Are you ready to meet our final Inspirational Western Woman for 2021?
This gal is one of the most incredible horsewomen I’ve had the pleasure to know and ride with. She resides in Chewelah, WA, and has one incredible story and talent to share with us this month.
With that . . .
I’d like to welcome one of this month’s Inspirational Western Women, Talea Metivier.
Do it scared.
Do it knowing that you won’t know everything.
Do it even though you don’t feel ready.
Do it without perfection.
Whatever you do,
Take the leap and go for it.
A red-tailed hawk circled me, tracking me for a couple of miles. I wound my way along the trails in the rocky pined terrain of Eastern Washington on my bay and white Appaloosa gelding. The hawk called, looped, swooped, and eyed me from overhead. Gliding effortlessly up into the blue sky and then circling back again to call to me from a treetop.
I thought of my mom, as I always do when I see a red-tailed hawk. When I was a kid growing up on a ranch on the Colville Indian Reservation, we had an old hardcover book of Native American animal signs. The book was likely the flight of someone’s imagination but it was entertaining for us kids to learn the animal signs of all of our family members. The remnants of that candlelit game were still thinking of my mom every time I saw her sign. It was my “call home” reminder. This particular hawk was making his point.
I finished up my day-long ride with a friend to receive an urgent phone call from home. My mom had suffered a stroke and was on her way to Kootenai Medical in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. I loaded my horse in the trailer and drove straight there. My mom was in the elevator headed up to Intensive Care when I arrived in a flurry of dust and horsehair. She gave me a fierce hug with her right arm and a lopsided smile. Within minutes, she was unresponsive for nearly a week.
We nearly lost my mom to the stroke. It took her months to be able to eat on her own or pull herself up to a standing position for brief trips with a walker and remains paralyzed on her left side. She’d been relatively young, fit, and healthy. Went from working and riding her horses to rolling around in a wheelchair at home and was mentally sharp for quite a few years afterward. We got her on a gentle horse a few times, but I was afraid to let go of the lead rope.
She wanted to gallop off into the sunset.
But her muscles atrophied and joints seized up, and it became painful to straddle a horse.
Our days of riding together were snuffed out.
I’d been back from service in the United States Army for a few years at that point. I’d been horseless during my time away so my mom gave me an Appaloosa gelding when I returned. He was a troubled horse, and I put a lot of miles on him. I’d often have him and a horse for my mom saddled in the early evenings after work. She rode more in that time than I ever remembered her riding.
She raised Appaloosa horses my whole life but spent more time raising kids, working, and shuttling me around to ride as a teenager than she did actually in the saddle herself.
It was her time.
One big trip we’d talked about a lot was the Chief Joseph Trail Ride hosted by the Appaloosa Horse Club.
It’s a 13-year journey covering the 1300 mile trek that Chief Joseph and his people, a band of Nez Perce Indians, made trying to escape from the US Cavalry in 1877. The ride’s from Joseph, Oregon to the final Bear Paw battlefield in Montana. It is ridden progressively 100 miles at a time for one week each summer.
We had the Appaloosa horses but we lacked the commitment to make the ride happen for us. But it was a lot of money, we’d have to take time off work, haul the horses to wherever the ride left from that year, and have a driver hopscotch the rig along on the weeklong trip. We had all sorts of excuses why we didn’t make the ride, but it boiled down to insecurity. It was a big deal to us and intimidating to plan on how to make it happen.
I regret that I never went on just one Chief Joseph Trail Ride with my mom.
People sometimes ask me why I travel alone to horse events when I don’t even know anyone where I’m going. They ask me if I’m nervous to try new sports on horseback. They ask why I take lessons and ride with clinicians when I already know how to ride. They don’t understand why I ride in the rain, the snow, and the dark. I ride, learn, and step out of my comfort zone because I can. I don’t know when life will throw me a twist and don’t know when I’m settling into my well-worn saddle on my favorite horse for the last time.
To answer their questions, I do get nervous. And scared. Sometimes on road trips to new places, I miss my husband and want to turn around and drive home. I get frustrated at icy footing and mad at the dark nights. But I remind myself that I’m lucky to have every moment in this world. The friends I meet on my journeys, the wonderful horses I raise up and train, the exciting competitions, and the beautiful places I get to see – everything is worth it.
After my mom had her stroke, I started competing in cowboy racing events and trail challenges. I’d save and plan carefully for each one. I trained my horses to the best of my ability, raised new foals up to ride as life went on, and learned as much as I could from good trainers across the northwestern US and Canada. My mom would talk to me on the phone and ask who I was riding that evening.
She’d say, “Take me with you.”
She especially asked to go if I was riding Cayenne. Cayenne is a granddaughter of my mom’s favorite stallion, also named Cayenne. I hung a decorative feather made of leather on my saddle in my mom’s honor.
Red-Tailed Hawk, of course.
My mom has dementia now. She doesn’t know what horses I ride most of the time. Last month, I stopped at her house on the way to a team sorting event in Idaho. Gave her a hug. She didn’t hug me back at first. Didn’t know who I was. Then some deep memory or maternal instinct must have kicked in because after a few seconds of sitting unresponsive in my arms, she reached up with her right arm and hugged me back fiercely.
I’ll take it.
My mom doesn’t ask to go with me anymore.
But I take her anyway.
I started life on a ranch on the Colville Indian Reservation where my parents and grandparents raised Appaloosa horses, and my dad trained them for a living. After a divorce, I ended up in North Idaho with my mom, and later, stepdad. Horses were my solace as I struggled through school and adjusting to a lifestyle in a more dense population.
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