But he learned more from the river than Vasudeva could teach him. He learned from it continually. Above all, he learned from it how to listen with a still heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgment, without opinions. ~ Herman Hesse, Siddartha
River will be joining our family this month, as soon as I can get the paperwork and payments processed. Her AQHA name is AR I’ll Be Powderific, and she is by I’ll Be Smart and out of Powder River Smoker by Powder River Playboy. None of this meant anything to me, or mattered, until I fell in love and realized that every single thing about this filly is wonderful and fun, including pictures and “stats” about her relatives.
She is an innate LBE with a medium spirit, about 14.3 hands, a “long yearling” who turns two for realsies in April. She is curious about everything and checks in often when she’s not sure what a person is asking, and she is quick to provide her own ideas when mine become unclear or boring.
I’ve known since the Parelli Reno Celebration 2008 that if I ever got another horse, it would be from Atwood Ranch Naturally (or some other Parelli-certified place, should that come to pass, although with Atwood Ranch Naturally only two hours from where we live, it would still make sense to go there).
My reasons for this decision are many. Obviously, partnering with a sound horse who has had the least amount of human-related trauma and baggage possible is an amazing and sensible dream.
But I also get to support two horse businesses that align with my principles, and to grow a relationship with of them, in a very tangible way. I get to put my money where my mouth is — horses are being given away free in this economy, and I chose to enter a purchase contract where I feel I’m getting an unbelievable bargain and value, while the business earns some return on their investment and knows that I am financially as well as emotionally committed to this horse.
And I get to be a part of history, as Tom Atwood wins his gamble of “going Parelli” in such a public way. What other major brand, so visible in professional and competitive equine pursuits, would be so thorough in revamping the entire horse operation and co-brand the marketing and then have to wait a few years for the foal crops to grow up enough to win respect and visibility?
It’s a big deal from a business perspective that a fish as big as Atwood Ranches would leap into the PNH pond so visibly, what with so many people willing to heap vitriol on PNH. (I’m not talking about criticism or disagreement based on information and knowledge of whatever parts of PNH the person disagrees with; I’m talking about the judgments and gossip based on assumptions, defensiveness, misunderstandings, willful ignorance, rumor, and the need to be “right” that people spew online and in person to anyone who accidentally stands still long enough to hear it.)
I didn’t expect to be able to do these things for another few years, but my grandparents — always supportive of my love of horses, proud when I was able to scrape it together to get Rocky — have made it possible to take the leap of faith now.
Grandpa passed away in his sleep just before Christmas at the age of 96. He was a Purple Heart veteran of WWII who went on to be a police officer in the San Francisco bay area for 25 years. During the racing season he daylighted as a security guard at the Golden Gate Fields racetrack. He retired from the police force the year I was born but kept the racetrack job until he was 75, when they couldn’t make any more exceptions to their age limit for guards even though he was fitter than most of the 50-somethings he worked with.
Grandma passed away almost 10 years ago in her late 80s. She was one of the first women to graduate from University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in mathematics in 1937; it was a time when women were not allowed to take the CPA exam to become full accountants, but she didn’t let that stop her from pursuing her education, her passion for numbers, or her career. She worked at the local plant nursery as a bookkeeper, kept a sensible household budget, and always made wise investments, managing their modest salaries into a comfortable retirement and a legacy to their descendants.
As a child I got to spend an entire weekend or school break with them a few times a year, and grandpa would get a pass that allowed grandma to take me into the stables at Golden Gate Fields where we could watch the horses being groomed, bathed, medically treated, walked, fed, wrapped, hot-walked, cooled off, and all the other things that make up the racehorse’s daily routine. Just being around the horses, existing in that space and time, was transcendent.
I took my grandparents’ love and willingness to get horsey for granted, back then. And if they didn’t want me to spend my inheritance on horses instead of investing it wisely, it’s their own fault. 😉
A character in Longshot, one of my favorite Dick Francis novels, refers to the racehorses as “great elemental creatures.” Not a day of my life passes without a sense of awe and wonder that I should be this lucky, to have the privilege of partnership with my own herd of elementals, and to undertake this lifelong journey with them.
We all end in the ocean, we all start in the streams, we’re all carried along by the river of dreams in the middle of the night…