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The Rundown: Barnful of Bliss

Making a list – and checking it twice – is one way to juggle horses and life, especially if your aim is to be of sound mind and spirit.

By Tara Christiansen
The American Quarter Horse Journal
April 2, 2013

Soula Boon

My 4-year-old, Soula Boon or "Jules," gets her game face on to track cattle across the wheat field on Easter. (Maddyson Matsler photo)

Like any horse owner, my life often feels like a juggling act. That sentiment has only proved truer as of late.

With less than two months to my impending wedding, I’ve been packing as much into each and every weekend as I can. Combine that with our first reined cow horse show of the season coming up in a week and a half, and I’ve got a pretty full dance card.

When I first started showing horses, at the ripe ol’ age of 10, I employed a checklist system for show preparations. Especially for an all-around competitor, like I was at the time, there’s a lot that can fall through the cracks and be forgotten until the moment right before you step in the show pen. Rather than misplace the World Champion Pepi Coat Conditioner or crack the top on a dried-up bottle of hoof black, I used my checklist as a lifeline to sanity. And 14 years later, I’m employing the same tactics. These days, I get a lot of enjoyment out of crossing items off my list; wielding that ballpoint pen feels a little bit like brandishing a sword.

As I marched into the wedding dress shop last Friday, intent on picking up my just-been-altered gown, I held my sword high. My future mother-in-law, Mary; sister-in-law, Jessica; and niece, Maddyson, were in tow. Cody, my fiancé, got away lucky that night; he spent the pleasant Texas Panhandle spring night riding our mares. The rest of us didn’t fare so well. I won’t go into too much detail, for the sake of protecting the innocent, but our appointment got started with projectile vomiting and a bloody nose. From what I’ve been told by my co-workers, our evening was like one out of the comedic movie “Bridesmaids”; I’ll have to take their word for it, as I haven’t seen that movie. To top it all off, my dress is in dire need of even more alterations. Apparently losing weight is a cardinal sin when it comes to dress fitting. Friday night, I lowered my sword for another day; so much for slashing “wedding dress” off my list.

We saddled up for a full Saturday of horse riding, cattle working, car driving and errand running. The day’s main goal was to pick up our wedding invitations. Yes, yet another item to strike off my list! We tackled this task as a family, the car full of Cody’s nearest and dearest. As we picked up our invitations, I noted several issues with our order. With the issues addressed, I realized it was going to be alright – we still had two months to go, and I figuratively wasn’t caught at the back-gate without my World Champion Pepi.  

Come Sunday, we celebrated Easter. Growing up, Easter, for me, was always about spending time with family. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the holiday is less about bunnies, chocolate and plastic eggs than it is about faith, rebirth and growth.

Cody and I loaded up our horses, minding his niece’s Easter basket, plus our change of clothes. As is only fitting for the weekend we were winding down, it wasn’t until we reached his parents’ house that we realized the items we forgot: Cody’s boots and spurs, left sitting by our front door, and the mashed potatoes we volunteered to make, which lay waiting in our fridge.

“It’ll be OK,” I said. And it was.

Following church, Cody whipped together another batch of mashed potatoes; like a good mother, Mary had everything on hand that we needed. Up next was our Easter egg hunt; we ran, jostling for position, plus a bounty of candy- and money-filled eggs. Our hearts racing, we sat down for lunch, enjoying a morning’s work prepared by a family of hands. Stomachs settled, we saddled up and rode out. Cody worked cattle for the first time on my mare, “Nikki.” His dad, Jeff, cut cattle on his 3-year-old, and Maddyson held herd on the trustworthy gelding, “Roanie.” Mary was there, too, keeping a watchful eye on the youngest cowgirl.

Cody and I headed out to the wheat field, riding through Jeff’s herd of pastured cattle. I rode up, chipped off a heifer and tracked her as she high-tailed it across the section. Dirt flung up from her cloven hooves, manure slicked off and slopped onto my face. I narrowed my eyes and my 4-year-old, “Jules,” laid back her ears; we were in hot pursuit. The heifer ducked, Jules ducked. Jules snaked behind her bovine adversary, matching her step for step and move for move. We broke to a trot, then a walk, meandering back to Cody and Nikki. I took in the setting sun, the wide expanse of the Texas sky, the cows munching on verdant wheat.  

Despite some bumps in the road, my imperfect weekend felt pretty darn perfect. A phone call made to my mom, 1,826 miles away in Snohomish, Washington, capped the day. Mom answered the phone, laughing, reading off the roster of family over for dinner. Various family members shouted greetings in the background. My heart was full.

Bliss. That’s one I can definitely check off my list.

Enjoy more horse-showing quips, quotes and anecdotes from AQHA Internet Editor Tara Christiansen by visiting The Rundown archives at www.aqha.com/therundown.