Living the Cowgirl Dream Life!
My sister and I are finally living the dream but it took us a while to get here.
In this pic we are celebrating our 61st and 63rd birthdays by getting new custom cowgirl hats. Everyone tells my sister and I that we look 20 years younger than we are, but we both feel 30 years younger. My sister Jill lives on a huge ranch with a lot of cattle and she still barrel races. I’ve built 3 successful businesses all after the age of 47. I have a guest horse ranch “Horse Lover’s Bunkhouse” where I give riding lesson and trail rides. I am an inspirational speaker, author, and wellness coach. I help women in the 2nd half of life slow down premature aging by phasing out things from diet, lifestyle and thinking which accelerate aging.
My sis and I are definitely not letting our birth age stop us from living our dreams. I can’t share my sister’s story, but I would like to share mine with you in hopes that it will inspire you to live your dreams even when the odds are against you.
My love for horses started at two years old when my dad gave me my first pony Ginger, who was also two years old. He sent her to my older cowboy cousins to break to ride. They rode her several miles to their country school every day. By the time I was four I was riding her alongside Dad as we check cattle and rode fence lines. I remember one time I had to go to the bathroom real bad. But I didn’t want to disappoint Dad or quit riding Ginger so I peed my pants. I had a lot of fun with that pony and she lived into her late thirties. You can read more about Ginger and the other horses I have had in my book “Win Your Horse’s Heart” (Be a Better Horseman) where I share the lessons that horses have taught me over the years.
Fast forward to my teenage years where I worked for a veterinarian and rode my horses in rodeos (roping, barrel racing, goat tying, and pole bending). Gypsy and Jobe were my main rides. I had dreams of riding in the NFR being a horse vet and living on a ranch with cowboy husband and a couple of kids to teach how to ride. But like many teenage girls somehow we get lost in the peer pressure. We don’t focus on our dreams or worse yet even forget about them as we live to please everyone else in order to be liked.
After I graduated from high school my dad took me to a vet tech school interview where I was accepted. But I was very insecure about leaving home. I just wasn’t ready to leave the nest and fly on my own. So I put my dreams aside again. I got a job at a hospital as a medical transcriber and continue to work for Dr. Essiq the veterinarian part time.
My Dad was pushing me to go to college to be a teacher. He said it was a better career for a woman than a vet. The hours would be better etc. etc. I never wanted to disappoint my Dad so I played it safe and pushed my dreams back down again. I graduated at the top of my class, but was heartbroken when none of my family came to my graduation. I got married during college to a football player. And I became a gymnast. I still had my horse Gypsy but wasn’t able to ride her as much as I wanted.
After college I got my first teaching job at a one room school (K-8) in the sandhills of NE about 40 miles from the nearest town on dirt roads. The ranch where the school was located was a big horse/cattle operation. I had so much fun riding Gypsy every day, whether it was a joy ride or helping work cows. She was my only friend on this lonely prairie as my husband and I were now separated. I also helped groom and ride some of the ranch cutting horses. It was a quiet time in my life, yet troubled, until one early morning on the steps of my little trailer house I met Jesus. Something changed in me.
My next job was moving more toward my dreams. I got a job training horses at the Pitzer Ranch near Ericson NE only thirty miles from my parents. I learned a lot from the head trainer Gary Putman just by watching from the other end of the arena. My husband and I were living together again, but it wasn’t working out. So I set aside my dreams once more. I packed up my saddle stereo and clothes and moved to Montana because I had always wanted to live in the mountains. I had some friends who were like my adopted parents. They had moved to Whitehall and they had an upstairs apartment. I got several part time jobs like: waitress, legal secretary, substitute teacher, and vet assistant. I also worked for a reining trainer. All I can say is my dreams were muffled by a sound of confusion as I tried to discover who I really was.
I met a man who wore a cowboy hat but was far from a real one. He was a dreamer like me, and he believed that I could do anything I set my mind to. We married and not too long after I was pregnant but lost the child during my 6th month. I bought a Diet Center Franchise and started my first business. I poured my life into it to cover up the pain of loss, and decided my true dreams would never come true.
My Dad had given me a couple of horses he raised. I kept them at the neatest round barn near Three Forks MT. Slick was just a foal then and from the moment I saw him we had a very painful bond. It seemed our whole relationship was based on trauma after trauma. I have never shed as many tears in a horse’s mane as his. He knew my heartache and I knew his.
My husband didn’t like the Montana winters, he grew up in Nevada and wanted to move back. However, he took a job in Texas which didn’t work out, so we moved to Nevada where he had friends. I had left my horses with his brother in Utah. I still had my saddle with me and I was so grateful when my horse Slick arrived safely in Nevada. Again I found Slick was my best friend and he knew all my deep secrets as I went through another divorce. By this time I had totally forgotten about my dreams they were hidden under a mountain of pain and loss caused by wrong decisions which led to failure after failure. I felt I would never be enough.
I went back to teaching just to put food on the table and keep my horse. But my poor choices and tough life lessons were not over yet. I quit teaching when I got involved in a relationship that turned abusive and lost another baby. I was totally beaten down. I felt worthless. Even though I was going to church the only time I felt good about myself was when I was on the back of my horse Slick. I was living a lie and in fear. I hadn’t even thought about my dreams in years. We moved to Wyoming and thankfully Slick went with me. That poor horse was dragged all over the country during this unsettled time in my life.
