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Mentors

Posted by Avishay04, 25 March 2012 · 83 views

Just about anyone who has been involved with horses for any length of time has had a mentor. And some of us have been blessed enough to become a mentor to someone else. I recently had one of my students write an essay about me as part of a college application, where she was prompted to write about someone who had had a big impact on her life. Aside from being deeply touched that such an amazing young woman had chosen me as the subject of her essay, it got me thinking about all the people who have mentored me over the years.

My first mentor was an older lady at the stable I rode at as a young teen. Her name was Arly, and she was in her early 70s when I knew her. Arly had ridden her entire life. She owned an adorable buckskin BLM Mustang gelding she had rescued from a neglect situation, and at the time I knew her, she was showing him at 2nd level dressage. Arly was a real stickler to detail, nothing got past her keen eyes. She worked with me every weekend, bequeathing to me her lifetime of knowledge and experience. She would take the time to explain things, patiently coaching me as I tried my hand at a new skill, critiquing my technique and the end result, only offering sincere praise when it was earned. I don't ever think I heard a casual, "Good job!" out of her. Rather, there were many times when she'd say, "That was a good effort, Now, start again from the beginning, and pay a bit more attention to ..." or "I know you can do better. You got a bit sloppy partway though. Don't be in a rush; you can't hurry something along if you want it to be correct. Later on it will become second nature, but for now, you need to do it again." And when I earned praise for something well done, it was often the highlight of my week.

Arly had been a school teacher, a business woman, a riding instructor, and a mother. She was as patient, kind, and generous as she was strict. While the other girls came to the barn each week to take their lessons and go home, I joyfully spent as much time as I could, working for various borders, gleaning rides on whatever horse someone would let me get on, and sitting at the feet of my mentor (figuratively speaking), while she told me stories of her life, many of which revolved around the horses she'd known. My horse-crazy brain soaked up her knowledge like a sponge, and much of what she taught me is still a big part of my riding and horse-keeping today.

Sadly, I lost my favorite horse when I was 15 years old. He had been put down due to an outbreak of a bad flu that wiped out about a dozen horses of all ages at the barn. Arly's horse survived, but the morning she called me to let me know that Rocky had been euthanized was devastating. It was weeks before I could bring myself to go back to the barn, and even then I gave his empty stall a wide berth. I started riding at my high school when I got a job caring for the horses there, and I became attached to the second great horsey love of my life, Woodrow. As is often the way of things, I gradually lost contact with the people I'd known at my old barn. I went back several times to visit over the next two years, and though I spoke to Arly several more times over the phone, by the time I had healed enough from the loss to spend any significant time at that barn, she had stopped riding due to age-related health problems and moved out of the area, and I didn't hear from her again.

Arly's obituary ran in the Eugene Register in 2006, which you can see here: http://news.google.c...pg=3833,2115310

She was an amazing woman, and I often think of her when I'm teaching my own students the same lessons she passed on to me. She was the first person to take a personal interest in my equestrian education, and the years I spent under her tutelage taught me not just about the horses we both loved so much, but also about how important it is to give freely of oneself. The time and energy she put into me was fun for her, I'm sure, but it wasn't *about* her. It was about sharing what she had with a younger generation; her knowledge and experience, her beloved horse, and her spirit. THAT is what being a mentor is all about.




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