The reality of showing horses with non-horsey parents.

The learning curve is steep.

            Really steep. Mom always said, “The more you know, the more you don’t know.” And her go-to line, “Everything I know about horses I learned from Makenzi.” I started riding when I was 3, and went to my first horse show with my very own horse when I was 10. It was an adventure. I didn’t know what lead we were on without looking, I wore my mom’s old motorcycle chaps, I had sparkly, button-up Murdoch’s shirts, sparkly belts, and pink boots. I was hooked! Each show we went to, my parents started learning what to bring, how I should look, and the in-and-outs of horse showing by strictly observing. I didn’t start out with a trainer…just Mom, Dad, and me. Talk about dedication.

Pig tails, dad, and horses

 

Mom’s the checkbook. Dad’s the driver.

Not really, though. Mom still jokes about this, but they are so much more than that. After years of sitting through lessons, literally hundreds of hours, they know what to look for and can usually place a class pretty accurately despite being non-horsey. “I have no idea how you would do this, but I think his head looks a little too high. Can you fix that?” “POSTURE ALERT.” “Smile.” (I hated that one.) Although it snuck up on them, they know so much more about horses and showing than they thought possible…the hours added up.

Horse showing or camping?

 

Food, clothes, and hair.

My mom is the queen. Always needing a job, but never quite knowing how to help, we agreed very early on that she would be in charge of food, clothes, and hair. She, of course, took these jobs extremely seriously. Bless her heart, she would bring me homemade turkey sandwiches between classes, have all my show clothes dry cleaned and organized, and she would spend all day checking my hair and handing me hairspray because GOD FORBID one hair be out of place. Pinning my western hat on was a job she adopted, because one time, at one show, my hat came off and tumbled through the arena. Again, a job she took seriously, she would wedge bobby pins between my skull and my hat, making my head bleed on more than one occasion (she’ll deny this). My mom was the best at all of these things, and I’ve met a lot of horse show moms.

Mom after shoulder surgery with me at the Las Vegas Championships 2016

 

“Lookin’ good, Dood. Need anything?”

Dad. With a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito in his hand he found at some long-lost, locally set-up concession stand. As an early riser, he would be up not long after me, wondering around the show grounds, making friends with the other “show dads,” and finding questionable food and coffee. He’d memorize the menu and rattle it off periodically throughout the day…just in case anyone was getting hungry. His signature move was finding me, usually while putting in a tail or blacking hooves, and say, “Lookin’ good, Dood. Need anything?” I’d usually say no, but sometimes I’d ask him to go grab something from the trailer and he’d leisurely oblige, happy to help…after all, he might find another hidden concession stand or someone he hadn’t met yet.

Me, Pilot, and Dad…tired and sweaty

 

Diva behavior is not tolerated.

“Change your attitude before I rip you off of that horse!” –my mom. Horse showing has a way of bringing out the best…and worst in people. Although I knew my sweet, little mother couldn’t reach me, let alone “rip me off” my horse, it wasn’t an idle threat. Yelling, getting mad at my horse, being snotty or demanding were all actions punishable by leaving the horse show. From observation, horsey parents had more patience for their child’s meltdowns and tantrums (usually.)

Looking like a diva is important, though

 

I’m so proud of you.

Win or lose, my parents made sure I knew this. Because they never pushed me to ride and show horses, I never felt unneeded pressure to do well (I was hard enough on myself.) Some exhibitors with horsey parents would come out of the ring after a bad ride or a bad pattern and their mom (or dad) would just tear into them. Tears would fly and yelling could be heard throughout the stall barn. If I had a bad ride, my parents would meet me outside the gate, understand my frustration, and try to reassure me it didn’t look all that bad…even when it did.

Winning, winning, winning

The decision to show horses was mine and mine alone. My parents never thought twice about supporting this crazy sport. From buying trucks and trailers and horses to sitting in an arena for 10 hours at a show, I cannot repay them. Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart and never ever look back.

