Second Chances

For a lot of people, March has not been an easy month. In my own circle of friends, there have been unexpected deaths, health issues, veterinary problems and more than anyone’s fair share of life’s challenges. Personally, I’ve dealt with skin cancer and paid my veterinarians the equivalent of a second mortgage payment – all in the month of March.

None of it has been easy or fun. But all of it was put into perspective when I got the news that a close friend of mine had suffered a heart attack. Most people  never see a heart attack coming, especially not someone who is young, active and healthy, like my friend. Thankfully, she recognized something was seriously wrong and called her brother, who took her to an urgent care facility. The doctors there immediately sent her to the emergency room, where they put her on an ambulance and sent her to a larger hospital with a better cardiac unit. Two stents and two days later, she left the hospital and went home.

The reality of it hit me immediately. I nearly lost my friend. When faced with the death, or near death, of someone close, many people turn inward to reflect on their own mortality. Life is precious and sometimes too short. We need to be living our passions now, rather than waiting for a day that may never come. Second chances are rare, whether you’re talking about the ones we are given or the ones we give.

In the horse world, it seems second chances are especially hard to come by, perhaps due to the competitive nature of equestrian sports. An owner might give a new trainer one horse as a test to see if the relationship will work. If that horse doesn’t succeed, the trainer won’t get another chance and the owner moves on. It works the same way with trainers and horses. Washed-out futurity prospects are a dime a dozen – they don’t often get a second chance, either.

But recently, I read a Facebook post about a horse that is getting a second chance. Trainer Kalley Krickeberg has been spending some time in trainer Shawn Flarida’s barn, improving her skills in reining. It was there she met a 3-year-old stallion. I’ll let her tell the story:

“Meet my very special project! I call him ‘Chance’ because Shawn has graciously given me a chance to work with him on his issues and troubles. Chance is a very, very talented 3-year-old stallion that came to Shawn several months ago with the dubbing of being “studdy,” but Shawn didn’t believe it was so simple. He thought something else was going on, but just couldn’t put a finger on it. 

“Usually young stallions that are studdy get castrated very quickly around Shawn, because it is just not worth the frustration on both sides to deal with that behavior. Chance is different, though – it isn’t that normal studdy behavior of no focus, calling out to other horses, posturing or worse! He is just plain hard to deal with – won’t lead, drags people on occasion, freezes up, acts out and kind of dangerously uses people as play toys. The most important thing to me is that his behavior and actions aren’t aggressive.

“I’ve worked with Chance three times by now, and I am so excited about this horse! So far, what I’ve found is that not only is he incredibly talented under saddle, but he is also like a savant on the ground – very, very, very sensitive, very talented, and also very playful – which I believe is the root of his troubles. It’s almost like he is so sensitive about spatial awareness that he goes into sensory overload continuously when being handled on the ground. When ridden, it is quite the opposite, he is very calm, relaxed and on task. I’ve handled a lot of horses and moved a lot of horses through their ground-skill training, but I don’t know when I’ve been as excited about a horse like I am about Chance. 

“Right now I’m just working through his overreactions about everything, and learning to follow feels on the ground. But, I am careful not to ruin what makes Chance so special. This is going to be one of the most fun and interesting projects I’ve had in a very long time.

“I am so glad and excited to have the chance to help this superstar in the making, and that Shawn has not only trusted me to do my thing, but also share this horse’s special circumstance with you.”

You can almost hear the excitement in Kalley’s words as she talks about Chance, who is getting a second chance to excel (and perhaps remain intact) through a different type of training program. Kalley’s passion for horses is obvious in the work she does.

Most of us in the horse industry should count ourselves extremely lucky that we do get to live our passions every day. If you’re not, you should be, because second chances don’t come along very often. Today could be your second chance at creating the life you want. Take it before it’s too late, kind of like that Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” And we should extend the gift of a second chance when we can, be it to other people or to our horses.

I can’t wait to see what Chance does with his second chance; I think it’s going to be spectacular.