Category Archives: Expect the Unexpected

Confession Number Fifteen: My Final Confession

 

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An unexpected epiphany:

I am no longer The Novice Horsewoman.  Make no mistake, I am still very much a beginner with horses….but no longer a novice.

The past two and a half years have scorched and refined my very soul both in life and with horses.  Now, I take ownership of all I have learned and move on to the next steps in my horsey adventures. 🙂

The best horse people I’ve encountered, even those with decades of experience and expertise, are the first to tell me how they have SO much more to learn about horses.

Thus, I take on the mantle of “beginner” with humility.  It is already amazing to me to be at this point.

When my journey began in January of 2014, I started at “square one”, not knowing how horses were fed, watered, groomed, bathed, haltered, led by a lead rope or even how picking stalls/mucking was done.  It was somewhat like a child in pre-school 🙂

I devoured every bit of knowledge…then as now.

Plus, God saw fit to give me a “crash course in everything horse” The “course ” started when a few weeks after meeting and leasing the glorious mare, Serenity, she sustained a severe wound that required daily care and attention.  Her wonderful human, a single mom, was working three jobs, juggling them with the needs of a five year old son

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My first horse kiss😊

So, novice though I was, I took over Serenity’s daily care and learned “on the job”.

Serenity was a marvelous teacher….as was her vet, who, when the time came, gave me the task (and honor) of removing Serenity’s last bandage all alone and all by myself.

Those days with Serenity, quietly hanging out with her during her stall rest, grooming her, massaging her, administering her meds, hand grazing and hand walking her, are forever in my memory as some of the sweetest days I’d ever experienced.

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The glorious mare, Serenity, and I share precious moments❤️

Then, for a time, Serenity was “lost” to me.

So I turned once again to a dream of horse rescue; but wiser heads prevailed, and I was introduced to my incorrigible gelding, Spirit.  Had the “wiser heads” been more forthcoming, they would NEVER have recommended that a greenhorn like myself, take on a three year old gelding…. and an Appaloosa at that!

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Appys can be looney-toons sometimes! 🙂

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Mr. Big Boy Pants!

But, again, God had His plans.  I was thrown, feet first, into the waters of dealing with a brilliant, humorous, virtually untrained, greener-than-green little boy horse.  The learning process with my beloved boy is still underway in ever-changing  high gear…but dealing with a virtual baby, while knowing nothing, advanced my novice-hood at lightning speeds.

And yes, green on green DOES equal black and blue (as experienced horse folk are fond of saying) Yet, my noble-hearted little Appy never once let me fall off of him, even in the midst of his worst bolting off at a full out run, with me on his back!

My black and blues were mostly broken pinky toes and nipped-arm bruises.  Nothing a little Arnica and ice couldn’t take care of 🙂

At practically the same time as Spirit came into my life, the beautiful and wondrous mare, Baby Doe, found her way to me as well. Who could have guessed that this exquisitely bred horse, who, nonetheless turned out to be unusable for the designs traders and trainers had on her, would ever be mine?

Yet again,the hand of God, weaving His enigmatic web, allowed me to honor her whispered plea to me, “Please, I don’t WANT to be a show horse.”

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Horse whispers to human…

Through my time with her I’ve learned massive amounts about colic, navicular disease and horsey “boos boos” (both small and humongous) that seemed to appear on her fragile being on a WAY too regular basis.

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Colic never gets easier…

 

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Baby Doe’s boo boo from last October is STILL in the process of healing…

During this time I learned to manage a barn with all the trials and errors that my barn buddy, Phyllis, and I encountered, as life gave us the opportunity to be solely responsible for the barn, our horses and others’ boarded horses for many months.

I also learned about the various quirky folk one encounters in the horse world…and, eventually, how to deal with them.  This process is still ongoing.  I thought I had encountered, shall we say, “unique” individuals during my opera career, but the horse world matches the high level of “uniqueness” quirk by quirk 🙂

Ultimately, I found my beloved Wyoming ranch and was filled with joy, trepidation and overwhelm as I moved my horses across country to a completely different climate, lifestyle and horse knowledge.

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My glorious Wyoming!

Shortly after arriving in Wyoming, beyond all hope, Serenity’s human asked me to take Serenity to be mine!

Serenity joined us in Wyoming…on my birthday!

