Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
My Head Is Filled With Horses
I think a lot about a lot of things lately since I have so much free time since my accident. I think about all kinds of things but mostly my horses of course.
What do I think about them? I think about their history, their personalities, and all their unique spirits. I think about the things I have done with them over the years and the things I have been through with them. Not to mention if I'm thinking about a horse I use for lessons, all the times I have watched them go round and round our riding ring.
I think about horses I knew briefly years and years ago. I think about horses that I adored. I think about horses that broke my bones, and horses that broke my heart. My mind is always thinking about horses.
I guess for most people this is a phase that passes after a certain age, but not me. I'm still here and I'm still thinking about horses. It may sound very strange but I see myself in my horses, I see my good and bad qualities and I see the qualities that I wish I had.
Kemerton, is one of my personal horses. He is a 17 hand bay thoroughbred. He raced until he was 7 or 8 and I bought him in hopes he would become a great eventer. He had the looks, the brains, the athleticism but not the body. Unfortunately, his body wasn't up to jumping and dressage after all those years of racing. I did learn some very important lessons from him even though we never competed successfully as I had planned.
Kemerton is a dominant horse with other horses. Not mean to them, but he likes to be in charge and won't be pushed around. I have that same quality. I don't like being told what to do and I'm more strong-willed than is good for me probably.
Kemerton is also like me physically, he is tall and thin with very long legs. We also share in that we have abused our bodies over the years and have a lot of symptoms because of it.
Kemerton is a happy horse. To see him tied up on the crossties or eating hay in his stall. He seems to be always looking on the bright side, not that he has to very often since he is spoiled and gets what he wants! He is content in knowing that if he bangs on the gate hard enough he will get brought in or that if it rains the other horses will move out of the run-in shed for him to get in.
Kemerton would never hurt anyone intentionally. He is huge and has been known even in his old age to prance and dance his crippled old self out of the barn. I have broken bones falling all of him, he was always a handful to ride. None of those injuries could be blamed on him though, they were my fault either not paying attention or just being dumb and fearless as we are when we are younger. Kemerton has a great enthusiasm for life that I wish I could have some of. He has a larger than life personality with a sprinkle of stubborn on top.
The thing about Kemerton is that I have been through a heck of a lot with him. Not just in his training but taking care of him when he had a bad eye ulcer and had to have surgery. He was at New Bolton Center for a month trying to get rid of a fungal infection. I drove there regularly to check in and see him. That's when I realized that Kemerton doesn't care about me. I have been loyal to him he just sees me as that girl that is always around. Sometimes I want to be mad at him because I love him so much and he doesn't seem to care. Then I realize, that's just him. He loves life and is content in whatever moment he might be in, he is okay with me being there with him, but he doesn't need me. I don't think I will ever meet another horse with as much enthusiasm for life and personality as him. Kemerton lives in the moment. I wish that would rub off on me too!
Then there is Finnigan. Another big bay thoroughbred. I have only owned him a couple years now. He was given to me by a friend whose daughter evented him quite successfully and wanted him to have a good retirement home.
Finny has a whole different personality than Kemerton. For one, he is mister perfect under saddle. You know the type that goes around in a gorgeous frame and jumps whatever you put in front of him, even if you put him to it all wrong. He is bold and self-confident. If he thinks he knows better than me about a distance to a jump I listen, I trust him and he trusts me that I won't interfere with him. If I could have even half of his confidence I would be much better for it.
Then there is Zoe, yep you guessed it, another thoroughbred. She is beautiful, black with a big white stripe on her face. Zoe has got that look about her that all the little girls ooh and ahh over. Since she is a mare, you probably can guess that she can be a little persnickety. She is sensitive. When you ride her you have to make her want to do what you are asking. There is no forcing Zoe. Not only is she beautiful but she is smart and sensitive. Zoe has one of the kindest eyes that I have ever seen on a horse. She has a strong spirit and a lot of heart but at the same time, she is mild-mannered. Treat her with respect and you will get respect. She is the ultimate mirror of a horse. Whatever is going on inside of me or whoever is interacting with her that day, even if you can't see it in yourself, she will show you. I wish I could be more like Zoe.
Then there is Chaps. The ultimate lesson horse, everyone's favorite ride. He is a grump on the ground but under saddle, he does no wrong. Chaps looks unhappy when he is being groomed or if you try and go into the stall and pet him. He has been known to nip and pin ears and all that grumpy stuff. As soon as he is out in that ring though he is all business. He forgets about how grumpy he was about getting tacked up. It's like he can clear his head like a flick of a light switch and get down to business. Wouldn't we all be better people, more likable and easy to get along with if we could be more like Chaps?
Let's not forget Romeo! Romeo is a calm, sweet, level-headed horse. He is the same horse every day whether you ride him every day or once a year. He is consistent. He knows who he is, what his job is and he does it without complaint. Romeo is the horse to ride when you just need to clear your head and relax. He is the first horse a lot of our students ride. Every lesson barn needs a Romeo. If we could all be as gentle and kind as my old Romeo is, the world would be a better place.
Then there is my rock star pony ride pony, Tiny. Tiny is as close to bombproof as they come. He is our go-to for pony rides at the Maryland Rennaisance Festival, he is the star of that show for us. Cracking whips, screaming kids, a man walking on a thirty-foot tall moving wheel. You name it Tiny has handled it. He is as reliable as they come. He isn't the most loving horse on earth, every once in a while he will surprise me and show a glint of affection. He is just as often though been known to run away when you try to catch him. You can always count on Tiny, he is reliable and straightforward. I wish I could be more like Tiny.
So Many Horses,So Many Lessons
I could go on and on about the qualities I see in my horses that I wish I could see in myself. I learn from all of them. Even though I'm healing from the TBI and not right out in the barn with them every day, I think about them and reflect on them and the things they teach me.
Not just about horse training or riding, but about myself, about relationships, people, and life. To me, they are not just horses, they are like family, they are my co-workers, partners in crime, they are old trusted friends, they are everything to me.
Yes, they are a lot of work, a lot of money, and require a lot of time. What they give me in return is well worth every moment of hard work, and every broken bone.
I have had my highest highs and lowest lows with horses. They have filled my heart with joy and stomped on my heart to the point of making me want to give up. I have horses in my blood though and they shape who I'm every day.
They have probably done more for me than I could ever do for them, for that I'm grateful.