Going Solo

Going solo. The first time for both of us.

I’ve always told people and have firmly believed that you should always go trail riding with someone else. You never know what’s going to happen and if someone is with you they’ve got your back if things go sideways.

I’m not sure when my view started to change or what caused it. Maybe it’s the fact we have cell phones and can call for help, maybe it’s because I’ve been craving being alone with my horses with nothing to distract me, or maybe it’s just time to face my fears.

Every time I’ve been out on a trail ride lately I’ve wanted to do more. I’ve wanted to explore a new trail, I’ve wanted to pick up a trot or canter, I’ve wanted to stay longer, I’ve wanted to stop and have a snack with my horse and rest. It’s really hard to do any of the extra “things” when I am with a group of people, even harder when I am the “one in charge.” So today I decided to go out on my own. Explore a few trails, pack a snack for myself, and bring a halter and lead rope so my horse can have a snack with me.

I started planning yesterday, secretively, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by going off by myself. Sometimes people don’t understand my desire to be alone. I know I’m weird in that regard, without my alone time I cannot function very well. Groups of people, while I enjoy them, make me feel very tired and I often have to go off by myself to recharge my batteries. Being with horses also helps me recharge, a solo trail ride may just be what the doctor ordered! I’ve been feeling really punky lately and am not sure if it’s mental, physical, or a combination of both.

I let Kim and Danielle know what I was doing today, the route I had planned, and shared my location with them through my cell phone. This morning I fed Nora, loaded her up in the horse trailer and we set out on our journey. As I drove down the road my stomach clenched in fear, “what am I doing? What if I fall off? What if I get hurt? What if Nora gets hurt?” I almost went around the block to go home. Then I thought, “ Is this how I’m going to live from now on? Fearful to do anything on my own? Fearful to try?” I found myself praying and asking God to stay with me, took several deep and cleansing breaths and kept going, knowing that God has me no matter what. If I died on the trail today at least He would be waiting for me and I was doing something I love to do. Can you ask for a better way to go? Then I laughed to myself at how morbid my thoughts were getting. I’m not going to die out there. I’m going to live!

At the mounting block. Here we go!

Crow-Hassen Park isn’t far at all and we were there In 20 minutes. I was excited when I arrived because only one trailer was there and my favorite parking spot was wide open! I unloaded Nora, and my phone rang. It was my mom on FaceTime. We always talk on Saturday mornings and I blew her off. Uh oh, oops. I answered and she saw where we are. We talked while I groomed and tacked up Nora. Now I had another person who would make sure I would be safe out there, and what a great way to start my ride! It was nice to talk to mom right before I mounted up. Made me feel safe and secure and by talking to her my doubt was gone and I was actually looking forward to my ride!

I closed up the trailer, locked up my truck and Nora and I walked over to the mounting block to begin our ride. The first thing we encountered was a family of cranes. Nora just gave them a curious glance and we continued on our way. It’s beautiful out there in Crow-Hassen. We started our ride in the prairie and spent most of the time on the open grassland enjoying butterflies and flowers of every color. The birds were singing, my saddle was squeaking, Nora was stepping out at a nice steady rhythm and there was a gentle breeze. The skies we’re such a beautiful blue I could hardly take it all in. My soul drank deeply of the beauty. I could sense Nora sending a connection up to me with her essence and it all brought tears to my eyes. I thought about a trot and she followed me into it. Her head sweeping a little from side to side and her beautiful ears flicking back to me and swiveling to the sides to take it all in. Then her head lifted up, I asked her to soften back to me, she tried but something was up ahead I couldn’t see yet, we decided to walk and soon after, off in the distance we saw a pony and a cart with 4 people. “Oh great, Nora and my first ever solo trail ride and we run into a pony eating contraption.” Nora and I continued to approach, they were stopped and taking pictures. When we got close enough to say hello I told them it was our first solo ride and I was going to go to the right off the trail and get off just in case Nora needed me on the ground. They were so nice and said no problem and stayed where they were as I dismounted. Then as we walked closer we started talking. Nora and I stopped and we had a really nice conversation and discovered we knew each other and were neighbors. By the way, Nora never batted an eye at the pony and buggy and we continued our ride. I was smiling from ear to ear because Nora is pretty amazing. I was very proud of her and feeling pretty good about our partnership.

The prairie

We continued on and as the area opened up, Nora and I did too. I had a blast asking her to trot and canter. I’ve forgotten how great it feels to canter out in the open like that. No arena to fence us in. Cantering to get somewhere and enjoying the beauty around me without being fearful someone would fall off their horse was mind blowing for me. I could feel Nora’s feet with each stride, my body matching hers, her breath was my breath, her freedom was my freedom and we were two souls enjoying Gods gift of a beautiful earth. It’s been easy to forget the beauty in 2020 but today Nora and I not only got to see the beauty, but we got to feel it, smell it, and after our canter we got to taste it when we stopped for a snack. (Well, Nora got to taste it, she ate the grass, I had a protein bar)

We had more adventures this morning, we saw another pony and buggy, we saw two tiny humans in a buggy being pushed by their father, and we ran into two cowboys that stopped to make sure I was ok since I got off Nora so we could have our snack. The cowboys had some fun stories to tell me. I wish I would have snapped a picture of them. They reminded me of being in Oklahoma with Grandpa and Uncle Ed.

Our snack time.

