Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a draft person. A person, who above all other horses, loves draft horses. It’s true, I am a draft lover.
Know anyone like that? I think it happened when I got my second horse, a Clydesdale cross who I named Gemini. He knew nothing, I knew nothing. It was a spectacularly terrible mix. Plus, he was incredibly frustrating, and was big enough to overpower me. Sound familiar? Anyone who’s dealt with a draft horse knows what I’m saying. So, how is it that now, I’m crazy about draft horses? Enough to write an article about it?? Well, after years together, it’s safe to say that he won me over… Wholly and completely. Here’s why I love drafts– and why you should too. If you’re debating what kind of horse to get, please, let me weigh in.
Why I love draft horses– and why you should too.
1. They’re just big teddy bears.
The general rule with horses: the bigger they are, the gentler they are. Of course, there are exceptions to all rules, but this is a well accepted one. Draft horses especially (as opposed to large warmbloods or thoroughbreds), have been bred to be gentle giants. They’re generally quiet, cuddly and just plain sweet.
2. They don’t hold grudges.
Part of the calm and quiet mindset means that they’re pretty accepting of their surroundings. If you have a moment while you’re riding where you need to explain something to them, it might take a bit, but they won’t hold anything against you in the future. They’re willing and they generally just want to please you. They are a bit different than other breeds, who might hold grudges after “training moments” or times of frustration for either of you.
3. They’re calm and safe. Usually.
Gentle giants. They’re big, but they don’t have excessive energy or have any grand desire to run. They also aren’t easily spooked, and just take things as they come. They are usually just happy to hang out as long as they have a purpose– whatever job that may be. They’re not known for bolting or spooking, though unique personality is the biggest teller in all horses.
4. They don’t have a harmful bone in their bodies.
I’ve known some horses that just had their own desires of their mind, rather than other people’s. Drafts, on the other hand, generally just want to please you… Which means they aren’t trying to think about how they can avoid you, get away, run off, etc. Even young green horses generally just want to make you happy and they’re trying to figure out how to make that happen.
5. They’re willing to learn (though it may take a little while).
They want to please. They spend a good amount of time just following in line, trying to figure out what you’re asking and how to do it. However, some drafts can be a little slow when it comes to learning something new– it goes along with the quiet calm disposition. They’re not necessarily going to be at-attention at all times, or responsive in a “hot” way. That’s part of what makes them wonderful. Just take it as it is. If you’re not used to it, you will be soon.
6. They’re powerful.
There’s beauty in that power. There’s something about being connected to an animal so large, and having them so in tune with you. It’s a very special thing. Keep in mind though, when they’re frustrated or in the moment of “I’m trying to figure out what you want!!”, they can use that power against you. Many draft horses in training will pull with their shoulders (naturally, their preferred strong part of their body) to get where they want to go. This is all a part of the training process– if you‘re prepared for it you’ll get through it.
7. You’ll start to get them, and they’ll start to get you.
Drafts have a particular mentality. It’s different from ponies, or Thoroughbreds, or even warmbloods. Those who have lived their lives around draft horses can attest to this. You’ll begin to connect to and understand when they get overwhelemed learning something new, or the situations that they feel most relaxed in. After 12 years riding almost only draft horses, I personally feel the most comfortable around them. I know what I can expect. And after a while, you have just begun to “get each other“.
If drafts are your kind of horse, consider yourself lucky.
They’re not for everyone, it’s true. But if you feel drawn to draft horses, consider yourself lucky. You’re around some of the best, most special horses there are. Of course, I would think that! Who’s your favorite draft horse? Tell us in the comments below.
I was a bit of a horror, as far as teenage daughters go.
My mom and I fought, almost daily, for many of my early teenage years. I was a pain, to say the least, with a strong personality in a house of sweet, tender and quiet family members. I was always right and very independent at far too young. I wasn’t respectful of the boundaries laid before me, but I refused to lie– so I would lawyer my way into proving that my point of view was right. The result was never ending fights, that seemed to merge into one another. Her poor mother, you’re probably thinking… you’re right.
I say this because now, I understand both sides. I’ve been the unruly, emotional teenage daughter. And I can look back at it from the eyes of an adult now: both with guilt for being so unruly and with sympathy for my poor ma, who must have felt like she was going out of her mind.
Yes, I know– I will get my payback when I have girls. For years I’ve thought a lot about how I might raise them. I’ve wondered if I’ll make the same parenting choices or if I’ll wield an iron fist.
There are a few things though, that I’ve decided were key to me growing up successfully– things that I would do again with my daughters when their teenage years come barreling in at 11 or 13 or 14, whenever teenagehood decides to show up.
I hope this helps some of you mothers, that are in the depths of mucking around in “teenage daughterhood”, wondering when it will ever end and you can just drink hot tea together and be friends again. In the depths of where you are, don’t forget these things– she will appreciate you for it later.
