One artist's journey: Trying to live a creative life with grace, grit, gratitude...and a border collie.
(or perhaps I should say: greys, grit and gratitude)

04 June 2013

Finding Karma

by Lyn StClair

At my solo gallery show opening in 2009 one of the women attending mentioned she was selling a horse.  Though I was in no way looking for a horse, I could not resist the opportunity to go with my wonderful horsey neighbor Donald, his partner Mick and their friend Gregg to look at "Billy Jean" as a possible horse for Gregg.

Billy Jean was Percheron/Thoroughbred cross owned by a young woman named Molly.  

Molly rescued Billy's pregnant dam from a PMU farm in Canada and brought her to Santa Barbara where Billy was foaled.  Born coal black with a star, Billie was a deep charcoal grey three year old when I met her.  

Molly had begun her training beautifully, but had recently met the love of her life and was moving to Sweden...so Billy needed a new home.

She was gorgeous, but I had trouble justifying the cost of boarding the horse I already had (and they could accept no more boarders even if I could).

More importantly, though I have ridden since I was a toddler, I had never trained a horse...and Billy had a lot more to learn.

My pragmatic Scottish side kicked in.  I admired her, loved on her...and then hugged her goodbye.

Afterward though, I could not stop thinking about her...and Michael Jackson's song had become stuck in my head non-stop.

"B-B-B-Billie Jean..."
A few weeks later, we were riding with a friend.  I was on her huge Percheron/TB paint and falling in love with draft crosses.  As we rode, I told her about Billy Jean and she said "Of course you could train her!'  When the boarding dilemma came up...she came back with "you could keep her at my place".  An intense feeling came over me...I HAVE to do this!

At home, I stepped out of the truck to see the daughter of the woman who was keeping Billy for Molly.  Perfect timing!  I beelined for her and told her I needed to reach Molly to buy her horse.

Her response was a crushing blow: "Molly left for Sweden yesterday...Billie was sold to a neighbor, the sprinkler guy."

Brokenhearted that I had missed the "dream horse", over the next couple of weeks I turned to Craigslist searching for a draft cross and began working with a green Quarter Horse that our friend wanted to sell.

The MJ song refused to leave my head though.

So, I tried emailing Molly for more information...she was sympathetic, but couldn't help.  Billy had been sold and that was that.

Never one to give up easily on a dream, I emailed every sprinkler guy in the area:  "Did you recently buy a big grey horse?..."  Amazingly, one of them responded "yes".  He was happy with her, the farrier was coming out the next week and then they'd know more.  That last part seemed a door open to possibility...

A few days later I wrote him back and made an offer that was more than Molly had been asking.  He thought about it for a couple of days and then agreed.

Billy Jean was mine.

Her name became Karmelita, in part to keep that MJ song out of my head.  Instead there is a Warren  Zevon song to sing to her.  

She can be "good Karma" when she is and "bad Karma" should she ever be rotten (rolls eyes dramatically).

This funny, tough, beautiful, quirky, intelligent, goofy, spirited mare has been a priceless addition to my world.  She has been a challenge at times...but she makes up for it by being an extraordinary soul who continually enriches my life.

She has taught me far more than I could ever teach her.  Together we have weathered some pretty tough stuff and always come through smiling.

As to training...I have come to realize that I knew more about it than I thought...and nothing at all.  What I continually draw on is what I learned with the horses I adored as a child and teen:
Love unconditionally
Cultivate trust
Be kind
and Have fun.

Beyond that...I am always trying to learn something new.

Horses teach you that calm, quiet, patience, humor and kindness are not only good qualities with which to approach them...they are the way to approach life in general.

In my opinion (for what it's worth)...training horses means learning to find a way to bridge a gap between yourself and a soul that sees things very differently than you.  The world can certainly use more of that!

Horses, like art and life, are a work in progress.

They are sensitive and they react to what we bring to them...so the most important step to training is learning to leave your stress, temper, impatience and worry outside the arena (or off the trail).

Like people, horses have their good days and their bad days...so, as one trainer says, you learn to work with the horse that shows up.

Rather than get mad and frustrated that my horse is not doing what I tell them, I look for reasons why and different ways of "asking".  What builds from that is trust...

When you and your horse trust one another...you can do anything.

Whatever I do with them, I am always on the lookout for them to "try"...and hopefully they appreciate my "try", too...
Thank you Molly for rescuing this lovely mare and her mama from the wicked Premarin farm program and shaping her young life so thoughtfully.  Thank you Hank for answering that email and being willing to let her go, albeit reluctantly.  Thank you Dody for telling me "you can!", for offering advice and for giving me a place to put Karma for the first few months.  Thank you Donald for getting me back into jumping...and Donald, Mick and Gregg for letting me come along to see her that first time.  

Last but not least...
thank you Karma for just being you.