander. When they got up to go they invited us to their carnival and told us where we could find them if/when we arrived. As a child who grew up living for our annual fair (no joke, I used to sneak into our 4-H horse barn nearly a week early and guess where my stalls were going to be and dream about one day owning my own barn!). Coming from a town of 1800 people it is no surprise that it was a pretty exciting time when the county fair came to town! However, there was always one thing I dreaded......the creepy carnies. My mom, being the overprotective, paranoid worry-wart that she is (aren't all moms?), was ALWAYS warning me to have a friend with me anytime I went to the midway and to avoid the carnie's at all cost because she was certain they were all criminals. I mean, why else would anyone want to travel around the country setting up rides and eating fried food? I always thought she was being ridiculous until one year they actually arrested a man who was on America's Most Wanted that had been traveling with the carnival in town and that same year I had a creepy encounter with a carnie while I had one of my riding lesson students with me. That pretty much solidified what my mom had been beating into me all those years and made me all the more thankful I had an overprotective australian shepherd at my side that day (who may or may not have bit said creepy carnie who wouldn't back off)!

So it is now Thursday evening, Mitch and I decided we would take those nice people up on their offer and I had a ridiculous craving for a huge corn dog....so off to the Payne County Fair we went.  We walked through the fair, ate a ton of junk food (fried snickers, corndog, nachos, etc...and yes I'm almost puking thinking about eating all of that...not quite recovered yet), while simultaneously watching the opening game of the OSU Cowboys CRUSHING the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (Go Pokes!)The final score was 24-59 Cowboys for those of you who missed it. Thank goodness college football is as sacred as religion here in the Bible Belt of America because all the commercial booths had the game playing so we could periodically check the score!  After a fun evening we decided to stop by and say "hi" to the woman we had met at Palominos early that week and thank her for the invitation, also as a fellow business owner I know it is great to get feedback, and since we had really enjoyed our little trip down memory lane, I thought we'd tell her so! 

Much to my delight and surprise, she was right where she said she would be, working alongside a young man in the cotton candy booth! My first thought was, how cool is this lady? She OWNS this carnival and yet she is out here, wisps of vibrant blue cotton candy in her hair and all over her wonderfully logo'd polo shirt busting her butt right alongside the staff she employs. She is the definition of an entrepreneur! Even more delighting was the fact that she remembered us! I told her we were about to go ride the "Freak Out" (which they previously had recommended when Mitch asked what their number one selling ride was) and of course my comical husband had to jokingly ask if it had passed inspection (but I knew he was really terrified). 

If I wasn't already impressed and amazed by this lady she certainly tipped the scales with what she did next....

She asked if we had purchased our tickets yet, I replied we were on our way to get some, her eyes lit up! She was brushed off the cotton candy from her shirt and said "don't bother, we are going to go ride that ride!" (mind you she had already refused to let us pay for our delicious caramel apple, referring to us as "her new friends!"), she spoke to the young man she was working with briefly and exited the mobile cotton candy shop. She walked us over to the ride and we (all 3 of us) got a first class ride on the "Freak Out", which as it turns out was appropriately named! 

After the awesomely nauseating ride (awesome for me, nauseating for Mitch), we had the opportunity to chat with her for awhile. I had no idea I was only minimally blown away by this woman before. This family business they own an operate is incredible and shatters all the stereotypes, not only about the typical "carnie" but also about owning and operating a family business. This carnival was truly entrepreneurship at its finest! 

This woman owns the carnival with her brother, she and her husband both work there (her husband was previously a PRACTICING ATTORNEY) who was looking for a change of pace. They raised three successful children while traveling and working within their business, two of which have joined them in the family business and who play integral parts of the carnivals success. On top of that they have figured out multiple ways to combat the stereotypes of "carnies" starting from the hiring process of their midway workers, which is incredible and unique but I am not sure I should share all the details as such things could be labeled as "trade secrets" and they have a great thing going, I certainly don't want to ruin it for them! But you should know that they have multiple employee's who have worked for them for many years, some as many as 7+ years, that is not an industry "norm" for most industries, let alone carnivals! Their workers are all clean shaven, polite and hard working, their carnival is sanitary, welcoming and FUN! After speaking with her we decided to go check out the farris wheel, I couldn't resist myself and had to ask the gentleman working it, who was from South Africa, if he was a surfer (avid "Blue Crush" fan, I'm pretty sure I was a surfer in a past life...haha.). He laughed liked he was either amused at my American idiocy (which I wouldn't blame him because asking a South African if they can surf is probably like asking an American if they like french fries?) or perhaps he had been asked that question before and he responded politely "actually, no. It scares me!.  For which I laughed and smiled about the rest of my farris wheel ride, a South African afraid of surfing....who would have thought?  We finished out the night with one last epic ride on the "Freak Out" and left not only having made some memories but having gained a new friend and hopefully future mentor! 

You can find their schedule/locations on their website and/or facebook page (links below). Take the whole family, it'll be worth the trip! This company is single-handedly recreating the traveling carnival industry, breaking down one barrier at a time! Perhaps they are not "the last of a dying breed" but instead are the pioneers of new breed?

Moral of the story, sometimes the "gift of gab" truly is a gift and of course the "never judge a book by its cover" comes to mind also! But really, networking is so important for everyone, so don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and ride the "freak out" because you never know where it'll take you! I promise you it'll grant you nothing short of a memory.

If you haven't been out to check out Ottaway Amusement Company, you are missing out! They have superb reviews on facebook, check them out at https://www.facebook.com/Ottaway-Amusement-Co-200659673290991/?pnref=lhc and/or check out their website at http://ottawayamusements.com/ 

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