From the Editor:
Kyla Strange is a talented Canadian horsewoman with followings in British Columbia and New Brunswick and will be a Special Guest at the Best Horse Practices Summit in Maine in October. Strange has started colts, competed, and been featured in Eclectic Horseman. Her mentors include Jonathan Field, Ray Hunt, Martin Black, and many others.
In this essay, she reflects on her life and her life with horses.
To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson, the philosopher, poet, author and essayist, succinctly articulates the many moments that make up our lives where there is so much learning and so much growth over time, in this everlasting universe we daintily find ourselves in. When Maddy asked me to attend the Best Horse Practices Summit this year, after deep thought and time-consuming deliberation, and after surpassing the initial anxiety of putting myself back into the social horse scene, I began to realize it as an incredible opportunity to truly bridge the many tiny moments that brought me precisely to this one. After all, it was Maddy that plucked me out of an abusive, painful time in my life in British Columbia and flew me to her place for Thanksgiving, 2014.
At that time, I unknowingly was living through moments where my life would soon change, offering me a new chapter, one full of adversity and challenges as well as successful healing and restorative growth.
I had managed and operated Khas T’an Horsemanship, a business that brought me many horses and many clients. It was a beautiful and creative time for me. I was at the top of my game, having studied with some of the best hands in the world, and I was truly living my dream.
In living the dream and seizing the moments, I never fathomed that I’d be suffering terribly from a failed marriage followed by an extremely abusive relationship, while also grieving the sudden suicide of a childhood friend.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d be so sick emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I would not be able to confidently back a colt for the first ride or conduct a foundational horsemanship lesson.
I would have never envisioned myself, a young woman, alone, separated from the rest the world, nursing a whiskey bottle. A shell of a person, suffering from deep sadness and post-traumatic stress. Never did I think that under the tutelage of my friend, I would be starting my life over from scratch.
It’s on this very journey that the adversity, the dark and challenging times, has indeed helped me build character. I have become a smarter, stronger, and braver person through it all, just like the hundreds of horses I backed in the day, sending them home to clients, healed, intact, and well.
That November, 2014, in the Utah countryside, with a light dusting of snow, surrounded by good friends, listening full heartedly to the advice of an experienced woman, I made the difficult decision to close the doors of my business, change my phone number, lock down, close off and pull the gate shut on many aspects of my life.
In order to keep myself safe, I pressed the restart button. At the time, it seemed minuscule, easy, logical, and constructive. But later on, I realized it was a significant moment, an opposite-centrifugal-force trajectory away from what I would have dreamed for myself.
Many months prior, I’d posted a picture of Ray Hunt on my social media Khas T’an Horsemanship page for my students. In the picture, you see a strapping young Ray Hunt, sitting on a lovely, snaffle-bit, sorrel, bald-faced horse. He wears a light tan shirt and summer cowboy hat, chinstrap underneath. His many coils of his left-handed rope tied up on his Wade saddle horn.
The posting wasn’t just a picture, it had a quote from Ray pasted on to the image. It said, ‘There will be discouraging times, but you need to accept them, make the best of them and move on. We have to accept some things are not working so we know we don’t have to keep doing them. We have to accept defeat to gain success. It’s a way of life.”
It makes me ponder:
- Did I post it to encourage my students?
- Did I subconsciously post it as a kind of self-talk, while in the throws of despair?
Here I am, many moons and moments later, trying to soften the resentment and find kindness in my heart to forgive myself for the perceived failure and that very challenging chapter of my life. Like a broken down horse having come from the hands of an abusive human, I had to adjust to the situation and pick myself up. I had to accept life and find deeper meaning in it.
The road has had lots of bumps and ups and downs. The steady constants during this journey were the horses. My little herd stayed with me through it all, never judging, never criticizing, always there, steady, supportive, and true. There were many tears that washed from my eyes, falling to their warm fur coats, healing me, absorbing grief and pain. My beautiful horses were like brave soldiers at war, my strongest partners, my best friends, my biggest allies and confidants.