I have had an extraordinary year – traveling to many interesting places across the globe to teach people and horses. I am at the same time very lucky and also work very hard, I think most of you who work with horses know the deal. The more you practice and the harder you work, the luckier you get…it’s an interesting correlation.
But this aside, the thing which has blown me away again and again, is the incredible women that I have been lucky enough to meet. Now on this front I KNOW I am fortunate, the kind of people who want to learn with me, or who have remained my friends across the years are incredibly lovely humans. Compassionate, kind, desperate to learn – on the side of other people and their horses. These are ladies who celebrate the successes of others, rather than being resentful or bitter. Maybe I’m just seeing a small section of society, but even if I am, these women blow my flipping socks off.
During the course of this year, I have met women who spend their lives trying to clear things up for confused, upset and sometimes very dangerous horses. Women who are not physically strong, but who instead use their brain and hard earned ability to help create better lives for horses. Women who’s integrity is second to none, who are absolutely committed to learning, developing, finding the answers they need. They work in the freezing cold, boiling heat, dust and wind, despite the toll it takes on their bodies. Women who have trained cow horses the like of which I never dreamed I would ride.
I have come across ladies who are working all hours to fund their small, humble horse habit. The general public may believe horses are the luxury of the rich, but I know that not to be true. I see women going without food, new clothes, a social life so that their horse might see the vet, have well balanced feet, receive high quality training. Bonkers? Maybe. But, better bonkers than boring I reckon.
I have met women who have developed low stress ways of working with wild and feral horses so they may receive medical care with minimum impact, and share their unique experience and knowledge (with experts who need this information) for free. I have met teams of women using all of their time and resources to rehome four legged waifs and strays – remaining cheerful and optimistic in the face of sometimes utterly inhumane circumstances.
I have met unassuming women who when prompted reveal they are a leading light in the light in the husky racing world (‘But really, it’s no big deal…). Or, who have imported mules or horses to pursue a life long dream, when time and resources mean this is really an impossibility, but they do it anyway. And tiny women, with huge horses, pulling logs out the woods in the wind and sideways rain (‘Oh, it’s not that hard…). I hear about women riding miles and miles and miles, though extreme terrain with minimal support, because well this short, precious life is meant to be filled with interesting and challenging experiences isn’t it?
There are pockets of women all over the world giving inordinate amounts of their time to support people with mental health issues or learning difficulties, through sharing their love of animals and the natural world. They say it’s their job, but we all know they are not millionaires as a result. I am very fortunate to count as close friends women who are plugging away to change the face of agriculture, education and the welfare of people,animals and the planet, with a shameless lack of ego or need for personal recognition. When actually they should be held up as examples of what is possible in spite of…
And ever single day I meet women who do things their rational brain knows they shouldn’t. Ride young horses with no back up ; put up fences on windswept hillsides with crappy tools and no help; traipse around in the dark and mud to pick up mountains of manure to look after the small plot of land all of their spare cash pays for. Who say, ‘Yeah ok, I’ll have him’ to the horse/dog/child that no one else wants to be responsible for, when they’re really too old, tired, poor, to even consider this option. Even thinking about what some of you do takes my breath away. And weirdly, we still get paid less, recognised less and inappropriately touched on the bottom more. Thank goodness we don’t let that stop us.