The other day I was reminded of an internet acquaintance from a few years ago. A gal I'd 'met' on a horse forum had been watching what I'd been doing with the mustangs, and since she lived in Fort Worth (home of the Extreme Mustang Makeover), when she learned of the yearling event that was taking place she excitedly signed on. Why not? After all, it was right there in her home town, and what an opportunity to take on a yearling project for the summer!
As the competition drew near, the yearlings available outnumbered the applicants, and trainers were asked if they'd consider taking a second yearling as well. This friend wasn't too sure, but finally decided it was the right thing to do, and two yearling geldings made their way into her barnyard early one June.
The first few weeks are always difficult as you try to find your rhythm with a new horse, and this was doubly frustrating because it was her first time with wild ones, and she found herself with two very different personality types. The first colt was shy, but curious. The second was also shy, but wanted nothing to do with a two legged predator.
Try as a parent might, it is impossible not to compare one's children with one another, especially if they're twins; "Johnny is great at math, but Susie seems to have a better grasp on her language skills." And so it is with horses. Two yearlings arrive the same day, one likes you, the other most definitely does not. How to cope?
We exchanged a few emails, and I'd encouraged her to just take it one day at a time. When colt 2 caught on, he'd catch up. Easy to say, but I know from personal experience that it's much more difficult to live. It's never as easy to cope mentally when you've got one progressing and the other simply standing there ignoring you with all their being. Yet that is what this trainer was up against. And as the weeks stretched into months, she again felt herself slipping in desperation. How was she going to get colt #2 ready in time? It'd been 2 months and he was barely halter broke, while colt#1 was leading, loading, doing trail obstacles and picking up feet. He was such a joy to be with...it was difficult to even spend time with the sulky little #2.
Again, my words to her were simply to do what he could do. It's just too hard not to compare, but she had to take #2 for what he was and help him grasp the basics. That's all she could do...and he'd at least have a better foundation going into his new home than if he'd have stood at the corrals and ended up with someone who gave up on him early on. And I assured her that when it was time to say goodbye at the adoption, it was the struggling #2 that would break her heart. She was doubtful...
So she trudged forward, with colt #1 improving by leaps and bounds while colt #2 came ever so slowly.
Then the time came for her to haul her two charges to the Makeover. She'd been so happy to report that #2 had finally begun to grasp the concepts and seemed genuinely interested in her their last week together. He wasn't as far as #1, not by any stretch of the imagination, but what a feeling of joy and relief to know he was finally, after 3 long months, taking an interest and beginning to work with her like a partner. She was walking on air...
As with all makeover events, there is a body conditioning, followed by an in-hand trail course. She took her boys through, and both boys did well. She was thrilled with #2's willingness and great attitude! Thankful that both colts had survived, she left to grab something to eat. When she returned it was to a great hustle and bustle...go look at the standings!, she was told. And as her finger ran down the list, there she was! Top ten! But wait...she was listed twice...both colt #1 and #2 had qualified for the finals!
Now she was dancing on air. Two weeks ago she never, ever had expected #2 to successfully finish the course, let alone make top ten. She hurriedly put herself together and got her boys ready for the finals. Colt #1 started into the arena...and he melted. Exhausted, he'd poured all he'd had into learning everything she could teach him the past 3 months. He was tired, and simply looked at her with longing, then rested his head on her chest as if to say, "Take me home, I'm finished." But colt #2? He was just getting started with his career. Bright, shining, and a star in the making. Did he win? No. But as I recall, he made the top five. Not bad for a colt who'd even just a month earlier had a trainer who was almost willing to give up on him.
Which only goes to show...slow and steady wins the race. When the two colts were adopted, she cried the hardest tears for colt #2. Those long days of frustration were gone; he'd gone from sullen to spectacular because she'd poured her passion into him and never given up. Somewhere deep down, he'd told her he wanted to, and she just kept plugging away, asking for that little bit of something, and when he was ready, he gave his all.
The moral of the story? Not all flowers bloom at the same time...nor do all children...nor all mustangs. Sometimes, you've just got to wait it out.