All in all it was a great morning. Going solo allowed me to deepen my relationship with Nora, open my eyes to our beautiful earth, feel God holding me, and meet some really neat people.

I’m Home

As I finished up chores, my anticipation was growing. I felt nervous tickles in my stomach as I walked out to the pasture to get him. His rear was facing me as he was helping himself to the hay bale, I smiled as I saw his rump between Raji and Jethro who are the two large draft crosses here. He looks like a little boy hanging out with the big guys. I slowed my pace and took a deep breath, as I approached him I softened my hands and gently laid my right hand on his rump and slid it up to his shoulder as I approached his head, he turned his head towards me and I handed him a horse cookie which he gladly accepted. I took off his fly mask and slid the halter over his face. We walked up to the barn together, side by side and at peace with sharing each others space. He stopped at the tank for a long drink of water and we then headed on up to the barn and out to the trailer. He started to load right up next to me, but then stopped, put on the brakes and backed out. We had to work together a little bit but eventually he decided it was ok to be loaded up, Kim brought Sisco in and we headed out to the trails. The air conditioning is out in my truck and we have to travel with the windows down. It gives you a different perspective to travel with the windows down. You hear the noises of the road, the cars revving up their engines, the trucks whizzing by, how the trailer squeaks, how the truck squeaks, and the horses if they call out. You also notice the smells of the road, the way the wind is blowing, and how hot it feels when you stop. It makes me more mindful of what the horses are experiencing back there in the trailer. I find myself driving differently; more quiet, softer, and gentle in the way I guide the truck and trailer where I want to go. I find myself trying to make it as pleasant as possible for the horses back there. It’s so easy to forget what they are going through with the windows rolled up, stereo on, and the temperature constant and comfortable.

When we get to the trail head Buzz is very relaxed, he comes out and sniffs my hand to see if I have a treat. I can’t resist his request, and as I reach into the trailer to get the brushes to groom him I hand him a cookie. I love to groom him, he enjoys it when I scratch his neck and rub ointment on all the itchy places the gnats have been biting him. Saddling him up is a breeze and he takes the bit from my hand. I sit on the edge of the trailer while I wait for my trail buddies to get their horses ready. I drop my head down and Buzz brings his head to my face. We stay there in that quiet place and enjoy the moment. I feel his breath on my face and the softness of his muzzle as I reach up my hands to caress his face. He is such a horse of my heart and just being in his bubble makes my heart relax. It’s been hard to let things go lately. The United States sure doesn’t feel united anymore and Covid scares me so bad because of Danielle. My heart has felt like a dead weight and upside down with sorrow, fear, and worry. Buzz in this moment helps me feel openness, kindness, and unity.

I look up and everyone is ready, we all head to the mounting block, Buzz is right next to me and I feel his curiosity. We are riding with Sisco, a horse from his heard, and two mares, Viva and Gypsy, who live the in the other pasture. He is curious about them and interested. He also is connected to me in a way he hasn’t been before. I feel his questions through the reins as I lead him over to the mounting block. There is a small hesitation I feel through the bit and into my hands and it tickles the back of my mind. I’ve felt that before, the question before we do and I leave it there because now it’s now my turn to use the mounting block and time to head out with my friends. I settle onto his back and he stands to wait for me to get my right foot in the stirrup and my hands connected to him through the reins. He says hello to me and we move off, first Kim and Gypsy, then Kelli and Viva, then Buzz and me, and bringing up the rear is Kim and Sisco. We all start up a conversation on how beautiful the day is. In the background I’m talking to Buzz. It’s a rhythm, a feel, a sensation, a thought. I feel his question come through the reins again, touching me and then my response is “a bird, stay straight”, a rhythm, a feel, a cadence a walk. His ears flick back and forth, I feel his breath, his ribcage swings from side to side, I feel his legs under me, I feel the opening between his footsteps and ask him to move over within the rhythm of his walk. My body moves with him and I can feel each footstep likes it’s my own. I find myself sinking more into him, I feel safe, my heart opens more and the veil of unease that has settled around me starts to lift. I feel our rhythm but can also feel the world around me, I’m still having a conversation with my friends, but I see the butterfly and identify it as a monarch, I see the wildflowers and note the way the wind is blowing as they nod their heads. Our rhythm never changes, but he hesitates through his bit and I feel another question, “it’s a bird”, I say “keep going this way.” He follows my answer and we keep going. Then I feel something else, the safety I felt as a child when I rode Dunny. Tears well in my eyes, the little girl I was is with me again. My heart opens wide, it’s huge and tears well up in my eyes, and I feel safe and sure footed. My body doesn’t hurt, my arthritic knees don’t ache, I feel free and able to do anything. We keep going, Buzz and me, along with my dear friends. Buzz and I move to the front. I’m not talking much except to tell them how I’m feeling. My heart fills with so much gratitude I don’t know what to do with it. It’s beautiful out there on the trails, the beauty is so stunning I can’t describe it. Buzz is curious, strong, brave, and so willing. His rhythm doesn’t falter but he asks another question. I answer “I’ll make going down this hill easier for you”, as I shift my weight back and lighten my legs in the stirrup. It’s become second nature to talk to him through my mind and body and he responds every time. It comes to me in that moment, why this feels so familiar. It’s the way JJ and I were together. My heart swells again because it feels like he is there with us. My body moves so well with Buzz because it’s familiar. That strut JJ had never let me down and Buzz feels the same. Tears well up in my eyes, I’m glad I’m leading so the others don’t see it, because the tears feel good and I want to let them flow, but I do say out loud to them, “I feel like I am home.”


