“We Can Do This, Boy!”
By Aeleia Hughes, Grade 7
He looked like a skeleton. He was ragged and bones stuck out all over. He was filthy, sick and starving. He had been abused and he was very nervous. He was supposed to weigh 1,200 lbs or more. He was only 900. His name was George, he was 31 years old, and he was a horse that had almost given up. Doc wasn’t sure he would make it, but he said he would try. There was just something about him...
Optimism is all about determination and belief. It’s seeing something better BEFORE it really IS better. I saw him better. Better than he was. I looked into his eyes. I looked into that special place that God created in every creature and saw HIM...the horse he was MEANT to be. He was a beauty! He was strong! He was fierce down deep inside. He was better than he looked. I told him so. I encouraged him, and I worked with him, and I loved him. I trained him to think differently...to act differently. I believed in him, and he began to believe in me. Together, he and I changed his name to reflect how big, strong and mighty he really was. He became “Thunder!” Everyone thought I was crazy and that I was a child who just wanted to fix a broken down horse. Everyone thought I was getting my hopes up too high. Everyone! Everyone was wrong!
On September 24, 2011, “There Rose A Thunder,” ridden by yours truly, entered his first real horse show arena. He had grown to 1,156 beautiful pounds of horseflesh. Here we were, with only three lessons in Western Horse Showmanship, and now we were competing against horses and riders who had competed and won in world class competitions. All week before entering the ring, people told me things like, “Don’t get your hopes up! We just don’t want you to be disappointed!” This was all under the idea that they just didn’t want me to get hurt or be sad if it didn’t work out. Finally, I’d had enough, and I told my Mom that she was tearing down my imaginary brick wall of confidence layer by layer when she and everyone else kept saying those things. I believed that Thunder and I could WIN, and we were going to show all of them how wrong they were not to believe in us...not to be optimistic about our end result. I heard a saying once, “If you believe you’re going to fail, then you have failed already.” That was not going to be me, and it certainly wasn’t Thunder! He had come so far. My Mom saw me look at him and say out loud, “Are you ready, Boy? I think we can do this!”
I was entering the ring on a 31 year old horse whose leg had a healing splint, in clothes and a hat that one lady had said was not good enough to show in, with very few minutes of professional training, and yet, somehow, I was more excited than I have ever been about anything! Thunder looked beautiful - his coat was shiny and vibrant, his eyes were glowing, his head was held high and confident, his stride was strong and steady, and he was about to show the world that he was not finished. He was a fighter! In our second class, we WON our very first legitimate competition First Place Blue Ribbon! We had done it! I believed that we could. I believed in him. I believed in myself, even when others did not, and we did it!
As the rainy, messy, cold day began to draw to a close, Thunder and I had one last competition class. It was to be a full out run by the horses down and back. Fastest horse wins! Thunder is 31 years old, and in this class, the second oldest horse was approximately 7. This wouldn't have been a fair race anyway. As we headed in to the starting line in a downpour, I shook my head and told the rider behind me that I was not going to run my horse as hard as I could, and that she was probably going to win. I was really nervous about injuring Thunder's leg again, and knowing that he was an older horse, I was afraid that he might not recover well if I did. Anyway, we had done great all day! "There Rose A Thunder" had won SEVEN ribbons, including two First Place Blue Ribbons, and two Second Place Red Ribbons! We had achieved our goal. We had showed the world what he was made of.
But, Thunder did not agree with me. He had one more burst in his tank. As the start flag was waved, with his huge pounding hooves, Thunder roared through the deep water and mud like a bolt! He was ahead of the competition in moments! It was like someone had plugged him in, and with me on his back, he thundered across the finish line FIRST! The soaked crowd exploded in cheers, and Thunder raised and tossed his head in acceptance! He had done it! He was a CHAMPION! He believed in himself, in me...and I was glad that I had believed in us, too! More than that, EVERYONE else learned a little something about the power of optimism that day!
Winston Churchill said, "There's just something about the outside of a horse that does something to the inside of a man!" I think it goes one step further. I think that there is something about the INSIDE of a horse that does something to the INSIDE of a girl!