 

 

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10 Surprising (but true) things Wikipedia won’t tell you about growing up in small town Montana

1. Stargazing is a nightly thing and when you can’t see them, you miss it immensely.

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Growing up laying out on a blanket late at night is one of the best things in small town Montana. According to vox.com, 80% of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way. I consider myself one of the lucky ones that can still see stars outside my window and can see the Milky Way only a couple miles out of town. I remember multiple nights around the campfire (or bonfire depending on the time of year) and staring up at the sky talking with the family about everything imaginable. We still do this today, not as often as we should though.

2. Friendships are a thing of a lifetime, the few kids in your class easily become kids that you are friends with forever.

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I grew up with 80 kids in my entire school, it was a 9 grade school (K-8), that means less than 10 kids per class, on average. Can you imagine that? If you didn’t know every name for every kid then they must have been new. This had both good and bad aspects to it. The good was you created friendships that lasted a lifetime, but the bad was that growing up a girl there was a lot of drama among the girls in the school. When I was eight I remember coming home from school with different “best friends” every day. But the friendships that lasted are still strong 15 years later.

3. Hard work is a part of life, from getting firewood in 10 below weather to bailing hay in 90 degree weather, you don’t get to slip by without working hard.

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Have you ever come home from a long day at work, at 15 degrees and had no firewood to heat your house? I have and do you know what that means? You get to go chop would and wheel it to the house in a wheelbarrow. It really teaches you a lesson in chores and hard work. I can remember having multiple school days where the bus just couldn’t reach our house back on 2 miles of dirt road covered in feet of snow or inches of ice. I can count on two hands how many times my dad had to use his own personal truck to pull out the school bus in order for us to get to school.

4. If you have more bars in your town than you have churches, that’s average.

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I can remember when my older brother had decided to go to the public schools in the larger town over a small school farther out in the country (both the same distance away) he made his decision based off of the fact that the town had more bars than churches and it definitely only had one school and one store. To a 13 year old this meant literally nothing to do, ever, besides drink. Just to let this sink in, Montana ranks #2 (according to eater.com) in number of bars per capita. The number for Montana is 1,658 people per bar, meaning that Montana has 602 bars in the state. That is a fairly daunting number and when it comes to small towns, don’t be surprised if you have at least 2 or 3 bars.

5. Seeing more animals during your commute than cars is a normal everyday occurrence.

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According to beef2live.com Montana has 2.51 cows to everyone human. That means there are over a million people in the state but almost 2.5 million cows. Seeing cows and driving over cattle guards on your daily commute is in no shortage in small town Montana. Also according to 50states.com, the average square mile of land in Montana “contains 1.4 elk, 1.4 pronghorn antelope, and 3.3 deer.” The last time I drove home for a visit (a 170 mile drive) I counted 6 cars and at least 30 herds of deer during the 2 hours I spent on the road. Talk about a stressful ride.

6. Driving miles to see a big box store is a weekly adventure.

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Take a moment and think about this; how far ahead do you decide what you want for dinner? 1 hour before you start making dinner? 1 or 2 days before so you can run to the store? Well living in a small town means not having the ability to decide at the last minute what you want for dinner, it means planning a week or two weeks ahead just so you can run to town (which maybe an hour or two away) and buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries. This also means that pantries, gardens, and canning are almost necessary the farther you live away from a decently priced store.

Montana fun fact: Circle, MT is the farthest spot from a Starbucks in the continental USA which is 185 miles.

7. A story that starts with “so I was at this party in a field” is not uncommon, actually a rather common occurrence.

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I have heard so many stories about parties in fields, this is the normal once you hit high school in a small town. What also is normal is driving through the back dirt roads in a truck with a beer in your hand. Not that I condone this behavior, but there is nothing more impressive than watching your dad hold a beer, roll down the window (with the actual window crank), and shift the truck all at the same moment. Driving through the back roads and partying in fields are all a part of growing up in the middle of nowhere and the only thing that puts a damper on the party is the sheriff (who only comes around once a month, if you’re unlucky).