She told me he was coming with anticipation and joy written all over her face. “He’s from my camp, but I don’t think being a camp horse is for him.” She said as she asked me to board him here. Her joy was contagious and I looked forward to meeting him.

The trailer pulled up and I could hear him announcing his arrival with a loud neigh. He came off the trailer with his head and tail held high. A proud specimen of a horse. Regal in carriage and gentle in demeanor. A beautiful horse that looked wise and a little scared under all that pride. I looked at his girl and she was one big grin as she proudly led him to the round pen where he would stay until he was ready for the herd.

I watched the two of them as they developed their relationship. She spent hours at a time out here, just hanging out and learning what she could from him. They bonded quickly and a partnership developed that would teach them how to communicate with each other. She took lessons with him and learned how to teach a horse how to let go of the past and enjoy being with a human. They both learned how to breathe, she learned how to be in the moment and he learned that humans were kind.

Skipper and Krissa

I fell in love with him too. Maybe it was because he would ask me for help when he needed it, or maybe it was because he had beautiful eyes that reflected a spirit that was kind, or maybe it was just because he loved all the humans here. I’ll never know why, but that doesn’t matter. He was who he was and he showed love.

He loved her more than I can even describe. He knew when her car would pull into the driveway and he would be so excited to see her that I would hear his greeting even when I was in the house. I wish they had more time together but their story ended too soon.

Today she gave him the ultimate gift. The hardest gift she may ever have to give. She released him from his failing body and let him go. It was peaceful but certainly not easy. I saw the pain of grief overcome her, and felt the pain wash over me as I held her in my arms. He was not just a horse. He was her friend, he was our friend, and he was love. Goodbye sweet, sweet Skipper. We love you and we already miss you.

The Hush

Last Wednesday our governor issued a shelter at home edict for all activities that are non-essential. We all knew it was coming, but when the words were finally spoken, my heart began to race, and I knew I had to let my boarders know they couldn’t come out. How do I do such a thing, tell them they can’t see their trusted horses who are their companions and trusted friends? Hanging out with their horses gives them a sense of tranquility, of enjoying shared space with another being that is gracious and forgiving. The barn is the one place that feels uncontaminated by the virus that is attacking our world. But then again, the feeling of security is being yanked away from us because now the experts have determined the virus lives on pretty much everything that the infected person comes into contact with. And to make matters worse, an infected person doesn’t always feel sick as they spread the virus around like a wildfire. I feel like I’m in a sci-fi movie for the end of the earth. Anybody else?

Wednesday night was long. I agonized over how to let everyone know. I drafted several emails until I finally had one that spoke from my heart and pressed send and exhaled. The few responses I got were very kind and supportive. We had two days before the edict would go into effect. All the boarders came out to groom, ride, and love on their horses and say goodbye for the next two weeks while I hid in the house because in here my daughter is in the high risk category and I cannot risk carrying the virus to her. I know there were tears as they left and I understand. I would be crying too, it’s not just the saying goodbye to our horses for two weeks, I think a lot of it is because this is one more thing that this awful virus is taking away from us. Just one-more-thing……….

I’m alone now here at the barn. Saturday was my first day, and I could hardly get out there. I was so down and hurting for everyone that I had to call my mom. My poor mother, she answers the phone and I was already sobbing that I couldn’t do it. It felt like I was breaking so many hearts and I wasn’t ready. Of course being the woman she is, she got me turned around and I was able to pull myself together and head out to the barn. The geldings were up and ready for breakfast and I peeked into the pasture to see who was at the gate. It was Jethro, so I went into the barn and made up his breakfast and put it in the stall. I walked out and he was waiting for me, he gently put his head in the halter and quietly followed me to the stall where he immediately got to work on his meal. The next horse I wanted to bring in was Sisco, I thought about him, pictured him in my mind as I made up his breakfast, when I went to his pasture he was standing at the gate saying hello. The whole morning went like that. It felt like they knew something was happening and they chose to make it easier for me. There was no fighting at the gate, no rushing me to their stalls, and no kicking out at each other while in their stalls. There was quiet communication happening all the time and the hush went from feeling claustrophobic to feeling calm and gentle. I’m starting to appreciate the hush, to welcome it and the gentle, quiet communication from the herd. I hope we all get through to the other side of this pandemic and maybe also learn how to appreciate the hush and the quiet slowing down of our lives.


Today he’s quieter in the pasture, down the hill a bit and away from the gate when I go out to get him. He sees me coming and yawns, I lift the halter and lead rope up and slip the halter over his face. He is quieter than yesterday but still not totally relaxed. He walks behind me, giving me more space, I like that. It doesn’t feel like he’s going to run over me or clip my heels.

We go through the barn door and I feel his anxiety go up and he crowds me. I step away and gently send him in a circle until he is behind me and I walk on with him at a comfortable distance away. We go into the arena and I unclip his lead rope. He stands a minute then steps over to me, again he crowds me. It feels like he wants reassurance, but I want him to feel comfortable enough in his own space. I walk away and he snorts at the hula hoop as we pass, I circle it with him right on my heels, his head is so close I feel his breath, I quietly change direction and circle the other way, he quiets a bit in the circle and I feel him slow down enough to give me space.

