We all know that life is a series of decisions. Decisions on a day to day basis, like what to eat for lunch that day, or decisions regarding life and future plans. Ultimately each decision results in a consequence, or outcome if you will, good or bad. Last summer I made a life decision - a decision I hoped would enrich my life and ultimately have a positive outcome on my future. My decision was that of a lifelong dream - to make riding horses my life.
In pursuit of that dream, I was introduced to the Laird family, who graciously took on a girl with self taught experience to guide and help mold a talent that they saw. So in August of 2016 I began working under Linda Laird at the Double L Ranch; a growing, well respected horse training facility and equine school in Bishop, California. The plan had been that while working here at the ranch, I would gain experience and skills that would better my future, educate and refine my knowledge, and in the summer of 2017 I would join Trent on the ultimate adventure in taking 3 mustangs we trained the length of the PCT. After the PCT was over, I would return to the adventure of my life, education and the opportunity that my life was given in Bishop. Well, as life so beautifully does, I was thrown a curve ball.
At the Double L, when you work for the Laird family...wait, when you come into any kind of contact with the Laird family, you become a part of their family. Diana Laird, Linda's mother and business partner, is the mother we all love and are glad to know. Everyone that meets Diana instantly feels comfortable calling her “Momma D”. She is a woman that reminds me of my own mother, and every woman I respect and love - she is kind, she is smart, she is giving, she is funny. Any conversation with her will bring joy to your heart and ease to your soul. So not only am I getting to learn the trade from a woman who is a bad-ass in the industry, I was getting to become part of a family where I felt like, well, like family.
Four months ago I was given the news that Diana had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This news deeply, deeply saddened me. I've never been told I have 8 months to live, nor have I known anyone that has, so the situation was a new one for me. As I watched the information sink in to the Lairds, I felt like I was at a fork in my life's choices. Here I was, scheduled to leave on a ride that would take place during the worst months of Diana's life, and the most difficult time for a daughter-someone I considered a friend as well as a mentor. When I thought about where I would be on the trail when I got the news of Momma D's passing, I felt sick to my stomach. Absolutely troubled in my mind and my heart.
I continued on planning our departure with Trent feeling a heaviness in my soul. My epic, once in a lifetime journey didn't seem as epic. I was about to leave family at their greatest time of need. I knew, deep down, my heart couldn't leave them and still enjoy the journey as it was meant to be enjoyed.
This was a curve ball I had not expected and had no idea how to handle. Here I was, the partner to an amazing man, a partner in a project most people only read about in books and in the papers, and my heart was so excited, yet devastated at the same time. I knew that if I went, I would never forgive myself, and I knew if I stayed home, I would be letting my partner down. When I voiced my concerns to Trent, he told me that the only decision that would bring him sadness would be the one where I wasn't involved at all. But, he would support me in whatever decision I would make. I took a couple days to think it through, and in the end, what would bring me peace was to stay with family and support them in any way I could on whatever level. This decision wasn't made lightly, there have been many tears before, during and I'm sure after this decision, but no matter what, I know in my heart it is the right one.
As we have gotten closer to the departure date for this ride, and the reality that I will not be on it settles in, I have struggled to accept what I have given up. Accepting and understanding the outcome of this decision has been really difficult. But fortunately I have a loving partner and wise friends who remind me that strength comes with acceptance of your life decisions.
So I sit here on a rock in Bishop, writing this blog and drinking a beer, mulling over the last couple of months. Yes, I know my decision is right, and yes it has been hard as hell. Hard to try to want to plan a trip I won't be on, and train Mustangs that I don't get to journey with. But whatever help I give, great or small makes a difference, it is all for the greater good. I think I forget that too often, that help doesn't have to be all or nothing, it can come in many forms, and it all equally impacts the end goal.
In the true spirit of what this journey has been about, my decision is going to enrich my life and others' in so many ways. This trip was planned to help give a voice to people who need it, in honor of those that never got the opportunity. It is for the greater good. And my decision was made with love, which is the greatest good of all.
So, when Trent leaves Campo on April 10, I will be there, and I will run ground support for the first month. Then I will return back to Bishop, back to family and support them as much as I can, while giving support to Trent - being a contact for him while he is on the trail and for those who need to contact him, continuing to work the back up mustang that is left behind, and running online support. So while Trent honors his family and a worldly community in this journey - raising awareness for the Mustangs and Ataxia Foundation in honor of his father, I honor family and local community in a time of need while lending a hand to one of the most beautiful projects I've ever had the honor to be a part of. I know that even though this decision has had its share of ups and downs, but I will never regret the decision to be there for Diana.
- Mariah Keuler