Then one day I broke down and plotted murder because my heart was so full of hate. After three days of lying in bed crying God spoke to me very clearly. He said, “You have three choices, end up in prison, end up dead, or leave right now.” So I left with a suitcase full of clothes and $200 cash in my pocket. A friend picked me up and I left my beloved Slick behind. It broke my heart. But God performed several miracles and Slick joined me again real soon. That’s a long story for another day. This poor horse had been through so much with me, and we belonged together. Of course there is a chapter dedicated to him in my book.
I am fast forwarding a lot here so this doesn’t turn into another book. I have left out a lot of the details. You are only getting the highlights. I met my current husband at a yard sale in Wyoming and I started teaching school again. Then the unthinkable happened. Somehow the gate was left open between Slick’s pen and an untamed mustang. Slick was the looser with two broken legs. It was a traumatic event that left my heart shattered in a thousand pieces. I didn’t know how I could keep going. But the Lord knew I needed to leave behind all my past to begin a new chapter in my life. So began the healing journey.
Two days after Slick died Dolly was born to my Dad’s rope horse mare Sooner. I didn’t think I ever wanted another horse. I thought all my dreams had died with Slick. But my sensitive Daddy knew better and six months later when Dolly was weaned she came to live with us. I remember just sitting out in the pen with her crying and thinking, “Did I really deserve another horse?”
As my broken heart began to heal I had hope that just maybe I could dream again. Dolly was the spark that lit my fire to take a small step in the direction of my dreams. My husband and I started going to horse clinics. I never had any formal training before this and I was shocked at how little I knew even though I had a wall full of trophies in my parent’s basement, an old suitcase full of belt buckles I had been totting around with me all these years and I had worked as a trainer a couple of times. I realize now it was simple raw talent and passion without much true knowledge.
I began a new adventure. Keith kept adding to our herd, he seemed to have an eye for good horses. He loved horses as much as I did and it was so fun learning with him. Although I had a lot of unlearning to do and he was a blank slate. It was good to have him around to remind me when I fell back into my old patterns. We moved back to my hometown with 11 horses in tow. I taught school at another one room school for a couple of years. It seemed things had come full circle.
Somehow I just knew that if I was ever going to live any dream I had to just go for it. So I quit my job and started a horse business. It has evolved over the years as I have grown and changed. It wasn’t an overnight success. It took a lot of hard work, travel, many long hours, and a lot of learning. I have spent a small fortune on education about horsemanship, business, marketing, coaching, and teaching. At times I thought I was going to go broke, but I knew I had something special and unique to offer the world. So I kept going even when it didn’t look like it was going to work.
I have finally discovered who I really am. I am no longer afraid to take risks. I quit comparing myself to others. I stopped listening to the naysayers. Most importantly I spent years learning to be led by the Holy Spirit, which is getting easier all the time. I still make mistakes. Some things work and others don’t. I refuse to let myself get discouraged when things seem to fall apart. I just keep trying new things and lean harder into the Lord. Whenever the disappointments come I remind myself, if I am faithful in the small things God will promote me to the bigger things.
Some people say, “Oh I wish I had your life and I was living the dream like you are.” I smile and gently encourage them that they can do it too, when they are willing to make the sacrifices it takes. Now don’t get me wrong I am eternally grateful for the life I am living now and would not trade it for anything. But it hasn’t always been easy and sometimes still isn’t, like the last three years taking care of my ill parents, while trying to keep my businesses afloat and still make time for God, my husband, my church, my horses and customers. I felt pulled in so many directions because of love, passion and my dreams.
At times I felt I had given all that I had to give and then someone wanted more from me. Then there were the customers that no matter what I did, I could not please them and they said some pretty awful things about me which were undeserved. But I do humbly admit sometimes it was simply an unfortunate misunderstanding and other times I was just going through so much with losing my parents and my best friend and riding buddy Joan that I did not always show as much compassion as I should have. What others didn’t understand was I was in a process where my heart was being softened and molded into one that could both give and receive love. I was letting go of the past mistakes. I was being healed of the old wounds and losses. I was letting the walls down that held me back and learning to set healthy boundaries. I was becoming a completely new person, free to be who God created me to be. My husband jokes, “You’re not the woman I married.” I say, “Thank God, because that girl was too broken to dream, she didn’t believe she was worth anything or had anything good to offer.”
As you may have noticed my original dream didn’t come true. You know, the veterinarian mom with two kids to teach to ride. I don’t live on a huge spread like my sister with 1500 cows. But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore because what I have is so much better!
I have a wonderful husband who supports all our guests even though he is an introvert and would rather just be alone all the time. He cares for myself, our property and horses with a dedication and love that impresses me beyond words. I have a deep and abiding relationship with God that satisfies my soul more than any dream I could live while on this earth. My heart’s desire has become to be a light in a dark world that inspires others to live with love passion, peace and joy that doesn’t fade under any circumstance. I want others to experience the freedom from guilt, shame, and condemnation and to find true inner healing like I have. Because you see, even when the physical dreams come true of a big ranch with the perfect husband, horse, kids and job, you can still be miserable.
I’m not trying to talk you out of your dreams. What I am saying is maybe the dream is right in front of you and you don’t even see it because you are blinded by the lies you’ve believed. Or maybe the dream will start to take shape once you find complete and total healing for your bleeding wounds. Or maybe the loss and grief have built a wall so big around you that you can’t let the dream in. I have experienced all of these.
I am here to share with you there is a way and His name is Jesus. I am a living example that dreams do come true, but not always in the way you think they will, and they can be even better than you thought possible.
So please, I encourage you to stop believing the lies, find healing, and let go of the past no matter how difficult it is and you will be amazed at how your dreams may be closer and better than you ever imagined.