Relaxed and curious

We walk on, he in his own space, me in mine. I like it this way, it feels like we are two friends enjoying each other’s company. Not like I’m protecting him or consoling him, but like we are just walking together and experiencing the same things. We circle around the barrels, then around the hula hoops and mounting blocks. There are times he snorts and scoots into my space, and other times he stays in his space and we move together without the need to reassure each other.

He drops his head and walks away from me, he is curious about the smells in the sand and he notices the dogs. He becomes curious about Gunner and they actually sniff each other. He then walks away, he steps into his own space and explores the sand, the barrels next to him, and then takes in a deep breath. A horse in the barn bangs his bucket which startles him again, his eyes widen, his head pops up, and he comes into my space. I back away from him a little and he stops. He looks at me, I see the worry in his eyes and body and I quietly say his name, I open my heart and send out support, my heart whispers “I’m here, I won’t leave you, I will protect you. We are ok”. I ask to come into his space. I allow my energy to come into my hands and ask if he wants energy work. His eyes blink, and he visibly relaxed. I come into his space, my hands are warm with energy, I feel them heating up and am amazed at how God does this through me as I barely touch his hair and run my hands along his body. He starts to blink and it’s slow, his eyes lose their anxious look and his head comes down. He works his mouth a bit and I think he is going to yawn, but he doesn’t, he moves away instead and I step away as well. He leaves my space again and explores the area around us. I step over and away from him. I walk towards the other end of the arena. I hear him follow but he’s not so close that it feels like his trying to jump in my skin. I step sideways and circle back around him. He circles as well, his head drops and he makes a tighter circle. His nose is touching the ground and he is sniffing the sand. His legs buckle and he lays down and rolls.

I smile at him and my heart says, “good job little man, you’re doing it. You’re going to be okay, I love you and I am thankful for you”. He stands up from his roll and shakes like a big dog. He looks over at me and I know what he wants, it’s very clear. If he was a person he would say, “I’m hungry, where is my breakfast?”. He makes me laugh and I head out of the arena and get his meal.

I feed Buzz and turn him out. I know his journey back from his fear isn’t over, there will be days of healing and days it doesn’t feel as good, but he is on his way. I just know it.


My little buddy has become fearful, it’s hard to not feel responsible….. what happened?

He has become afraid. I feel it when I put his halter on, when I lead him to the barn, and even when I feed him his morning supplements. He feels like a coiled spring as I lead him into the barn, if I stop he runs into me because he walks so close. I ask him to back up, but he scoots right up next to me as I continue our walk into the barn. He even will keep walking and knock me into the gate if I don’t stay aware of where he is at all times. If I ask him to back off with too much energy he dances around and snorts. He is ready to explode.

I’m not sure where this fear, or anxiety is coming from. Is it because I was using him in lessons and at times his students react with fear when he moves too fast? Did something happen in the pasture? Was it the time I picked up the hula hoop and he jumped back in fear as I rolled it away? I guess it doesn’t really matter what started the fear, I just need to find a way to help him.

Yesterday I led him into the barn and he literally felt like a pot ready to boil over. I lead him into the stall for his feed and he lost it. He pawed the stall door, reared up, and then I knew. He needs me now, this cannot wait until it gets warmer. It is time to help him get to the bottom of this fear. I walked him out to his pasture again to give him some time to settle down, and allow me to work on the morning chores a little bit. I talk to Joanie and Kristin and let them know I can’t let it go anymore and need to work with him and they agree to finish up chores.

I enter the pasture again, and see him there. There is confusion in his eyes, and fear. He is on high alert. His body is rigid, he is holding his breath, and his head is as high as he can get it. I slow my pace down, slow my breathing down, and approach him quietly and allow him to hear my breath enter and leave my body in a regular rhythm. He blinks a little and his head comes down just enough for me to slip the halter on his face. We walk to the barn, and he is almost on top of me, and is snorting with every breath. I feel the anxiety rolling off of him and my heart beat accelerates to match his. Poor little man, I think as I try to control my heartrate and breathe as deep as I can, hoping his heartrate and breathing syncs to mine. I turn him loose in the indoor and he takes off. He is scared. The barrels are set up in a pattern we were using for lessons, the hula hoops are out as well with some ground poles and the mounting block. He appears to be afraid of it all. He gallops a few laps, then slows to a trot. He still is blowing and his head is held high. I leave him in there for a bit, just to see if he can work things out on his own, and I return to doing chores. He can’t settle though and he comes to the fence with his eyes opened wide and presses against the gate. I need to help him, so I slip in the arena with him. I figure he needs to move his feet to release some of the tension that is built up in his body. I can see the energy bottled up in him, the tension can be felt from across the arena. In my mind Mark Rashid’s words come to me about resetting the horse, get them to canter until they start breathing, then they shake like a big dog, and release all the tension, and reset their nervous system. But, I am afraid to attempt that. The temps are in the teens and will be falling to below zero by nightfall. I don’t want him to get overheated when it’s so cold, I will never get him dry enough to be turned out. So I decide to try my own experiment.