1. Listen, listen, listen.
My mother did me a big favor from the day I was born: she always, always, always listened. She took my point of view into account, even from when I was a child. I never felt like my point of view mattered less because I was younger– I wasn’t ever “just a kid”. I was a person, with real feelings and worthy opinions.
That’s the truth of it though, isn’t it? Girls have real feelings and opinions, even as little kids. If you listen to her, you’re building an internal truth that her feelings matter. That they’re worth hearing. You don’t have to give her what she wants– you just have to listen and really hear her.
2. Don’t trivialize her day-to-day drama. That stuff matters.
I had the unfortunate luck of going through my first break up on 9/11. I was in so much despair that I couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on around me in the outside world. We all know what was the more important event in the long run… And perhaps I was a selfish teenage girl for not being more involved that tragic day. But at that moment, I couldn’t see outside my little bubble. It was a time to think about me, and to go through feelings of loss and anger for the very first time. It was my own personal death of a relationship, which felt so immediate compared to the collective pain around me that I could do nothing to stop.
When she goes through these big life moments, drop everything to be the one who comforts her. She’ll remember if you’re the lap she sobs on. Girls don’t forget things like that.
3. Insist on honesty.
Your daughters will probably start doing things that you don’t want them to do very soon, whatever those things may be. There is not a whole lot you can do about that, no matter how many strict rules you put in place. Through the generations, kids have always learned ways to get around those rules and do what they want to do, no matter what. This is true now more than ever.
So let me ask you, is it better that she sneaks out of the house at midnight to go to a party, or that you know that she’s at a party and you can help her if she needs it (or even save her, you never know)? This is an honest question that you need to ask yourself, and you can base your decisions off you answer– this one is very personal. I presented this question to my own mother at 16, knowing that I was going to do as I pleased, and she could be in the loop or not.
No parent wants to really have to answer this question, because it makes you feel completely out of control. And it feels like a slap in the face– like she’s deliberately disobeying your rules. But if you take a step back (and 3 deep breaths) you may find yourself with a different understanding. She’s going to test boundaries, you know this. You’ve known this for a long time. And if you promote telling the truth above all else, you will have a few advantages: 1.) you will know where she really is, which is always safer, 2.) she will know that if she needs you, really needs you to stay safe (and alive– for example, if her drunk friend insists on driving her home) she can call you. You will still love her.
There can still be repercussions for going against your rules. Just insist that she tells the truth, above all else.
4. Give her independence, if she’s really clamoring for it.
The teenage years are the start of a long push for independence. If she really, really wants that independence, you will probably be better off to give it to her, little bit by little bit. Some people are just more apt to want independence early, and if she’s really pushing for it, she’s probably just one of those personalities.
With girls like that, it’s better to give it to them and let them return to your arms on their own. They will. Once they feel responsible for their own actions, their own choices, it’s likely that they’ll want to return to being a little girl pretty quickly after that.
5. Give her affection, a lot.
Yep, she’s going to feign disgust. She’ll push you away. She’ll roll her eyes. Just smile, ignore her and hug her and kiss her anyways. Keep doing it just like you did when she was 6.
That too cool for school attitude is completely normal, especially when she’s embarrassed. But trust me, she notices when you reminder her that you love her. And she notices if you don’t. Ignore any personal feeling of rejection or being pushed away, and then be affectionate anyways. And then do it again. She’ll remember it years from now, those constant reminders that you love her– those things will matter the most when she moves away and starts her own life. And then again when she starts to raise her own girls.
6. Don’t be perfect. Just be your own personality.
Girls aren’t looking for perfect mothers. They’re looking for real mothers. Mom’s that yell and then apologize for being too mean. One’s that have weird quirky habits. One’s that have flaws, and struggle with things in their own lives. One’s that talk about their struggles, and work through them.
It sets the precedence for being real, for being authentic and for loving yourself just as you are. It teaches her that life doesn’t just suddenly fall in line at some point– that everyone continues to have their own struggles, no matter what age.
When you are willing to share your own downfalls, admit your mistakes, try again and be open about your challenges, it will show her that she should do the same. Not just with you, but with friends and later with a husband. Don’t we all want to help girls grow into real, empowered women? This is the base of it.
7. Ask questions. Give advice. Be involved in her life.
Be involved. Know her friends, know her goals. Know what’s going on next Saturday night, or who’s mean to her at school. It’s so easy to become a someone on the sideline at this point in her life. She won’t invite you to play in the muck of her life unless you insist on being there.