8. Dangerous animals are a large part of life and you better get used to it.

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On any given day during the summer months, you can trip over rattlesnake walking through a field or run into a bear in the woods. Both of which can kill you in a matter of minutes or hours, depending on the severity of the damage they do. As of this year, one Montanan was attacked twice in the same day by the same bear! And what’s even more surprising is finding a bear in a Target parking lot or finding an elk in a schoolyard. But when I was a kid, there was one time that my mom was walking through our own backyard and almost stepped on top of a rattlesnake. There is nothing scarier than hearing a rattlesnake rattler and not knowing where it came from.

9. Dial up internet is not a thing of the past, but a thing of the present. And having cell phone service in a really desolate place is basically impossible.

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That’s right, you read that correctly. My dad still can’t get high speed internet at his house, because guess what? They don’t have wires that go out that far from town. Can you imagine not having Netflix, Hulu, Amazon? Or not being able to update your PS3 because that runs off the internet? That’s a normal occurrence for small town Montana, even today. According to a study in January of 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission, 90% of the rural population is without access to 25 Mbps Broadband internet. And overall 87% of Montana is without this access… so basically most of Montana is without broadband internet. Scary thought, huh?

10. Fireworks, sparkler bombs, tannerite, and loud guns are not a thing for only holidays, but for whenever the heck you feel the need.

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If you have never put a sparkler bomb inside a snow drift or put some tannerite inside a pumpkin and watched them blow up then you are definitely not living yet. When you live out in the middle of nowhere there is a great chance your neighbors don’t care what in the heck you do, or are so far away that they can’t hear you from their house. There was many a time when I was growing up and we would have a great Saturday full of shotguns and whatever we felt the need to shoot. That could be garbage cans, televisions, kids toys, barrels, or even straw targets put out at 100 yards. Almost every year we would even take a barrel of used oil and light the weeds on fire to decrease the fire hazard of dry grass.

Small town Montana will always be a part of who I am and where I came from and I am proud to proclaim that we are still and forever will be the LAST BEST PLACE! 

Winston

I am obsessed with my dog and anyone who knows me knows that I like my dog more than I like actual people. I own a bloodhound named Winston, not a typical dog that you own nor a typical name, but Winston is not a typical dog.

I got Winston when I was a sophomore in high school and I immediately fell in love, like most people do with their pets. This blog explains what it is like to live with Winston over the last 7 years and a lot of cute photos.

First, bloodhounds are stubborn and they always get what they want. Case in point, Winston always gets his spot on the couch if not the whole couch. As a puppy we tried to stay strong but when he looks at you with those floppy ears and drooping eyes it’s hard to say no.

untitledSecond, bloodhounds are huge, I think I underestimated his size when the second day we got him when I couldn’t even lift him anymore. He has a “king” sized dog bed and takes up 2 spots on the couch, Winston is now 7 years old and 145 pounds, (he has recently been put on a diet).

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Third, bloodhounds are loyal. This dog has been by my side for the last 7 years and everyday is a new experience with him. He will never leave your side, always is protective,he is a big snuggler and always poses for a picture.

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Yes my pet is one of my best friends but when you have a dog as cool as Winston that is all you need. 

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Animals are the Best Teachers

I’m a strong believer that every animal has at least one lesson to teach us on our journey. Here are the lessons I’ve learned so far.

Dogs: Dogs love you on your worst days. Dogs love you on your best days. Dogs love you when you yell, cry, laugh, or a combination of all three. Dogs appreciate every little thing you do for them and are the most loyal creatures we can ask for. Dogs absolutely love unconditionally. If I could change anything about dogs, I would lengthen their too-short life span without a second thought. Dogs unfortunately showed me true heartbreak. They become our best friends and a true part of our families, but they all have to leave us too soon. Dogs taught me that grief is the price we pay for love.

Cats: Cats are complex animals with complex lessons. First, I need to clarify one thing: there’s a huge difference between regular indoor cats and BARN cats. I’ve only had barn cats in my life, so I can’t write about the fluffy, declawed, clean, indoor cats. Barn cats are tough. Tough to keep alive, tough to find, tough to micro-manage. When I was little, I was continually devastated that I couldn’t smother them with love. I had a lot of barn cats. The two toughest were (by far) Luigi and Stereo. There were both black and big and ruthless. They tolerated me. As Stereo grew old, he got away from killing gophers and rabbits. He settled with killing only a few mice a day. After a while, Mom started letting him in the house. He became fond of the fireplace and became an indoor/outdoor cat (my dad will deny this.) Cats taught me that it’s okay to be tough and it’s okay to change your life and it’s definitely okay to be alone.