It seems as though he does need to move, so I twirl the lead rope a little bit and he takes off like a rocket, tail pumping up and down, head up, nostrils flaring, and snorting. His legs move like pistons and his hooves dig deep into the sand. They are moving so fast he kicks sand up against the arena which makes a racket, and scares him a little more. After a couple laps he slows to the trot, still snorting, still swinging his head one way and the other as it’s lifted as high as he can get it. He glances at me and I step away from him. He slows his trot a bit more and his head comes down, I step further away from him, giving him space to release a little more, and he does. His head comes down, even with his withers and he licks his lips a bit. I step away a little more and then to the side to change his direction. He turns around and trots off, but he notices the hula hoop on the ground, he snorts and veers towards me at the other end of the arena. I quietly move my body and direct him back the other way again. He moves toward the hula hoop, sees it and veers at me again, I use my body position to direct him back the other way again. We do this a few more times and then I decide to try to ask him to weave through the barrels. I look where I want him to go, feel back towards him and ask him to move through the barrels by feeling him already going through them.

He starts to follow my thoughts………..

He follows my thoughts and does as I ask. I see out of the corner of my eye his head lower and some relaxation in his body. I begin to feel everything I want him to do, and he does it. We weave through the barrels, circle around, weave back, circle again, go towards the hula hoops, circle back. I step over to him, and physically become his leader, he starts to follow me, we circle around the barrels one way, circle back. There are times he slows down and sniffs the barrels, I stop with him and breathe. We move off again, circle the hula hoops, and then back to the barrels, then around, and around again. I lead him back to the hula hoops, we circle them. I’m noticing as we circle them he starts to relax, there is licking of his lips and a few times he chews. I walk in more circles and he relaxes a bit more. He reaches out and sniffs the hula hoops, he sniffs the mounting block and I feel calmness in him. It’s a good feeling and I smile. I walk to him and ask if he wants me to run his energy. He allows me to reach my hand up to the base of his ear and I start running his bladder meridian. He likes it and accepts my energy. His head lowers almost to the ground, as I reach his hocks he yawns and releases. I feel his calmness and my heart relaxes. I leave him there and get his supplements and he eats in peace.

He’s curious now……
He is going to be okay…..

He was nervous again this morning. I know this will take time, and every morning I will probably have dance with him. That’s what it started to feel like yesterday. A dance that weaves us through the places of anxiety. We feel the nervousness come up and do a circle around it. It doesn’t feel so scary when you can walk around the anxiety. The circles seems to unwind the fear, and make it smaller.

I think he will roll…….

Buzz seems to like the circles, I do as well. They calm us, and help us redirect our thoughts, the circles feel loose, round, and soft. They ease us away from the straight lines and hard corners of our fears. Today Buzz and I weaved and circled again.

He didn’t want energy work, but today he rolled. He felt comfortable enough to roll, in the arena, among the barrels, with a hula hoops as our witness. You see, I don’t think it was the hula hoops, the barrels, or the mounting block. I think it was in him, something happened that made him afraid and he put that fear onto something he could see, touch, and circle. I think he is on his way to losing the fear, and I hope I can help him by staying open and letting me see what he needs. I look forward to tomorrow to see what he will show me, and I am honored he is allowing me to help him round up his fears and let them go.

A new journey

She’s waking up and becoming who she truly is…….

I approached her, she seemed open but unsure. She was moving at the end of her rope, turning, twisting, stepping, then moving over and doing it again from the other side. She tossed her head. I approached her and she sighed and relaxed, but her energy was humming. A totally different energy than what she’s had before. I’ve noticed she seems more energetic, open, curious, and well…. she seems more alive. At this point I have some feeling of guilt,. For you see, she’s been my horse on and off for the past 10 years. Nora has been one of the cornerstone horses in my lesson program. You probably have met her type, she’s the horse I can put anyone on, she’s steady, prefers to stop over going, the one that allows the beginners some leeway, and for that more advanced rider, she cuts them no slack. I’ve seen her reduce students to tears of frustration and lift them up until they have tears of elation. I tried to sell my Nora girl, but it didn’t work out. She made it clear she didn’t want to leave and I thank God that Katie was sensitive enough to realize that and open my eyes to what Nora was feeling.

So now, she’s mine. She’s all mine, no one else’s. I’ve found that I’m selfish where she is concerned. I dream of her, I can close my eyes right here at my desk and feel her soft coat, see her eyes, smell her wonderful horse smell, and feel my love for her open my heart in gratitude for all she’s given me. She’s taught me how to teach, she’s given me Sassy, and she’s given me her bubbles. But today, today she gave me another a gift. The gift of seeing her become something new. She is open to herself, I saw her exploring the sensation of being tied up, the movement back and forth, the testing of the boundries. In the barn she responded to grooming like a colt would. She startled at first, then trusted me enough to settle down, but then pushed on my boundries to see where they were. There was an opening in her I never felt before, it was as though she was enjoying just learning. I know I’m making her seem human, but that’s how it felt. It made me a little giddy, but then as I realized my student wasn’t going to ride and I didn’t have to teach, I found myself feeling a little lost. It’s been so long since its been just me and my horse, I was unsure what to do. I looked at Nora, she looked at me, and I swear a bubble of anxiety came up in both of us. What do we do? How do we be human and horse together without teaching? Then a lightness came in, I felt like that little horse crazy girl again. I untied her and walked into the arena. She literally was dancing besides me! Nora! Dancing, I’ve never felt her light like this before, on her toes with a sparkle in her eye. Where was the calm, quiet, shut down horse I was used to seeing? I turned to Kim and Kristin who were watching me and I said “She’s so open!” We went into the arena together, side by side, her dancing on her toes and me, trying to dance with her. I found myself trotting next to her, weaving between the barrels set up in the arena as laughter bubbled up inside of me. I had to slow down and she continued to dance around me until I caught my breath enough to do it again. We danced together, Nora and I. I had tears of joy on my face and she had joy in her heart. As I turned her out with her herd, she turned to me, dipped her muzzle down to my hand to say goodbye then she danced off to her herd. I can’t wait to see who we both become as we go onto this next journey together.

