The season too, but I mean my horse Summer. Well, really she is my son’s horse that he lets me ride. She is not cuddley or lovey, but I am pretty sure she likes me. I hope so at least. She puts up with a lot from me. I first saw her as a foal when I was checking horses with my 92 year-old employer at the time, Buss. At his ranch there were a few mares that were the result of decades of natural selection, their foals and one stallion to populate the riding horses. At Buss’s South Dakota ranch, the horses live on about one thousand acres. They were looked at about once a week, never de-wormed or vaccinated. No hoof trims or shoes. If they are not immune to whatever comes their way, well, you get the picture. These were a tough group of horses. Cowy too. If someone had to get off their horse to move a rig down the road, you looped your reins around the saddle horn and your horse would continue to do their job pushing cattle with the other riders keeping any cow that had a different idea, with the herd.
This is not a cushy place weather-wise either. The first winter I was there in 1996, the year Summer was born, it was never above -20 degrees F for two months. That doesn’t count the wind-chill factor. There were about two weeks straight that the wind chill was -65 degrees F. It was cold. I know. I was out in it trying to get the tractors to start to feed the cattle. Cold. The snow never melted until spring. Every morning I walked past the trailers, they seemed a little shorter due to the increasing depth of my path. There didn’t have to be any snow falling from the heavens, all it took was a little wind and you have what you call a ground blizzard. Never experienced that before coming from Evergreen Colorado. Everyone in the area kept saying how unusually cold it was that winter. Still not sure I buy it.
Back to Summer. When she was two, Buss and I were pushing cattle in the cold of course; he turned to me and said (he didn’t say a lot, but when he did, you were listening), “if you want that blaze faced mare, you can have her for killer price.” That may sound a little crude, but that was just his way of giving me a deal. I was psyched to say the least. She was still my favorite of the four foals in her crop that I had weaned, halter broke those deer-wild weanlings and then watched them grow up out in the pastures. I brought Summer back to the place and started my ground work routine. Buss asked his son Donnie why I didn’t just get on and ride her…
Between then and now, Summer has willingly carried me through many types of competition – reining, cow horse, trail, dressage, stadium and cross country jumping – to marked success that I credit wholly to her awesomeness. She has carried me and my loved ones down many trails. We had to sell her once because of finances and thank God, I was able to get her back a couple years later. She has lovingly raised four amazing foals for us, much to her evident enjoyment as well as ours. Summer devotedly cares for her foals like no other and passes along her beautiful head, good bone and feet, great disposition and South Dakota orneriness.
A couple years ago Summer and I did a little Eventing with decent results, especially when you consider the typical competition against my six-hundred dollar cow pony. She was off last year to enjoy motherhood and I started out this spring full speed ahead to compete in Eventing again. I don’t know if it was my lack of riding last year, competing or what, but I was on a mission. Four competitions into that mission, I have been slapped around in a few different ways, nothing to do with Summer and I have to say I am a better person and horse owner on this side than I was at the beginning.
I am just so thankful for Summer and her tolerance of my whims. She is game for anything, takes care of us as part of her herd, she invented power naps and wholly prefers wide open spaces to any stall. She enjoys showing and working toward something as much as I do. Hopefully it keeps things interesting for her. Summer doesn’t like to do much if it doesn’t have a purpose.
I know that as a long-time horse junkie, I take for granted the therapy that I get from horses. This time I got something I lacked from Summer’s success. I wanted more. I don’t know really if it was some kind of validation for me or if I wanted to impress people, but that really doesn’t matter. Summer is not my therapist, nor does she need that burden, but she inspires me to want to improve who I am as a person and as one of her people. She makes me want to keep learning, go back and re-learn, be patient, quiet and listen better. For me, it is not about what I can get her to do – the destination, but the journey of learning and doing what is best for her. She makes me want to improve, change, get rid of old ways and habits to learn a better way to communicate with her. Let go of my ego and learn from my failures. To still compete, but do it in a way that puts her first and doesn’t look at what the results are, just that we did our best that day and learned something from it. To always consciously have her best interest in mind and to see her world through her eyes. Thank you for putting up with me Summer. I love Summer.
Heather McWilliams 2013 Copyright