Then there were Three…:)

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Through events beyond my control, I was left completely alone on my 80 acres of ranch to care for my Three Beloveds, with some help from local young people.

My “crash course in horse” escalated to an entirely new level.  A level that was light years beyond what I had yet experienced.  I also experienced an aloneness in the vastness of the Wyoming landscape that shook me to my roots.

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We Three Horses From Florida Are…. Brrrr…..

My Three became my only teachers during that time. (As well as did my darling cats) And, oh, how they taught!

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During all this, my beloved cat, Hercules, was dying of lymphoma. He taught me how to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances…

I also learned that, no matter what I may want or plan, God usually has other ideas, and I was once again humbled and brought to my knees as I came to the realization that I, alone, could not give my horses what they, at that time, desperately needed.

So we packed up and moved temporarily back to Florida.

Florida: where Baby Doe’s navicular pain (sometimes agonizing pain) could be more aggressively managed, where the mystery of Serenity’s lameness could be solved and where my boy, Spirit, could have uninterrupted and necessary ongoing training with a kind and very knowledgeable trainer.

And, much to my surprise, during this time in Florida, the calling that had come to me almost four years ago began to crystallize into shapes that I had only glimpsed at previously.

So, as I end this stage of my horse education, I will travel back and forth to Wyoming and keep developing my land and honoring my stewardship of it.  The Three will stay in Florida until next Spring.

I will, openly and humbly, learn more about and practice the special gifts of energy work horse healing and communication that I had previously suspected were mine, but that are now being called into usage.

The Novice Horsewoman may just show up in book form in the future.  The “Beginner Horse Woman” may indeed start sharing this next part of the journey upon which she is NOW embarking with open heart and gratitude…

A wonderful author, in helping me conceive of an ending to a potential “Novice Horsewoman” book, gave me the idea of passing the novice torch onto another novice horsewoman, when my own novice-hood came to an end.

But now I see that, actually, I will be passing on this torch to YOU who are Courageous, YOU who are willing to Learn,  who are willing to Fail as well as Succeed, who are willing to let yourselves look like Fools and…. those of you who are willing to have your Hearts broken….freeing  them to soar to unimaginable heights!

Yes, to you, Brave Ones, I pass this torch!

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Blessed Wyoming!

Confession Number Nine: Wyoming…Finally!

Wyoming Fall and Winter.JPG6An Unexpected Horse and An Unexpected Solitude:

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride!!! Glorious Wyoming, and the joy my horses are experiencing here, are the overriding impressions of almost three months of being in the sweet, grassy. soft, silent, prairie part of Wheatland, WY!!

Only now, given that the much-very- gloomily-predicted-by-locals Wyoming Winds are blowing, seemingly at gale force 😦 , silence is a precious commodity.

So much happened so very quickly upon arrival.  It is somewhat of a blur.

Two things stand out though.

About a week after I arrived, before all the horses got here, I received a message from the glorious mare Serenity’s human.  She, after much struggle, had realized that she needed to let Serenity go.  She explained that she needed to spend time with her son, her work and the cost and time of keeping a horse were getting way beyond her means.  She wondered if I would take her here in Wyoming.  Would I?????  We spoke at length and she convinced me this was what she truly wanted. Four days later, the glorious Serenity arrived here in Wyoming…

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Serenity arrives via Brook Ledge Horse Transport late on October 6!

…On the night of my birthday, October 6 🙂

I am still trying to fathom that after all the love I thought I’d lost and  the grieving I’d experienced, missing that little red mare so very much….she is here with ME.  She is mine!

I am inviting her human and her human’s son come visit her AND me in January.   I plan to continue to get them out here as much as possible.

For the past year or more, Serenity was virtually stall-bound with very little turn out, grazing or even being ridden.  When she first arrived here, she melded almost immediately into my little herd.  She ran for the sheer freedom and joy of it…

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Serenity runs for JOY!.

…and then huddled back in her stall. Which she did often.  I leave the stalls open for all the horses,except at grain time 🙂 so they can go in and out at will.  She chose mostly “in”.

Now, at the two month point, she chooses mostly “out” and grazes, wanders and runs.

Her mane and tail, which had almost been lost, due to stress, are growing back in.  Her eye is softening, losing the white sclera look of anxiety a horse can exhibit. I can “see” the smile on her face when she’s being brushed.

