Motherhood and other rocky trails - Cowgirl Chronicles
This special post is about what motherhood has taught me about barrel racing.(…with a little advice for new moms and horsewomen!)
MOM. You either are one, or you know one. In either case you can enjoy this post! Usually it’s the same old (but sentimental) story entitled: “What horse’s taught me about life.” Followed by some cliché facts about how their horse caused them to be a more confident person. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m turning the tables on the story to bring the focus on how becoming a mother changed my horsemanship and made me better barrel racer. I’m honored to live life surrounded by my husband, daughter, dogs and horses. All of which I can learn from.
When I became pregnant, I was lucky enough to be trouble-free all three trimesters. I rode up until a week before I had my daughter in my arms, trimmed hooves until I couldn’t bend over anymore, and took the corgi dog on a bike ride the afternoon before she came into the world. Now that my girl is toddler age, I pretty much consider myself an expert on life and on parenting. (And by ‘expert’ I mean CONSTANT work in progress.) Here are several life lesson’s brought to you by……. Motherhood!
It was one of the first things I learned I had a serious problem with. I hate to admit it but I judged people and their horses (in my head) on EVERYTHING. “WOW! That person’s horse is out of control…ever heard of a little obedience?” and “Does that chick even own a curry comb?” as well as “ Suits her best getting bucked off, since she treats her horse like dirt.” While I was pregnant I felt enlarged (as the condition contributes) but I also felt like I was even bigger under a microscope. People would audibly judge me ALL.THE.TIME. They would say things to me like “Wow you are so skinny…are you sure your pregnant?” and “You are too small to birth a baby” and “Well, that’s an interesting name you picked.” And to a hormonal pregnant beast, comments from doctors, friends and strangers alike were perceived as very rude and hurtful to me.
Luke 6:37 instructs: Judge not, and you will no be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven.
My daughter is a huge blessing to me because of the way God has used her to break down this serious stronghold of mine. Unless my words, thoughts and actions are helpful, I’m putting out negative energy and wasting my own. If someone has dirty house or dirty horse trailer is probably the result of staying up all night with a colic-y kid (or colic-y horse). Maybe she can’t handle her horse’s antics in the arena because she has a plugged duct from breastfeeding and it hurts like hell to move. Perhaps the ‘so-and-so’ you are gossiping about acts insecure because all people want to do is point out observations and her flaws instead of being helpful and understanding.
Let It Go
I used to freak out and rip into anyone if things weren’t taken care of a certain way or if my horse’s didn’t act completely obedient. In my mind there were NO EXCUSES. The house should be neat. The horses should stand tied. The truck should be washed before arriving at a client’s house. I exercise on Monday’s, grocery shop on Thursday, and every other Friday is date night. 8 hours of sleep is minimum.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
The thing I didn’t realize was my tendency to be overly-organized and attached to certain methods and time frames was actually robbing me of some peace. I found this out as soon as my unexpected cesarean-section landed me in bed for two whole months. Try to have obsessive compulsive disorder while you are nursing a newborn and can’t get up without ripping some stitches open. Cue attitude change, 0-to-100 real quick. It was probably the first time in my life I had to let people do things for me, their way – not mine. The first time my horse’s feet didn’t get done in 3 or 4 months. The first time I realized I could be joyful with spit up on my shirt and mildew in the dryer.
Smile and pick the pumpkins.
Expect The Unexpected
Oh BOY! Another favorite topic for someone who hates change! I had high expectations for myself and equally high ones for other people. If I was going to a horse event/clinic I expected that the learning environment would be neat, quite and organized. If I was going to a barrel race I expected that the producer would provide directions and hospitality. If I trained my horse on a task I’d expect they would perform it when asked.