Chickens: If you read my first blog, you know I believe chickens are the spawn of Satan. They taught me how to run, climb fence at record speed, watch my own back, and how to forever fear something that’s 95% smaller than me. Chickens, (roosters in particular) are mean and I’m pretty sure they take pride in this. They’re pompous, rude, and did I mention mean? However, if you grew up on a ranch you know there’s really no escaping chickens. All of the other animals on the ranch started to seem pretty freakin’ nice compared to the chickens. Chickens taught me (although I was reluctant to learn anything from them) you have to live with the bad to appreciate the good.

Fish: Everything dies, or does it? I’ve had a goldfish for 10 years. 10. I won him at the carnival, but he was kind of a burden on the rides so I put him down in the shade. When I came back a few hours later, he was no longer in the shade. The bag was scalding hot and he didn’t look so good. I took him home and put him in my aquarium. He was apparently fine because it only took him a few days to eat all of my other fish. After about a year, my mom told me I had to get him out of the house because he was weirdly big and creeped her out. After a while of struggling with ethics and personal moral values, I decided to dump him in the horse trough on a really cold day. I remember this because I was pretty sure he was going to get belly-up within a few hours. He didn’t. Unfortunately, he’s still alive and well and won’t die. Ever. He swims kinda crooked and turned pure white, but he seems as happy as if he had good sense. His name is Carni.

Horses: My friend Codi Uecker once summed up the most important lesson horses were able to teach me over the course of 22 years. She wrote, “I think about all of our successes and all of our failures. It never mattered which occurred, just that we did it together. The number of failures we earned only made our time of triumph that much greater.” This is how it always has been and always will be. Always.

7 Reasons Why Getting a Dog is not a Good Idea During College

 

20160619_110114College is hard as is. But to add a dog, into the mix… what could I have possibly been thinking?! Take it from me; being a college student and caring for my dog, Lilo, is too much! Here are 7 reasons proving why college and dogs just do not mix.

No more sleeping in.

Every single morning, I swear, Lilo wakes me up before 8 o’ clock, which is just soooo early. Even worse, she wakes me up by nudging herself in between my pillow and my head and proceeds to lick my face. Man, puppy kisses are so annoying.

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Dogs require a ton of money to care for.

A dog is a HUGE money guzzler. I have to spend a whopping $45 a month on her for food, toys, and other necessities. I have to cancel my monthly nail appointment just to afford that!

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Companionship

Who would want someone that is there for you no matter what, who listens to every problem you have at any time of the day, who loves you through everything, no if’s, and’s, or but’s? That’s right, No one. Best friends are overrated!

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They take up so much of your time.

Dogs are really demanding. They require so much up-keep: a few walks around the block, trips to the dog park… It’s just too much. I don’t have time to balance school and my social life AND a dog. Just to make things worse, I can’t bring my dog with me anywhere ! Nowadays, no establishments are dog-friendly and all my friends just hate when I bring an adorable dog with me when we hang out. UGH.

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Dogs don’t make you that happy.

Dogs are just kind of there. You don’t get emotionally attached to them at all. They don’t become the center of your world nor do they make you question how you survived before they entered your life. And there are zero scientific findings on the life-long positive effects of owning a dog… absolutely none.

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You become more responsible.

It drives me CRAZY that I actually had to learn how to be responsible when adopted Lilo. Why couldn’t I have just learned responsibility once I was out of college… in the real world… with no money and no plans?! That would have been way better than learning a valuable life lesson in college. I would much prefer falling flat on my face due to my irresponsibility in a few years!

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Dogs just aren’t cute.

ESPECIALLY puppies. Their fur isn’t even that fluffy and soft and those puppy dog eyes never tug at my heart strings. None of it’s cute! Not even when you try and get your dog to howl but they just can’t so it sounds like this…

 

 

By Kailey Norman