Ernest Effort

I told you in the early part of the year, that PURPOSE is a pesky concept for me. Jack Russell-like, the “why?”of all things yaps in my brain, most especially “the why are we here?” which invariably narrows down to the “why am I here?”

The answer is always the same: To be of service to something greater than myself.  Simple. Yes. Grandiose. Certainly. 

Trouble is: life is daily. It is easy to lose track of simplicity when the items on the “to do list” exceed the hours in the day or to appreciate the Zen magnificence of the “chop wood/carry water”phenomenon or in my case the barn chores/office slog in the earnest effort of running the MMSC.

 And then you get an adoption application with an addendum like this:
To those of the MMSC:

A horse was responsible for ending a belief. No one can explain the infatuation that many little girls have with horses, but I was one of them. My bedroom was filled with books about horses: Black Beauty, Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague. I had the Breyer horse figures placed throughout, and on my wall, a poster of the famous Secretariat. Every birthday, every Christmas, I asked for the same gift--a horse. I knew the chance of a birthday horse was slim since it would have to be given by my parents, but Christmas, certainly, there was hope for a horse at Christmas. Surely I was a good girl and Santa would bring me the only present on my list. Year after year, dolls, bikes, games, but no horse were under the tree. This ended my belief in Santa. But it did not end my belief in the dream of owning a horse.

The little girl grew up, but the dream for a horse never faltered.  It only got pushed to the far corners as life’s demands took precedent--college, career, marriage and children. The dream would have to wait...

The letter went on to explain after years of waiting, grown children and growing grandchildren that Susan O., the writer, had taken up riding lessons, and had at long last the time and the finances for horse ownership. 

“It should be understood, “ Susan wrote, “that this will be my first and only horse. We will age gracefully together, appreciating each other’s idiosyncrasies and short comings, endearing us even more to each other.  I appreciate this opportunity to possibly fulfill my dream of one of your special horses. Thank you.”

When I read this letter, the Jack Russell in me went bonkers! Fulfill a dream!?  Purpose!? We’re on it!

When Susan and her trainer, Lisa, came to the MMSC to look at horses after she was unanimously approved (“She certainly deserves this chance to own a horse!,” one of the Approval Committee members wrote on Susan’s application), we carefully reviewed together her level of riding, horsemanship, goals and preferences.  I suggested two geldings, both very sane and forgiving, one somewhat older.

“I am sort of partial to mares,” Susan said.

 Mares?!  Oh no!  Not a good choice for someone starting up riding in her September years. Granted Susan was lithe and fit, but I know only too well that after 40, once doesn’t bounce back as well when the law of gravity gets the upper hand.

“I only have one at the MMSC,” I responded.  “She just came in and she raced five days ago. We haven’t done anything with her yet. Best to look at the geldings.”

“Could I just see her?”

“Sure,” I said, reluctantly, sliding open the door of the gray filly’s stall. “Her name is Earnest Effort. We’ve nicknamed her “Effie.” She’s four years old, has had a few starts, and never finished in the money. She is sound and her owner did the super responsible thing of retiring her before she broke down.”

“She’s beeeeaaauuutiful!,” said Susan quietly as she tentatively stepped beside me in the stall.

You can guess where this is going. Yes, Susan  watched both the geldings. She rode one, Xin Xu Lin, as steady a horse as can be.  Her mind said yes to him.  But her heart?  

“Do you want to watch Effie go?” I heard myself ask. (What was I thinking! No groundwork, bombproofing, or long-lining first?) 

You know the answer.  

We tacked Effie up. I figured she had been ridden less than a week ago, had been turned out 24/7  for three days, was level headed, and had finished at the end of the pack in all her races. Besides she had a sweet face and a generous eye.

Stiff and a little tense, but kind and willing, Effie walked, trotted, and cantered both directions. She even stepped over the tarp, bridges and cavalletti first time out.

“Wow!,” said Susan’s trainer, “she’s lovely.  She’ll go fast.”

“Yes, she will,” I agreed. “She’s special.”
I looked over at Susan.  She was staring at Effie.  Her eyes were big with wonder and yearning...

“Do you want to ride her?” I heard myself asking.  (OMG!  My head said. But my heart smiled.)

Susan on Effie with trainer, Lisa
Speechless, she nodded a vociferous YES!  

I turned to Lisa. “You ok with that? If she stays on a lunge?” 

 Lisa looked at Susan and then back at me. 

She nodded.

“Keep her safe, sista,” I said and I handed her the rope.

Lisa smiled.

Although Effie had a tentative rider on her back, she never put a foot out of place.  She was so good, Lisa unhooked the rope and Susan rode her solo.  

When Susan dismounted, I suggested she put the reins over the Effie’s neck to test the “join up” of their partnership at liberty. Effie followed Susan everywhere in BFF-”best friends forever” step. The mare’s choice was clear.

Susan’s was too, but I had to slow down the romance.

“It’s clear to me that your head knows which horse is best for you, but your heart has made a different decision,” I told Susan. “If you were not planning to board with Lisa and if she weren’t such an experienced horsewoman with expertise with Thoroughbreds, I could not in good conscience let you go with a horse so recently off the track.  But if you agree to let Lisa take over this horse’s let down and retraining, then I am ok with your taking the filly. The gelding is the better horse for you today. But I believe Effie will be that horse for you in 60 to 90 days, maybe a bit longer. My suggestion is that you go to a great little truck stop nearby for lunch and discuss the pros and cons of each choice. And, by all means, have a piece of the homemade chocolate peanutbutter pie. It will give you the necessary endorphin rush to make up your mind. ”

Needless to say, when they came back, the decision was stamped all over Susan’s face.  She glowed. She radiated. She was that little girl at Christmas who had just received her heart’s desire from Santa Claus.

I had made an earnest effort to persuade her to take the more seasoned horse. But my purpose is not about forcing choices on people. My purpose is to present the options that I have available and then let go. Susan found the answer to her lifelong dream in Effie. Helping her fulfill that dream was an exquisite privilege for which I am supremely grateful.

Besides, although it probably made more sense to steer her towards the gelding, we all have more neurotransmitters in our guts than in our brains. Therefore it makes sense to trust our intuitions.  If you remember anything from this blog, let it be this: LOGIC SHOULD ALWAYS BE ON TAP, NOT ON TOP!

Cheery bye!