John 1:16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
This is probably the most ironic lesson of them all. I didn’t know I was pregnant for months – like “didn’t want to be and had other plans” kind of unexpected. I didn’t know newborns/infants/toddlers/kids never sleep like ever, and thought “I would get a sleep routine back” kind of unexpected. I didn’t realize that toddlers can be loud – like “will embarrass the shit out of you at Target by yelling non-sense” kind of unexpected. But at least now, when I roll up to a rodeo and they’ve misspelled/mispronounced my name, or the entry gate isn’t lined up evenly with the first barrel, or my horse acts like a maniac at the corn dog stand I won’t lose my marbles – because I’ll be expecting it!
Live In The Moment
Hi, my name is Kathleen, and I’m a recovering chronic-planner and over-thinker. I spend my days worrying about what my horse will do to make me look like an idiot, what people will think and if it will end up on Youtube.
John 10 says: Jesus came so that we could have life and have it abundantly!
Just because my toddler is fascinated with her humidifier and wants to spend 45 minutes saying “Wow! Mama- wow, wow, wow!” instead of going to bed, doesn’t mean I should get frustrated and yell at her to go to sleep. In her eyes this magic vapor smoke machine is amazing, I chose to enjoy it with her. She is a child after all. Just because my horse is fascinated with new spring grass and wants to spend 45 minutes munching away saying “Wow! Green grass…my favorite thing, must stop and eat some!” doesn’t mean I should get pissed and yank his head out of the halter. I chose to see the lush, sweet juiciness from his eyes. He is a herbivore after all.
Soon enough she’ll be 16, so enjoy it!
It’s Not About Me
It is amazing how fast you can learn and apply a new habit when someone’s life depends on it. For instance, I was not a die-hard meat lover, sit down for 3 square meals type of person before I was pregnant. But when you need 70 grams of protein to sustain a 50% increase in maternal blood volume and overall fetal wellness, you find ways to get it down the hatch. I also think of this in terms of equine diet too. It’s easier to throw a single flake of alfalfa over the panel at their head for breakfast then take any further steps.
Jesus said in Acts 20:35 It is more blessed to give than to receive.
By the sheer fact that we choose to have certain people and animals in our lives, we automatically release a lot of self-focus. Horse’s digestive systems are made to constantly graze, not eat meals twice a day in a densely packed flake. Baby’s digestive systems are tiny and can only metabolize small bits at a time. Finding way to accommodate your animals and family beyond focusing on your own needs is necessary to have success in the relationship. Breastfeeding for over 500 days in a row will teach you is indeed is NOT about you. It’s about sustaining a life.
Did I make i look cute and easy? Yes. But no one takes pics of post-postpartum care.
A Little Dirt Never Hurt – or blood, or sweat, or tears, or vernix
If anyone can have a baby it’s a barrel racer (or horsewoman). We’ve stitched up wounds after a colt runs through a fence, flushed out pigeon fever puss remnants, and smelt thrush from a mile away. Babies are equally disgusting. If you don’t know what meconium is, think horse diarrhea gone bad… then gone worse. If you have experienced postpartum after math, then you can appreciate a cut across your horse’s vein being mild. When you have a child you can basically expect that having baby spit up in your hair and clothes will make you constantly smell like a rotting hoof with thrush. No bible verse for this description, if you’ve had the privilege to birth a child and have also owned a horse, you are a special breed of human. Bless you.
Pushing Comes From Within
This might be an obscure example to say the least, but it is one where I find some surprising similarities. I’m talking pushing a baby out of your body, and pushing a barrel horse to run fast. When you force something before it is ready, the result isn’t as good as it could be if it was prepared correctly.
Luke 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.
In order to be truly powerful one must also be relaxed. Trust that God is working through you and for you, and with that knowledge you can be relaxed and able to let the real power shine through. When I was in labor, I ended up with a slew of doctors screaming at me, forcing me and dictating me to push. It was like I was being intimidated to put on a show in front of people I didn’t know or trust. I was anything but relaxed in a moment that should have been very private and very powerful. I draw similarities from the people that whip and spur (excessively) their horse to get more speed on the pattern. Pushing or scaring a horse to go faster before he is ready to offer speed will only make him shut down. Having a barrel horse that is relaxed, trusting, trusting in the partnership will offer more power, than one who is being intimidated to perform .
