Grit – a firmness of mind and spirit.
Resolute – marked by firm determination.
Initiative – working independently without a need for guidance.
Tenacity – a dogged, stick to it attitude.
To successfully be in this world of horses, livestock, and ranching you have to have true grit. I love this word GRIT as it truly is the mark of a good cowgirl. And I am not talking about wanna-be’s, but rather the real deal. The kind of person who gets the job done no matter the circumstances; the one that never ever gives up; the one that can work alone and take charge; and the one that has the tenacity to see beyond the challenges in front of them in order to reach the goal at hand.
While many think this is a glamourous lifestyle it is actually a lifestyle born out of love for all it entails. The public catches a glimpse of this world via TV shows, a day spent on a horse, or driving by beautiful green pastures, but the real work, the gritty day to day work, is what you never get to see. No two days are the same and no day goes without its challenges. I am usually out the door at 5am. Some mornings start out so peaceful and serene as the sun begins to rise over the mountains, until I notice a gate was left open, or a horse is down, or a broken fence board needs fixing, loose chickens, a busted water pipe, or a flat on the tractor. All of which is not a surprise as much as it just is. And all of it is handled in a timely, efficient, no nonsense manner. And the morning continues. Such is this life. And its not even 9am!
Some of us are born into this lifestyle and some of us find it by way of a calling. I found it by way of a calling and have never looked back. I have a student who too is finding her way into this remarkable world. She started with me as a 4 year old learning to ride on Big John the pony. It was her idea too, not her moms. But she was also extremely shy, to where even then, I was telling her she had to speak up and find her voice. And yet for all her shyness there is a steeliness in her that tells a different tale. Fast forward to the present day where Taylor continues to ride with me, is a RanchSchool fixture, and you will find a kid who has become quite the young ranch hand and cowgirl.
When she started RanchSchool, where I teach kids to run a ranch in real time while teaching leadership skills and life skills, Taylor would hang back a bit letting others go first. Still ever so shy and unwilling to speak up she would miss opportunities to get into the grittier work of ranch life to play it safe and remain in the wings. And yet I knew she wanted more.
Of course this didn’t last long as I put her in situations where she had to be a team leader and speak up; where she had to handle many different horses with their different personalities; where she had to be in charge of a project and complete it or repeat it; and the list goes on. I threw the book of horses and ranching at her, and as uncomfortable as it was at times, she kept taking what I had to give, and worked hard at tending to all the tasks set before her. The more I threw at her the more she stepped up and kept stepping up. But more importantly she worked hard at overcoming her biggest challenge – which was believing in herself and trusting that she had the answers and the voice to express them. It wasn’t easy by any means but over time Taylor’s steeliness turned into a grittiness that spoke to her desire to be in this world as a lifestyle choice.
When I look at this young cowgirl who has gone through the 4H Sheep program and all that it entails in terms of raising a lamb, bringing it to shows, and ultimately letting it go to market, I am impressed. Not an easy endeavor, especially in the letting go, but one she handled with aplomb. When I see how far she has come in my programs, I am impressed. She is now one of the top ranch hands and has no problem speaking up, being in charge, and getting a ton of work done.
I chuckle when I look at her at the end of the day. Taylor always comes to the ranch presentable, tshirt tucked in, and her hair neatly tied back. By days end she has that dusty, sun-kissed face; her hair is askew with bits of hay in it; her tshirt is messily tucked in; and she’s got a smile from ear to ear for yet another day in the gritty life of a cowgirl.
She will soon be a first time horse owner as well which is a responsibility that will bring with it a new set of challenges. But she is more than ready. And I am certain she will handle all situations with a confidence born from this lifestyle and that she will take a leadership role as she moves forward. This very, very, shy kid who took a backseat to others is gone.
Just the other day when a newbie student tried to blame his mistake on Taylor, I yelled across the ranch to her, “What’s up with that?” To which she replied in a strong, commanding voice, “I didn’t tell him to do that. I told him to wash the bit in the bucket and then hang up the bridle!”
With a hearty laugh, I smiled to myself . The kid who would never have spoken with such strength and confidence has found her voice and her place in this ranch world. As I walked away I thought to myself, “ My work is done here!”
Kim Chappell, M.Ed., Instructor and Equine-Facilitated Life Coach. For further information on riding programs and Equine-facilitated life coaching, you can contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.chappellranchllc.com