Parelli member Shannon South sent us this touching blog about her relationship with her rescue horse, Tido. Take it away, Shannon!
While the snow still hangs in the air, I enthusiastically, and carefully, choose the clinics, camps and sessions for the upcoming season that I think will do the most to further my horsemanship journey and that of my partner, Tido. It is always exciting to make the final choices and begin to fill out the inevitable participation forms… dreaming of uninterrupted horse time, the Parelli friends we will see and all that we will learn. That is, until I get to the portion of the form related to my horse. To the untrained eye, the questions seem simple, straightforward – but to me they always give me reason to pause and get a sinking feeling of disappointment. Every year – I vow it won’t bother me – but every year the simple request for “Breed” causes my mind to go blank and leaves me feeling that my horse is somehow substandard, that he carries a black mark for the journey he took in his early life.
Tido is like so many horses that have found their way into the Parelli program. The story of how he was rescued could be echoed a thousand times over. Simply: his 19-year-old previous owner found him at a local auction – an unhandled 3-year-old stallion with no name, and no future. This young man, who had no intention of buying a horse that day, outbid the slaughter buyers by just a few dollars to save his life.
But the rescue story goes deeper than that. While Tido was facing his uncertain future, I was facing mine. I had undergone losing a once-in-a-lifetime horse soulmate of 11 years in a tragic paddock accident and was struggling to determine if horses fit into my future. At 32 years old, I felt that I had been robbed of watching my special friend grow old and assumed that the remainder of my horsey-life would mean accepting horses that didn’t truly capture my heart. Having relationships with horses that would only be compared to what I once had. Attempting to carry on, I then suffered through the devastation of overwhelming fear and having my confidence shattered by an extremely dominant gelding that came into my life. At the time, I couldn’t see any of these events as anything but unfortunate strokes of bad luck. But, in the end, these events would bring Tido and I the biggest gift.
I was rescued, by a rescue, on May 19, 2009. I went to see a man about a horse … and that horse turned out to be Tido. Even as fearful and unconfident as I was, I rode this strange horse in a strange saddle, in a strange barn, in some gusty wind, in front of perfect strangers. And from the minute my seat touched the saddle, I felt what had been missing for so long and what I thought was gone forever… trust. And I rode and rode. I hadn’t cantered in four years, and Tido and I cantered all around; circles, figure 8’s, straight lines. I was so completely immersed in this new horse and the trust that was instant between us, I forgot about everything and everyone around us. I knew without an ounce of doubt that he was indeed The One and Tido came home with me that day.
We’ve all heard it – everything happens for a reason. But nothing can be harder to accept when you have suffered a life-changing loss or life takes an unexpected turn. These 5 words can be carelessly tossed around like a verse from a greeting card … but they really are true. I am forever humbled by the knowledge that if any one event – for either Tido or I – had been altered, we simply wouldn’t be where we are today. Just one thing. One. If I hadn’t lost my thoroughbred, I wouldn’t have found the dominant horse that led me to Parelli. If I hadn’t found Parelli, I wouldn’t have been in a place to recognize that trust was the element that was missing and risked being horseless, to search for my perfect partner. And I certainly wouldn’t have recognized Tido as that perfect partner when I found him. If that 19-year-old young man hadn’t stopped at the auction sale for coffee and a piece of pie on that Friday night, Tido might not be alive today. And if that young man hadn’t cared enough to spend the time & money it took to get Tido gelded and give him the foundation for being a riding horse, he wouldn’t have been the horse I needed the day we met. And if I hadn’t hit the wrong key on my keyboard and had his for sale ad accidentally pop up on my computer screen, or if the lady buyer who saw Tido before I got there hadn’t been indecisive… the list goes on.
Linda has taught us, “Life is unfolding exactly as it should.” It’s easy to look upon the good things as life unfolding, but it takes a lot of self-exploration and acceptance to believe that the negative things in our lives are there for a reason too. Hindsight is a gift that allows us humans the opportunity to look back and reflect on how perfect life is. But being able to have the foresight to allow life to unfold, even embrace it, is one of life’s greatest lessons. Instead of pleading to the heavens when things don’t go the way we think they should, we can learn to let the emotion help us heal and be able to look up, look forward, look out to what was intended for us all along. I once heard that the only emotion more powerful than fear is hope. But I would have to add “trust” to that list as well. Trust that your life will bring you what you need, when you need it.
My sentimental human side still struggles with the bits and pieces that are missing, but I have accepted what we weren’t meant to have, and celebrate what we do: on May 19th every year, we celebrate the anniversary of the day our partnership started and I proclaimed it Tido’s birthday. Instead of registration papers, he has a collection of certificates hanging on the wall as we progress and pass our Parelli levels. We celebrated that Tido was the reason for my biggest, most memorable accomplishment: the day I realized that I had forgotten what fear felt like. He is what inspires me to dream bigger and truly believe that if you can dream it, you can do it! It is because of him that we have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best instructors and true horsemen. He is the reason that one day, when the time is right, I will get the opportunity to pay it forward – to give a rescued horse a future and someone the gift of a perfect partner.
He carries the name, Tostido, given to him by the young man who rescued him (along with a love of cereal!). And while Tido doesn’t concern himself with birthdays & certificates, it is a joy to watch him, calm & confident in his forever home and the knowledge that his partner will feed him tonight, tomorrow and every day after that. He cares that he doesn’t hurt anywhere, has a herd to keep him peaceful and is regularly challenged with games and play suited for his Horsenality™. And he trusts that I will never put him in harm’s way. Every day, he puts everything he’s got to being my perfect partner – reminding me that no amount of birthdates, registration papers and high performance ancestors would make him any better than he already is.
Recently, Tido and I had a photo session together. It was my way of showing gratitude for the partner in my life, the journey that brought us together and the future we will share. And to celebrate life unfolding as it should. And next season, instead of feeling disappointed, I might just glue a copy of that picture to the participation form when it asks about my horse.
I love you T.