My Journey with a Horse Named Sister Sue
For those of you who don’t know or haven’t already heard via social media, I recently sold my horse Sister Sue. The decision to place Sister for sale was not an easy one, but after much deliberating, I decided it was best for the both of us.
I purchased Sister exactly one year ago yesterday. I remember writing the check for her and thinking to myself “finally, a horse that is truly and wholly my own” (side note: when you grow up on a ranch with three siblings, everyone just kind of shares horses). I couldn’t wait to get Sister home and start riding her!
I charted many learning experiences during my first few months of owning Sister. When you purchase a horse without knowing much about their backstory, like where they came from or who owned them previously, it’s difficult to gauge how they’ll react and behave in certain situations. Sister taught me many lessons, like when to be persistent and when to be patient. She also helped me regain confidence in my riding and horse handling abilities.
Rather than write some sad, sappy drawn out post about Sister, I decided to share nine things I learned from my Journey with her. Some of these you might find comical.
#1 Some Horses are Funny about Their Heads
And Sister was one of these horses. I spent countless hours catching Sister and messing with her ears, forelock, nose, etc. I’m sure many of these hours were unpleasant to Sister. However, this was one scenario where persistence paid off. Eventually Sister and I got to the point where she wouldn’t fuss over her ears being placed in the bridle, a rope being drug across her forehead, or her nose being scratched.
#2 Check Your Cinch Twice
We’ve all had that one horse - the one that you saddle up, everything looks good, cinch is tight but not too tight, ride around for a few minutes, then all of the sudden your saddle feels loose. Sister had mastered the art of being a “cinch is tight” con artist. Some horses fill their lungs with air during the saddling process to avoid the cinch being too tight and uncomfortable. There’s several different theories as to why horses have learned to do this, but this post is not for hypothesizing. Again, another scenario where patience paid off. After saddling Sister, I learned to lead her around in a circle and then check her cinch one last time (side note: make sure you can slide your fingers comfortably between the cinch and your horses belly before you take off. I did this every time with Sister).
#3 Sometimes It’s Okay to Relax and Trust Your Horse
The fist couple months of owning and riding sister, I won’t lie, were tense. I could feel myself anticipating her every move from the saddle as I piloted her through tasks. Eventually, after I decided that she wasn’t going to throw me, I learned to relax and trust her. Riding became more enjoyable once we both got to this point. Even in hairy situations, I felt safe and relaxed knowing that I was atop a horse who, in almost all cases, was going to avoid getting us in a pickle.
#4 Turn Her Loose, Live a Little
My charming, endearing boyfriend was definitely the catalyst behind #4. After Sister and I got past #3, and my boyfriend so gently coaxed me into it (NOT), I decided it was time to see what Sis was made of….in terms of speed. I’m sure from an onlooker’s perspective, we were moving only slightly above the speed of molasses, but something about giving Sis her head and turning her loose felt invigorating and freeing all at the same time. A memory I’ll cherish.
#5 There’s a Sweet Spot when it Comes to Tuning on a Horse: stay near it
This lesson I learned after moving Sister to a boarding facility closer to Fort Worth. This facility had three different riding arenas, which meant ample space and amenities for practice and tuning. I quickly learned that it’s easy to sour a horse if you dedicate too much time to tuning on them and not enough time to just riding around and enjoying the scenery. Rather than spending every riding excursion in the arena, I rotated. Some days Sister and I would just ride around the property. When it came to working her in the arena, if I felt like we had reached a good stopping point, I rewarded her with hay instead of more laps.
#6 Take Care of Your Horse and They’ll Take Care of You
As I mentioned previously, I knew very little about Sis’s backstory and/or the hands she had gone through before mine. If I said that Sister didn’t come with a few quirks, I’d be lying. A few of these quirks led me to ponder her past treatment. Through every encounter I had with Sister, I worked hard to gain her trust. This required patience. The more time I spent with her, and I’m guessing the more she realized I wasn’t going to eat her, the more we clicked. I took care of her, and she took care of me, plain and simple.
#7 Little Ranch Horses are Easy Keepers
Sister had an uncanny ability of getting fat even when I wasn’t graining her. It took some time to figure out the perfect combination of feed, hay and being turned out that kept Sister in prime condition.
#8 Don’t Let Them be Lazy
At times, I found myself feeling guilty for pushing Sister, however there is a difference between pushing a horse to not be lazy and pushing a horse into the realms of sourness. Sister often tested my resiliency on this; and I became a much stronger rider because of it. Not allowing Sister to cut corners, after not being in the saddle consistently for over 7 years, really helped me regain confidence in my abilities. By pushing her, I like to think I made her a better horse too.
#9 Know When to Let Go
This is probably the most difficult and the most important lesson I learned from my journey with Sister. There comes a point when it’s okay to say goodbye. Deep down, I knew where Sister’s happy place was - out riding pastures, on a ranch somewhere. I could always feel Sis come alive and perk up during long trots across wide open country. At 13-years-old it’s hard to teach an old dog, or in this case an old horse, new tricks. It was time to offer Sister for sale to someone who could give her this kind of job and it’s time for me to take what I learned from her and apply it to another horse.
Here's to you Sister!