- September 6, 2015
- Richelle Barrett
Growing up on a ranch certainly was the best childhood I could have ever asked for. Being a ranch kid taught me respect, honor, and work ethic. My parents instilled the morals I still live by today, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I learned how to ride as soon as I could walk, and knew the difference between a heifer and a Hereford before other kids even knew what a cow was. My horse was my best friend; I had several through the years and every single one of them taught me something about myself and how to be a good cowgirl. Especially the hand- me down horses from my dad; they taught me more than I ever taught them. Partaking in the county 4-H horse show every year from the age of twelve, I really thought I knew what it meant to show horses and that I was a pretty darn good rider. Imagine my surprise, though, when I showed up at college in the fall a few years back, and realized I had no idea what the heck I had gotten myself into.
Like all eighteen year olds, I thought that I knew everything. Especially when it came to horses. I had enrolled in the Pre-Vet and Equine Riding/ Training programs at an out of state college, in a town smaller than my hometown, with the intentions of moving on to Veterinary school and possibly going to work for some cowhorse trainer and making a big name for myself. (I laugh about this now; funny how life tends to get in the way of your best intentions and teenage dreams!) I already knew how to ride- I had been riding since I could walk. I had broke the horse that had made the near- four hundred mile trip to Wyoming with me, and he tried pretty much every trick in the book. How hard could this horse program be?
Truth be told, I probably had no right to be in a horse program in college. While the rest of the kids could name trainers, pedigrees, and training facilities like it was what they ate for breakfast, I had no experience with professional trainers and the only pedigree I knew was that of my Hancock bred gelding that everyone hated. How I even managed to get past the application video is beyond me; I waited until the last possible minute to make the video, so there I was, on an overly fat horse, in December, dressed in five layers of Carhartts and thinking to myself, “What the heck am I doing this for?” I guess I must looked good on paper, though, or the instructors felt they should take pity on me ( they probably laughed for weeks after watching that tape for ten minute) because they still let me in.
As a requirement of the program, all freshman students had to take a semester in each western and English equitation. Thankfully the school provided the saddle; my mom, roommate, and I spent an hour at a saddle shop in Cody trying to find a set of irons and a pad for my borrowed saddle. That was the easy part; trying to find a girth for an English saddle in the middle of Wyoming was a bit like trying to find a feedlot in the middle of New York City. Once I had spent what little bit of money I had for tack on equipment that was only going to be used for three months, I was ready to get the show on the road. I had no idea how to mount my horse once he was in his full English regalia; once I finally did get on, I am sure I looked like a total idiot. Trying to sit in an English saddle while wearing Wranglers and boots was less than comfortable, but I had no money to spend, and no desire to buy new boots or riding pants; so I sucked it up and rode in my tightest blue jeans day after day. Even though I didn’t particularly enjoy it, that first semester taught me how to ride, how to feel and listen to my horse, and humbled me more than anything I had ever done in my life. I am thankful that my instructors pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, because I learned so much more than how to break a colt or how to post the canter. I am also thankful that Facebook and Instagram weren’t so hot back then- the less photographic evidence of this time in my life, the better.
Had I not taken my horse to college with me some ten years ago, I am not sure how I would have gotten through those first two years away from home on my own. More than anything, that equine program at a tiny community college reinforced what my horses had been trying to teach me all along- there is always something to learn, something to appreciate, and a million ways to do the same thing; so never give up, keep an open mind, and never get too full of yourself. Humble pie truly is a dish served best by a hairy, four-legged critter of the equine variety.
May your horses always keep you on the straight and narrow! ~ Richelle
About Richelle Barrett
Richelle is a part time rancher, home office manager, full time wife, mother, and Customer Service Rep at the local telephone cooperative. She was born, raised, and lives on her parent's ranch in the North- Central part of Montana; and spends most days...