And when her breakfast and dinner are being served, she lifts up her sweet left front leg, curling it under her in excitement as she nickers for faster service! 🙂

This beautiful, kind mare who taught me how to be an improving human two years ago (See my second post on this site, Three Essential Lessons On How To Be An Improving Human; Taught To Me By Serenity, The Horse) is now having the horsey time of her life.

I am honored and privileged to provide it for her.

Enter the next piece of the story, the unexpected solitude.  Due to a series of events too difficult to speak of here, I’ve ended up in the “middle of somewhere” on eighty acres of ranch, alone with three horses and two cats!

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Spirit and Baby Doe “high tail” it to the pasture

I’ve had to re-organize my priorities, my thoughts and my direction.  It’s funny how life prepares one for the future, when one has NO IDEA what that future will bring!  The Third Confession on this site, Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns, tells the story of how I received a crash course in barn management with my barn buddy, Felice.  It tells of all our “I Love Lucy” moments, our mistakes and our triumphs.  Thank Goodness!

Because here I am, managing a barn, all by myself.  Somehow I just know what to do and how to organize it.  Those previous months truly paid off!

I have also been blessed beyond belief with a network of support that appeared almost immediately after I found myself alone here.  I now have a young woman ranch-handing for me, a young man (the son of my hay guy) as backup hand, a lovely woman who manages a lot of my household things like cleaning, a retired sheriff/contractor who has built my fences, my round pen, has hired others to build my pole barn and level my arena and good neighbors who stop by and check in with me, just to see if they can be of help.

They have been. Even if just to give sound advice on winter feeding and blanketing of Florida horses in their first Wyoming winter!

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Not even the “bleak mid-winter” yet 😦

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Someone LOVES rolling in the snow!

I am also blessed with a knowledgeable, kind vet and a wonderful farrier!  Every horse person knows just how precious those two roles are.  Now if I can just find the right horsey dentist…:)

I have supportive friends who call, text regularly with encouragement plus offer solid shoulders to cry on and others who send little care packages of love.

But the solitude is still intense.

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Stark beauty

The loneliness takes my breath away at times.

I know God is preparing me for something profound as I am caused to go even more deeply inside my soul, to learn more of who I truly am and what I’m truly made of.

I’m never entirely alone, of course, with three very personality-filled horses, two dear cat companions, the sunrises, the sunsets and oh, those Wyoming stars!

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Just before sunrise at feeding time.

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Each sunset more glorious than the previous ones.

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How can ANYONE be lonely when drinking wine with two superb equines?

Life continues to teach me to “expect the unexpected”!

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The unexpected bluffs just atound the corner from me…lonely beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Number Eight: The Novice Horsewoman Bids Farewell To Florida…

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An Unexpected Grief:

Days away from departing Florida and beginning a new life in Wyoming, the plethora of emotions are profound and dizzying.  When writing to a dear friend in an attempt to untangle some of these emotions, he suggested that some of what I am feeling might be grief.  The minute he wrote that, I knew that was IT.

Florida might be hot, humid, overcrowded, populated with some less than patient or polite people, with traffic that just won’t quit… BUT…oh how I love this lovely state!

It is here that I experienced unprecedented personal growth, had loads of fun, knew love, loss of love, laughter, sadness and yearning.  It is here that I enjoyed a certain “off-the-mainland”, unexpected wildness.  It is here I learned to dance some amazing flamenco, found peace in kick-ass yoga classes and learned to be a somewhat proficient markswoman 🙂

It is here that I found my two beloved equine “partners” and heard God’s unexpected calling.

Yes, I will always love Florida.

I say farewell with a gallery of pictures and memories.  In this case, these pictures are each worth a thousand words…

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Each morning brought a new artistic creation with the sunrise over the ocean. I never left home without my trusty camera 🙂

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Sunrise in a different light.

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Morning walks on the beach often brought companionship 🙂

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Observing pelicans was endlessly fascinating. From physical structure to hilarious personalities. they were superb!

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And then there were the boats…

...and boats...

…and boats…

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…Old Florida, cheesy, fun, tourist boats like the Jungle Queen…

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Gorgeously lit boats for the Christmastime Boat Parade, celebrated in the “Venice of America” – Fort Lauderdale

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The ancient surviving canopy over the Loxahatchee River provided breathtaking canoe trips.