Setting Her Free

She was born 10 years ago, just 10 short years ago.  She had what would be called an amazing pedigree, but I’m not so sure.  She had Bey El Bey and Huckleberry Bey in her lines, but she also had Affirmed, Magnum Psyche, and Padron there too.  I’m not sure, did her breeding cause her to have demons, or was it just who she was?

One of the most beautiful horses I’ve ever met.

I met Tefah when she was a year old, she took my breath away with her perfection and her beauty.  I mean, right?  She was bred to take your breath away.  Her lines spoke of beauty in the halter world, that’s what her grandsire and great grandsire were bred to do, just be pretty and be dammed about how they felt on the inside.  They are stallions bred to be afraid in the show ring because that’s what the people in the audience want.  Right?  Bring them in, terrify them and call their terror beauty because it makes them run for their lives in fear with their tail flagged, high stepping, and head held high in the air as they look for a way out.  Cool Huh?

Do I sound angry, you bet I am.  I bought Tefah when she was just a year old, she had started training as a halter horse.  She was beautiful, but terrified.  My first glimpse of her was seeing her rear up over the stall door over and over again.  She was just a baby, and she was scared.  Couldn’t anyone see that?   She touched my heart and I bought her right there. 

When we got her home, I put her in the round pen where she ran lap after lap.  Head up in the air, nostrils flared, and scared, so scared, the audience would love that, wouldn’t they?   It took me several days of sitting with her to get her to trust me enough to come to me and be haltered.  Once she realized I wasn’t going to scare her, she relaxed a bit and I turned her out and she was quickly integrated into the herd.   JJ accepted her almost right away and took her under his wing to join Sassy who became her friend and big sister.  Sassy was 2 at the time and I enjoyed watching them playing together.  I dreamed of the day that I would ride them, they would be “my girls” and we would explore the world together. 

I noticed a few differences between my girls though. Tefah worried about a lot of things.  She was afraid of changes on the ground, lead ropes, of being tied.  One day she would be fine, the next day something would trigger her, and she would pull back and flip over.  We quit tying her up when we brought her in, but she continued to pull and scramble back if I put her anywhere other than the end of the barn by the back door. 

At the age of two I started her under saddle training.  But she didn’t respond well.  One day she would lunge beautifully, the next day she would lose her mind and rear, snort, and generally be afraid of anything on the ground.  A puddle, or a wet spot in the arena would set her off, a shadow or a ground pole would guarantee a backward rush, head shaking, snorting and trembling.  So, I kicked her back out into the herd to let her just be for another year.  When she was 3, I started her again, with the same results.  Yes, there were days, and sometimes weeks where she went along with the training, I could see her intelligence and her desire to learn and be with me, but other times she was terrified.  Her energy would shoot out in all directions at once.  She couldn’t walk forward under saddle or while ground driving without feeling like she would explode.  Once again, I stopped and turned her out.  This process was repeated again when she was 4,5,6,7, and 8.  There were times her training progressed, and we did well together.  On those days I wasn’t sure where I ended, and she began.  Reins and leg aides weren’t even needed, and we would end those rides with smiles in our hearts.  I just couldn’t believe how easily she connected with me.  But other times the demon would come, I don’t know how to describe what would happen to her other than it was like seeing something become possessed.  Her eyes would open to their widest point, her breath would whistle, her body would tremble, and she really did not seem to know who she was, what she was doing, or where she was.  I’ve seen her take off in terror and run blindly over chairs, the mounting block, and anything in her path, stopping only when blood was streaming from her nostrils and from the cuts on her legs from running over things.  I thought what is this?  What am I doing wrong?  I called in people to help me.  Chiropractors, other trainers, veterinarians, body workers, more chiropractors, cranial sacral workers, animal communicators, and sent her off for training.  I’ve given her supplements, herbs, and essential oils.  I tried magnesium to help her brain, I had a saddle built for her just in case it was the saddles fault. I knew this was more than a trust thing.  I was losing her; I was seeing less of my “baby girl” and more of the demons.  I sent her to a dear friend to see if she could find a way to her.  But the demons followed Tefah there, she attacked the other horses, pulled back when she was tied, and she struggled.  My friend did make progress, and after two months I came to ride her and bring her home.  Under saddle she seemed calmer, my friend had explained things to her better than I had and it felt like she was more available, but I could still feel the demon lurking and I have to tell you, I was afraid it was still there.  We had a 6-hour drive to bring her home, and hour into the drive Tefah lost her mind.  The trailer started bucking, jumping, and swaying from side to side.  I’ve never felt anything like that.  I found a country road and we pulled off.  Joanie was with me and we looked inside.  Tefah was standing there with terror filled eyes, kicking over and over again.  And she was kicking hard.  We talked to her; it didn’t help.  There terror wouldn’t leave.  I walked to the back of the trailer and touched the door, she kicked it so hard she bruised my hand.  I looked over at Joanie and said, “we can’t open the door, we can’t help her!”.  I didn’t know what to do, the blood had started to fly from cuts in her legs, but if I opened the door I was afraid she would run us over and run herself to death, or into traffic where she would die and possibly kill others.  So, Joanie and I jumped into the truck and just started driving.  Tefah kicked like that for an hour, when she finally stopped, we pulled over at a gas station to see her.  Blood was splattered all over the interior of the trailer.  The trailer was dented in several places.  Her lead rope was hanging, the partition was now on the floor and her hay net was under it.  We checked the wounds on her legs and were thankful they had quit bleeding.  She was exhausted and standing quietly.  I called Anoka Equine and the vet on call agreed we shouldn’t try to open the door or take her out, just get home and she would meet us at the farm.  We pulled into the driveway under the cover of darkness.  Everything seemed dark, including me, Tefah, and the night.  The sadness was overwhelming, along with terrible guilt, and doubt.  We had to use a crowbar to open the trailer door, the interior of the trailer looked like a murder scene, and Tefah looked exhausted, weak, scared, and helpless.  The vet did a wonderful job stitching her up and Tefah’s wound healed, but both her heart and mine were left bleeding.

