Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
–Robert Frost
        I’ve been soul-searching for 8 long years. You see, I’m the type of person who needs purpose. An intangible thing that lights my spirit afire, something that makes me jump out of bed every morning. In my younger years, that purpose, that passion, was horses. I began taking riding lessons at a young age and rode all the way through high school. I took dressage and jumping lessons, dreaming of the day I’d have my own horse to ride in the show ring. But that shiny horse with his braids, splint boots, and English jumping saddle never came. I had to put horses aside to attend college.
My 8-year old self at my very first show on a mustang gelding named Roy.
        As the months of not riding regularly turned into years, a niche opened up in my soul, and I was very desperate to fill it. I became obsessed with many different things in the last few years, trying to find that pilot light again… bat conservation, snake education (I have a thing for critters…), dog rescue and training, weightlifting, backpacking, cooking, hunting…. While I still enjoy all of these things, I realize now I was swapping from one thing to the next trying to fill that empty hole that horseback riding left behind. And, I’ve also started countless blogs because I have this strange longing to write but have no idea what the hell to write about!
        Fast forward five years and the day finally came. I fell in love with a skinny, scruffy, green broke four year old Standardbred mare and somehow convinced my husband that she was the horse for me. Well, he was never that convinced, but I bought her anyways for $1,150. She didn’t look anything like the horse of my dreams in my youth, but she was mine. I had waited 26 years to have my own horse. I loved her unconditionally.
The first day I brought Sego Lily home.
        I named the mare “Sego Lily” after a very vivid dream I had once when I fell asleep in my plant identification class (sorry Professor Busby!). It was the wild flower course, and I was having a hard time staying awake. Naturally, I was a college student and never slept except for when I was in class. I had a dream I was trotting a mare whom I called Sego Lily, mile upon mile. We were in the desert and I distinctly remember the red rock scenery whizzing past us, the sound of Sego’s hooves beating on the ground, the endless blue sky, the mare’s ears pricked forward, her mane blowing in the wind… When class got out I began to research endurance riding, and from that point on, I knew I had to have a mare.
        However, I didn’t buy Sego with anything specific in mind. I had more or less forgotten about my college interest in endurance riding (I went through a very short-lived cowgirl phase after college where I took barrel and reining lessons). I bought her because I just had a feeling. I wanted a young horse and I wanted a project. While she was extremely sassy and had bad ground manners, overall she seemed safe and like something I would feel comfortable training. I wanted something that I could hit the trails on and maybe, just maybe, do some English riding on the side for fun. She was very underweight, but she had four straight legs, hard hooves, good confirmation, and most importantly… a kind and intelligent eye. I knew the rest would come with some TLC.
        Sego and I shared many adventures together in the first two months. I had to use her to gather cows on, and we had to take many leaps of faith to get the job done. On my third ride on her we had to cross the swift Smith River, still raging from all the excess moisture of the long winter. In the beginning, she refused to step over logs, even tiny ones. She wouldn’t even go near water. And she would not pass the lead horse, she would only follow. However, these rides forced us to trust each other, and chasing cows gave the cues I was training Sego “purpose”, allowing her to catch on rather quickly.
Sego catching on to this cow pushing thing.
Sego and I pull a “Lonesome Dove” and cross the Smith River after cows- my third ride on her ever!
        In what seemed like no time at all, Sego became a confident mountain horse. She now leads with no issues, loves water, and jumps over logs. She has the most thrilling trot that just eats the ground up, and you feel as if you could cross the country via the old pony express trail on her. I wanted to see the west on her. I wanted to travel some serious ground, me and her together, with the wild countryside whizzing past us. This reignited my interest in endurance and distance riding.
        I began conditioning Sego, mostly at the walk, up and down hills, over rocks, through bogs and across creeks. I found an AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference) event near me that included an intro 10 mile ride and I signed myself up. That 10 mile intro ride somehow turned into a 25 mile Limited Distance ride, which Sego and I completed with good vet scores (read more about that ride here!). The ride was tough, maybe tougher for me than for Sego, so when we came to the finish line I was near tears that we did it. A four year old grade mare that was barely broke to ride just two months prior had just completed 25 miles in a little over five hours. She had so much heart during that ride, she tried so hard for me. She is worth her weight in gold, literally!
Sego and I just two months later at our first Limited Distance ride– Photo Credit Unknown
       That first ride definitely lit a flame and since then, we have completed 75 limited distance miles together (and of course, who knows how many conditioning miles!). While her extra-big personality may not be everyone’s cup of tea, she is my partner and my soul sister- I truly believe that finding her in a small town in Montana was destiny. Riding her in wild places dominates my existence and drives my gypsy soul onward. I have many places to see and many, many more miles to go before I sleep. Follow me through this twisty little journey I call life, and maybe we can ride the trails together one day. Happy reading, and happy riding!
The mare who changed EVERYTHING.