Author compares life, horses
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent December 31, 2012 11:30AM
Updated: February 2, 2013 6:10AM
It all started when former Crest Hill resident Robin Olivero wrote a Facebook post comparing a recent horseback ride to life.
To Olivero’s surprise and delight, a friend became inspired by that post and urged Olivero to submit the piece to a magazine. Olivero did not but, spurred by her friend’s enthusiasm, continued to compose revelations that leaped into her mind as she cared for her first horse.
The result is “Life Lessons of a Novice Rider,” a short collection of devotional essays Olivero recently self-published. She had originally intended it only as a Christmas present for close family and friends, but as they shared their positive reactions about the book and others asked how they could buy it, Olivero decided to make it available for purchase.
“I have learned more about myself through the journey with my horse than with the people in my life,” Olivero said. “With people, you learn who they are. With your horse, you are confronted with who you are.”
Ever since Olivero had owned a “Marvel the Mustang,” a “galloping” toy horse on wheels, she had longed for a real horse. The opportunity came after Olivero’s job moved her to Arizona and a new friend asked for Olivero’s help to clean the horse stalls of a local ranch owner.
Olivero had so much fun hanging around the animals, watering and grooming them, she kept returning to the ranch. In time, the owner suggested Olivero assume the care of a 19-year-old project horse. As Olivero grew attached to Jr., the owner, instead of selling the horse, gave him to Olivero and the education on multiple levels began.
One day, after a tiring ride, Jr. was less than eager to roll over to be hosed down but a “good swift kick” got him moving. Olivero realized that, symbolically speaking, she occasionally required a similar gesture.
“It’s unfortunate that sometimes pain needs to be a motivating force,” Olivero said, “but I guess until it hurts, we don’t realize the importance of mobility.”
Analogies were many. For instance, when life, like horses, bucks, it’s important to stay calm, face the fear and get back in the saddle. Both horses and people enjoy freedom, yet testing those boundaries brought the painful knowledge why those limits exist. Control of life and horses are both important otherwise Jr. — and life’s challenges — would assume control.
When traveling, Olivero focused on the destination, minimized distractions and resisted the temptation of backward peeks. Olivero found happiness in Jr.’s pleasure of a good meal of hay and wisdom in knowing which of Jr.’s bad habits to break and which to accept as part of his unique personality.
“Adjusting my schedule to give him a little feed after a long day before a ride is a small price to pay for a happy horse,” Olivero said. “Choosing my battles wisely makes life more pleasant for the both of us. It’s all a matter of what matters most: what your goal is and what priority you place on the outcome.”
Not all of Olivero’s musings are quite so lofty. She reflects on the importance of play, the necessity of cleaning Jr.’s stall with a shovel, the comforting repetitiveness of life, showing affection and basking in the joy of ordinary moments.
Mostly, Olivero learned that, despite the uphill battle training a horse and living life both gives her, the view from the top is most exhilarating, even when beyond the view is another mountain to climb.
“All the work before and after every trail ride really is worth the effort,” Olivero said. “The memories you create in the journey are irreplaceable and the lessons you learn make you who you are.”
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