Rerouting into the Wild

“Rerouting,” if you will, has always been one of my biggest challenges. I’m not talking just in terms of horses, but in all aspects of life. Call me crazy but I genuinely believe there isn’t a single thing I can’t make happen. However, this instance involves my best mare, the dreams and goals I had for her, and the lessons learned by having to reroute my best laid plans. 

Finding the One

It started back in 2019. My husband, who is a farrier for a local breeder, suggested I look at one of their colts by one of my favorite studs. Like most of us, I’m incredibly particular about what I look for when horse shopping, especially when it comes to yearlings. 

The colt was well-built and had a mane that performance horse dreams are made of, but didn’t have what I was looking for personality-wise. And then it happened, she caught my eye. The filly my husband warned me about and knew I would fall for immediately.

My Mamba Mia, now fondly called ‘Little Girl,’ was a stout, smoky black filly with inquisitiveness, confidence, and such sheer presence it was indescribable. She carried herself boldly while still being respectful. She had the look in her eye that said, “Let’s go do something.” The kind of horse you go to war with.

My heart tightened. You know the moment I’m talking about. When you see the horse and you know if you miss out on it, you’re missing out on everything you’ve ever worked for and imagined having in your pens.

Even with little back country riding experience under her belt, my mare proved to be up to the challenge when we had the chance to go on a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. Photo by Kelly Altschwager

Setting New Goals 

I had big performance plans for her. (For the record, I continue to have big plans for her, but it’s more about her than me these days.) She’s as athletic as they come, with a mind made for work. She’s happiest being handled, ridden, and a part of whatever is going on. 

Starting her was a treat. I had to watch myself because while mentally she was ready and waiting for more, physically it was important that she continued to grow and mature. 

Throughout our journey together, we made it through a couple random horses-being-horses’ injuries that started to put us a bit behind the curve. In hindsight, I don’t know that we were so much behind the curve as we were behind my self-imposed expectations. I knew what she was capable of, and I felt like I had to uphold these huge performance expectations to do her any justice. 

Reaching Goals

I believe as horse owners we all hit that point in our horse-owning careers: high expectations and getting caught in the comparison trap. That’s where I was, and I felt stuck. 

The universe works in mysterious ways. While I was feeling sorry for myself, realizing the goals I had weren’t anywhere close to the timeline I had set, I opened my email in May of 2022 to see that I had drawn the coveted Colorado bull moose tag.

In that moment, I knew all my goals moving forward would be based on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I knew the unit I drew the tag in, but still wanted to take the opportunity to haul our horses up and scout. This included hauling my girl, who, unlike our other seasoned horses, hadn’t been in the great wide open yet. 

She did phenomenal. Little Girl was excited to have a job and climbed steep pulls like she’d been doing it her entire life. She highlined with the other horses like an old campaigner, and at one point a moose cruised through, and while most horses would’ve been a little startled, she was all ears and interested. She never faltered. I’ve never had so much trust in a young horse the way I had in her; I hadn’t experienced anything like it.

Trust the Process

For the record, I did fill that moose tag, and it was in fact the hunt of a lifetime. 

Those days and nights of worrying that we were behind were such a waste of precious energy. We weren’t behind. Our reroute just took us down a path I didn’t know we both needed. 

Maybe the days in a performance pen together will come. Maybe not. I’m not going to waste any more time worrying about it. Now, our path is taking the time to become a solid bridle horse with plenty of adventures up in the vast high country. A place where we both thrive and appreciate together.

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