#MyRootsRunDeep: It’s In My Blood
I may never have gotten my dream pony as a young girl, but I did eventually purchase an equine friend.
By By Makayla Gross | May 28, 2016
American Quarter Horse Youth Association
I believe that every young girl dreams of having a pony. Ideally, it would be a pure white Shetland decorated in neon-pink tack. However, like most girls, I never had the privilege of owning that prize mount. And for the majority of women, over time the dream of owning a horse is deemed unrealistic and never happens.
I cannot express how fortunate I am that I never gave up on my dream. Horses, and especially my American Quarter Horses, are more than the dream equines I once wanted. They are my sanity, my hope, my dreams, my passion and my goals.
In my lineage, horse ownership dates back to 1918. However, it wasn’t until 1971 that the first American Quarter Horse entered the household. “Mary” was brought home to the family farm and ranch, the same ranch that my immediate family now resides on. The six children were able to learn how to ride and care for that special Quarter Horse. In fact, after seeing the enthusiasm the kids showed toward their first equine, my pleased grandfather bought his next Quarter Horse mare. He still mentions the gratitude he felt after being able to reunite horses into the family, as if able to re-enact his childhood times.
Although my grandfather's equestrian passion was never fully passed on to my dad, he won't deny his awe for Quarter Horses. Their versatile styles, sculpted bodies and sharp minds have appealed to him as a rancher. He doesn't ride much anymore, due to the fact that his “motorized horse” is easier on his body. However, just because he can't be on the back of a horse doesn't stop him from being involved with mine.
“Your horses need breakfast before you do,” is the morning greeting my dad gives me when I start rooting around in the fridge each morning. Although it’s meant as a slight joke that I take literally, it shows how much my father and I care for our livestock. He always encourages me to do my best with the horses. On top of that, he and my mother are always (well, usually) supportive of my crazy and equestrian-related ideas. I say my spontaneous acts come directly from their blood. After all, I have to get my unique ideas from somewhere, right?
My dad cares for and enjoys horses, but he apparently prefers cows, which don’t “burn as much hay.” I, however, am the exact opposite. My motto is: “Give me a saddle, and I'll dream of riding. Give me a horse (or 10), and I'll be set for life.” I may never have gotten my dream pony as a young girl, but I did eventually purchase an equine friend. At age 10, nearly 30 years after my dad owned his last horse, I was bringing my first one home. To say the least, I wasn't the only proud member of the family that day. It was impossible for my grandfather to hide his excitement and joy as the old family ranch welcomed its new member. Even my own father swelled as the memories from his childhood came back. October 14, 2010: That day will not be forgotten.
In 2013, I had the privilege of bringing my new Quarter Horse project mare home. I would be re-enacting the past as I started training horses, just as my grandfather had done more than 60 years ago. Even though he trained them to pull plows and drive carts, I felt honored to be following his footsteps. Now two years later, I have started breeding Quarter Horses and have proud bloodlines in my small herd. To my surprise, my dad hasn’t complained about my new “hay burners.” In fact, I think he secretly likes them – maybe more than me?!
With horses, I've realized there will always be moments of joy, pride, worthiness and excitement. What I’ve come to love is listening to my grandparents’ horse stories, then experiencing those moments for myself. It’s funny how history has a way of repeating itself. However, with the good comes the bad. Any rider, trainer or advocate will also experience the dreadful times of anger, distrust and lack of faith in themselves or the horse. Although all four generations of my family have experienced those emotions, we never gave up on our equine ties. Just as my great-granddaddy told my grandfather, who told my dad, who passed on these wise words of wisdom to me, “You don't practice until you get it right. You practice until you don’t get it wrong.” And that's how four generations of Quarter Horse enthusiasts have managed to get through the good, bad, ugly and everything beautiful. After all, I like to think it’s in my blood.
As the band Parmalee states in its song, “Roots,” I’ve come to realize that “I can’t outrun these roots; not even if I wanted to.”