As she healed physically, I spent more time with her.  When she was up to it, I started working with her, but I knew I would never ride her again.  I tried to connect with her, to feel what she was feeling, but she locked me out.   It felt like her brain was deteriorating and I couldn’t stop it.  Was her brain deformed?  Was her brain damaged because of head injuries related to her terror?  Was it because of her halter bloodlines?  I just didn’t know, and I probably will never know.  

I’ve noticed Tefah isn’t there anymore, she doesn’t relax, her eyes don’t soften, and she holds her breath.  The other horses must notice it because they have sent her out of the herd.  She’s lonely out there, alone and afraid.  I talked to my vet and discussed what has been happening to her, the two of us agreed we should set her free. 

Yesterday, we did let her go.  It was one of the most painful things I have ever done.  As she left this world, I felt her anguish, she never has let me feel that and it overwhelmed me.  I fell to my knees at her side and let the anguish was over me, then there was a feeling of peace.  When I felt her beautiful soul leave this world, I was able to lay next to her and hug her like I’ve always wanted to, and I felt her peace.  Rest well my baby girl.  I wish I had been stronger than your demons, but I wasn’t and I’m sorry.  You will always be in my heart and thank you for that last hug and for finally letting me feel your pain.  I’m sorry you felt like you had to hide that from me.  I would have let you go sooner if I had known.  I know you were a good, good horse and I hope you feel healed and free as you run with JJ.  I just know the two of you are together.  I can’t wait to see you, and to hug you again someday.  I love you baby girl.  I always will carry you in my heart.

Follow Your Heart

It’s time to sell my partners, my friends, my lesson horses. Those of you that know me know that I’m not good at this. Its easy for me to buy a horse, but the idea of selling them makes my stomach roll.

I have Chance for sale, he is our sweet, gentle, beautiful, young, little Morgan gelding. He loves me, I feel it every time I’m with him, and he has only been here a year. He settles the front pasture, they follow him and he leads with gentle assurance. I restarted him under saddle and as he learned he became soft and relaxed. He came here so wound up he jumped over the mounting block the first time he saw it! He’s young, this little guy, but so eager to learn. He loves people and will spend the whole day with us in the barn if we let him. I have never been around a horse that likes to snuggle like he does. He has given us his whole heart and his trust and I never want to let that go.

Cherry, our patient teacher

Then there is Cherry, our teacher, she’s our middle aged girl, she has taught more people than I can count, and I trust her with both my smallest riders and my more advanced riders. She’s my go to horse in all things. When people come to visit they ride Cherry, she’s patient, she’s sweet, and she is gentle. Cherry has taught me how to listen, to pay attention to the little things so I can keep her comfortable when her navicular issues come up. I’ve learned that horses know their bodies best and listening to them is a great way to help them heal because of Cherry. She’s a healer horse, the one that will come up to you in the pasture when you don’t feel good and stand with you. She talks to me easily and is easy to understand. She’s matter of fact and she’s dependable. She’s that horse that you say is worth her weight in gold. That horse that’s been there done that and is ok with teaching humans how to do it all.

Nora, our “Bubbles”

And finally, there is Nora. Wow, Nora- I can’t believe I’m selling Nora. She has done so many things with me, and for me. My heart has named her “Bubbles”, because that’s what I feel when I ride her. She is my Sassy’s mother, she’s the herds mom figure, she is totally trustworthy and she will teach anyone I ask her to. She’s a tough teacher, once she knows you can do something, she won’t accept you backsliding. She hold advanced students to a higher level and allows the beginners to make mistakes. She has been my rock in times of crisis, I have cried into her mane probably as much as I have into JJ’s. I ride her without reins, feel the wind on my face, and she gives me wings. With Nora I feel like I can fly. She’s MY teacher.

So it’s time to say goodbye to three parts of my heart. My softie, my friend, and my shoulder to cry on. When I look at the situation logically I think I should sell Chance to someone off property, that makes sense right? Since he was only here a year and could be okay out there with people that aren’t in our little bubble. Then, Joanie can buy Cherry, they can take care of each other, and finally I found someone who is willing to learn the way we are with the horses to buy Nora and she can teach them our unusual ways! so it’s all set…. right? Wrong……..