Don’t miss her most important events, even if it’s not convenient. If she comes to you for breakup advice at 11:45pm, wake up and give it then. Don’t hesitate. It will set the precedence that she can come to you next time when something happens, and the time after that. This kind of support and involvement are what real relationships are based on; it’s the important stuff in any friendship. It’s also the foundation of what you’ll build your mother-daughter friendship on for the next 30 years.
More than anything, just keep going– it will get better soon.
Arguing and being at odds– that’s the tough stuff of classic mother-daughter relationships. You just have to make it through in the teenage years. But if you stick with it, if you stay open with her and remind her every day that you love her, she will emerge from teenagehood at some point. It’s inevitable.
She will leave for school or for a life of her own and suddenly miss you, like nothing else she’s ever missed. And the two of you will be that much closer, because you’ve been by her side through everything. Mothers and daughters who fight, find themselves in the best of relationships a few years later.
So just keep going. It will get better soon. I promise.
Add to this list in the comments below. I want to know, what else have you done with your teenage daughters that you know they’ll love and appreciate you for later?
I was 23 when I found out I had cancer.
The funny part is, I was never a big tanner. I didn’t care too much about looking brown and beautiful– I was just too lazy to cover up. I was always out riding in an outdoor arena or working outside. I wasn’t a tanning bed layer, a bikini wearer, or a sun bathing beauty. I was always too on the move to care about that stuff.
But cancer caught up to me anyways. And it was doing a 5 minute mile, apparently.
You can actually see it, on the background photo of this website taken in 2009. The cute mole on my collar bone– I thought it was an adorable beauty mark. When the doctor said they would need to take a biopsy, I felt like they were taking a part of my being, like the freckles on my nose or the birthmark on the back of my ankle. I actually said to the doctor, “Are you sure? They won’t be able to identify me now if I burn in a fire…”
He smiled, but he took it anyways. I got a call from the big doc later that week saying that “we needed to talk”. He told me that I had melanoma. Not understanding doctor talk, I asked for more information. The only melanoma I’d ever heard of was the bumps on my old flea-bitten grey. The conversation with the doctor was a great success (I say with sarcasm). I was so taken aback by the news that I couldn’t process what he was telling me. It went something like this:
“Do I have cancer?” I asked.
“Well,” his response was, “you have a melanoma”.
“Again, is that cancer?”
“It’s a melanoma”.
I hung up and called my dad, a doctor from my home in Maine, to have him explain to me what was really going on. It wasn’t until I heard his voice that I really started to understand that what I was told was serious.
You see, there’s two different kinds of skin cancer: the kind that spreads, and the kind that doesn’t. I had the kind that spreads, turns into other types of cancer in your body, and (quite shockingly to me) eventually kills people. We had no idea how far along in the process I was– except for the fact that I had coveted my beauty mark for so long that it would be tough to say. It didn’t look good.
I called my best friend. When the voicemail beeped telling me to leave a message, I felt speechless for words. What’s there to say? So I said what any 23 girl in shock would say.
“Soooo… Turns out I have cancer…. Yup. Okay, bye….”.
The issue was that I never expected it– it wasn’t even on my radar of possibility. I’ve always had olive skin that tans easily. I’ve never cared about the sun. I didn’t have any of the tell-tale warning signs, no red hair. But clearly, I assumed too quickly.
Long story short, my story ended well.
As dramatic as it felt in the moment, my story ended well. I flew home to Maine, got into surgery within a week, flew back to Wyoming and I was back to work. On my flight west, I got the call from the doctor with the results of their lymphnode testing– the cancer hadn’t spread. Therefore, I could go back to life as normal and “pretend it never happened”. Much better than the alternative (moving home and starting chemo), which I was not prepared to handle.
I don’t share my story with many people.
Many of my friends don’t even know. I went home quietly, and came back quickly. I just couldn’t handle the hubub in the moment. And after I was back out west it felt like it was already dealt with– so what was the point in making a fuss? It’s always felt a bit too dramatic to share, like a pity party.
In my life now, I meet new girls quite a bit. New friends. And unknowingly, eventually, one of them will will say this:
“I’m so white… so pale. I look gross. I need to go tanning”.
It makes me want to slap them. No offense taken on my part– I just want to slap the silly out of them. The silly that says that they’re not pretty until they’re tan. That they’re gross without it.
I’m sorry ladies, but you’re still beautiful in the winter. January doesn’t take that from you.
My point is this: you don’t need to tan– just own whatever you are. Claim it, and people will find the confidence in you far more beautiful than the tan would be.
I always hated the cliche, “I never thought it would happen to me”. So I will definitely not end on that note. Most people don’t think that bad things will happen to them– and in all honesty, you can’t live your life like that. So it’s good that people think “that would never happen to me”. Chances are, most of those things probably never will happen to you.
I will end it on this though: You’re already beautiful. You do not need to tan.
Tell your friends. Perhaps one of them will happen to be like me, and you could save their life.