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Does anyone else do a “labor-face” when blasting home from third?
Get It Done With A Little Fun!
I’ll be the first one to admit I have treated my parenting and barrel racing like a job. Certain tasks that have to be done before day is done or else…But life is a little too short and a little too sad to be that serious all the time.
Ecclesiastes 2:24 There’s nothing better for a person than that he should eat, and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.
If you’ve been around a toddler (or any small child), then you know they have the ability to be completely unaware of people’s judgment, and will occasionally bust out in song and dance. If they see an opportunity for fun they take it. A big fluffy chair at the furniture store might just be asking to be climbed on and jumped from – even if you only came to buy a lamp. Getting out the door late to a barrel race might put your horse at risk, putting an unfair amount of pressure on him/her because you are in a hurry. Instead, leave prepared and then pick up a few friends and grab some Mexican food on the way back. Enjoy the privilege it is to have friends, family and fast horses.
Getting it done, with a little sun.
Brush It Off & Ditch The Books
On amazon.com you can search for thousands of books about parenting, birthing, sleep training, discipline, how not to be a crappy parent, etc! On RFD-TV you can see about just as many horsemanship techniques being displayed on improving balance, fixing your stop, and lunging basics – each claiming “it’s the best way to train!” so buy our video series to learn how!
We are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2 :10
Sometimes I think we need to just ditch all the books telling us what we are doing wrong, and concentrate on the fact that God created us right to begin with. I’ve found that working with animals and humans in a way that honors their nature and their source is always the best approach. No matter what any book or clinician tries to tell you. If you ask God for the wisdom and discernment it will prove more sound than any advice a book. You are doing great, Mama!
Love, Language & Leadership
Spoiler alert- these three components are the literal secret to success with horses and children. Kids need a parent (leader), to learn (language) and to feel secure (love). In the wild; a mare (leader) raises her foal (love) and keeps it from danger (language). If we want to have the most balanced approach possible to having a relationship with both humans and horses it is vital we learn how to do all three of these things equally.
1 Corin 16:14 famously states ; Let all that you do be done in love.
Our idea of love is hugs, kisses and carrots. But love is also acting in a way that will give your child or horse the best chance of survival, and function in life. Often I challenge my self with what I call the “finesse factor”. Can I communicate with my child without them having a complete melt down or tantrum? If can share my idea of what I want, in a way that get’s my kid to offer the action then I’ve won my own challenge. Same goes with horses. I want to go fast…can I communicate that to a horse in a way HE understands without him pinning his ears, or swishing his tail at me in frustration? If I have done it with finesse, then a visual struggle won’t be seen!
My assistant trainer focusing on clinic instruction.
Horses & Children Are Perfect
You look at a newborn and you see a sweet, wrinkled angle. You bear a child and you know, they were literally sent by one. Thinking about the entire process it takes a mare to get pregnant, and foal is pretty amazing. A lot of things have to happen with perfect timing in order for the result to be a fuzzy four legged cutie to learn about gravity for the first time.
We are so blessed! James 1:17 says Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.
A friend once told me that, my daughter was close as to God as I could get on this planet, so I should cherish all the moments I have with her in her infancy. It’s true. Babies and horses don’t have an ego so they aren’t tarnished by pride, mistakes and sin. God makes no mistakes in His creations. And indeed I do feel blessed to be so close to Him as a mother and as horsewoman. It’s my mission in life to continue to learn how to teach, treat, and raise the perfect gifts I’ve been given.
A few days old, and in love with horses already.
Mother or not. I hope you can appreciate the similarities, lessons and love that come with being around children and horses. Regard your mother this Mother’s Day with a new found appreciation for the lesson’s you taught each other.