Cherry and Joanie started arguing a little, the person coming out to see Chance couldn’t decide if she liked him or not. But Nora and Katie are getting along. In the meantime I keep telling Joanie I wish Chance could stay here. It’s hurting my heart to think of him leaving. Especially since when he first got here he was so anxious. It all feels wrong (except Katie and Nora). Then, right in the middle of everything Brandi goes downhill fast and we have to let her go. Now, we have another wrench in the plan since Brandi was going to live with Amity, who is a current student. Brandi’s job was to teach Amity how to own a horse. Did I mention that Joanie really loves Chance? Oh, I may have left that out……

I love the smile on Joanie’s face.

This whole journey of rehoming my horses feels like an uphill battle. My heart feels too quiet and heavy, I’ve lost the desire to ride, I’m agitated and can’t stop my worry. Looking at my horses makes me feel sad and unsettled, then one day my heart wakes up and I notice how Joanie and Cherry are arguing about teaching each other. Neither one needs to be the student and it is not working out to have two teachers own each other. I see Joanie take Chance out after morning chores, and how they lean towards each other. My heart swells up and I feel their love. Light bulbs go off in my head! Joanie helped me train Chance, he trusts her as much as he trusts me. I blurt out, “Joanie you love Chance!” She knows that, it’s not news to her. I’m sure she is thinking “duh!” and she probably rolled her eyes a little bit. I say maybe I made a mistake in thinking Chance was too young. He loves you and he needs a teacher. We talk and decide she will call me or text me after she thinks it over. Well not too far into the evening she texts me that she will take a chance on Chance.

The next day I see Amity and ask her if she would like Cherry. Her face lights up and she gets up out of her chair with a huge smile on her face! She says Yes! and gives me a big hug. My heart opens up even more. It feels so right and easy. Why did I shut my heart down in this situation?

I almost made a huge mistake by forcing my heart to be quiet and to only be logical in who should buy my horses. The heart factor is very important and I almost cut it out! You should see Joanie and Chance, they are enjoying each other and Joanie is teaching him like the pro that she is. Cherry is in heaven, she’s teaching Amity and enjoying only having one rider who is mindful and eager to learn. Amity had been dreaming about Cherry before I had ever said anything about Cherry to her! And Nora lets talk about Nora! She showed Katie her bubbles the other day and Katie felt them! Her face lit up and I wish I had taken a picture, the look on her face took my breath away. I even saw Katie drop her reins and just ride Nora with feel. It’s amazing how much our heart knows, and maybe we should take the time to listen to what it is saying. I know I will be moving forward with a lighter heart that knows my horses are with the best owners they could have. And now it’s time to enjoy my Sassy girl, she’s waiting for me.

Time to say Goodbye….

This morning I woke up and my heart felt heavy and at first I couldn’t remember why. But then it hit me. Today I was going to say goodbye to one of my friends, my co-teacher, my horse. Today is the day I set up with our vet to let her go. The pain in her eyes, in her hips, and the tightness in her muscles was becoming constant and her soul whispers to me, “please let me go, it’s time for my rest.” At first I fight her whispers, I turn away and try not to see, but she’s determined to show me and her whispers seem louder. I pick up her lead rope and the exhaustion from her washes over me in waves, I can barely lead her into the barn because it’s overwhelming me. I feel tears trickle down my face as my heart answers her and it says “Okay, I will call, I will let you go.” I stand with her for a moment, dry my tears and contact her vet. He agrees with me and we set up her appointment. I tell her two more nighttimes, then we will let you go. She looks at me and continues to eat her breakfast. She knows I will do this for her.

So this morning the two night times are over. I look up, and check my watch, it’s 9:30, chores are almost done, the horses have been fed and now it’s time.

I walk to the wall of halters and pick one that fits her the best. This is the hardest part for me, the last walk to the pasture to get her. I feel the inside of me shaking, I don’t want to do this, but she asked me to, and I know I can’t deny her this. I see her at the edge of the herd, I walk to her and gently buckle the halter on her head. We stand there a moment, and just share space. We feel the sun, it’s so warm and it feels good to just stand there with her. She sighs, I turn and lead her towards the barn. Just before the gate, she stops, there is a moment of panic from her. I didn’t expect that. We stop, I stand there and whisper, “I love you.” She relaxes and walks with me to the barn. We groom her there in the barn, scratch her in all her itchy places, she makes her camel face as we scratch her belly and for a moment I smile.

Kate braids her mane and we give her handful of horse treats. I then gently lead her to the trailer. She sends out a little nicker, looks around, then walks into the trailer with me. I gently close the door and on legs that are still shaking I get into the truck, start it up, and ease down the drive. I’m glad my mom and Kristin are with me. I feel so shaky on the inside and I don’t really want to do this. My mind screams stop, but my heart says keep going.

We get to the clinic and walk her back to the place we will let her go. It’s still beautiful weather, the sun is shining and she is with people who love her. She knows she was loved, and loved well. Our vet comes out and gives her a shot of something to help her relax and we walk her to the back of the clinic where she will rest. Our vet gives her the final sedation and she lays down and nickers as she leaves us. I will miss her gentle nicker, her eagerness to eat, and her way of teaching our students. She was a good, good horse, our Brandi Girl. I hope someday to see her running with our herd, with no pain, a healthy glow, no limp, and clear eyes that don’t hurt anymore. Run free dear Brandi. Run Free. You were a great teacher, partner, and friend.