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And some not-so-breathtaking muddiness when porting canoe over drier spots 🙂

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Swimming with the dolphins. Pure JOY!

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And more sedate outings to the historic Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.

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Christmas season at The Breakers is magical.

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I never imagined I would have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a giraffe! Thank you Florida for this!

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These pictures barely scratch the surface of the wealth of memories and emotions that I will carry with me in my heart as I now turn my eyes West.

Thank you, thank you Florida!

I say farewell.

This novice horsewoman will continue her confessions…the good, bad and the silly…in Wyoming!

Baby Doe and I take a walk (2)

Seventh Confession: How Falling Taught Me There Truly Is Nothing to Fear, But Fear Itself! :)

An Unexpected Fall:

My little gelding, Spirit, teaches me so much about play, happiness, resilience and just plain old fun.  The video above shows him obliviously playing so hard with his ball that he tips himself over, gets up, shakes off the dust and goes on as though nothing had happened 🙂

One of my biggest fears, as trainer Marianne and I progressed through my training, was to fall.  It was the unknown.  I had never fallen off a horse before.  As a result, even though I’d been experiencing all the strength, feelings of connection and wordless joy when I rode, something in me was still holding back….lest I fall.

As my posting trot and balance grew better and as I was able to do 4 gait transitions (walk, working walk, sitting trot, posting trot) trainer Marianne and I both felt I was ready to begin learning the seated canter.

I hadn’t known this, but the seated canter is actually quite advanced and can take students quite a bit of time to accomplish.  She wisely started me with this so that I could learn it from the bottom up…literally 🙂

We saddled up sweet Buzz, the gelding, in my Western treeless saddle. I love using  it because it has a suede seat so that one doesn’t slide around (especially as a beginner) and the seat is shaped almost iike an English Hunter saddle.

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My trusty Western treeless saddle!

After many instructions and descriptions, trainer Marianne hooked Buzz up to the longe line so that she could control that which I might not be able to.  We began the trot, then she had me say “Canter up” and AWAY WE WENT!  I hadn’t suspected that Buzz would give so much speed and feel so very powerful under me!

As I worked hard to do what trainer Marianne had instructed, it was just too much for me.  I called out for her to slow him and relaxed knowing I’d soon be in a nice, comfy trot.

Only, Marianne didn’t hear me!!!

As I relaxed, suddenly the ride became smooth, flowing, graceful and an amazing sensation!

When we finally did get back to a trot, trainer Marianne cried out, “You did it!  You sat the canter!  On the first try!”

What?  So that’s what my body had needed to do to sit it?  Not much…sit back, stay centered in your body and balance, don’t lean forward, heels down, strong thighs and go with the horse’s motion.  Wow.

The next day, since it had gone so well, Marianne brought out the English Hunter saddle to work the canter.  She again gave instruction, demonstrated, had me do a few laps of posting trot to activate my strength and balance and then hooked Buzz up to the longe line again.

This time, once the trot transitioned to canter, because I’m still building strength and balance, the saddle felt crazy slippery!  I couldn’t even begin to get my seat, I had no idea what my thighs were doing and then I did the absolutely most incorrect thing one can do in a canter.  I leaned forward!

Buzz, being a responsive horse, took that to mean he should stop.  Then it happened!  I slid slowly off the saddle, down the side of his body and into the dust.  It all happened in such slow motion that I was actually able to calculate how best to land so as to inflict the least amount of damage 🙂

I am not being glib, because falling off a horse can have tragic consequences.  I was truly blessed my first time. I also learned that the cliché, “it’s as easy as falling off a horse”, is very true 🙂

Marianne checked on me, but I was on my feet in a second.  She gave me the rundown of what I had done incorrectly but I couldn’t even really hear her.  All I could do was take in the fact that, yep, I’d fallen off a horse and that time, at least, it really wasn’t as scary and awful as I had built it up to be!

She wanted to call it a day but I couldn’t.  Not until I pulled out my trusty treeless saddle and tried just one more time!  Marianne says, at that moment, she learned things about me that she hadn’t even suspected.

So we saddled up, longe lined up, up I hopped and off we went!.  It wasn’t for a long stretch of time.  Just enough to get to that point of complete synchronization with all body parts, balance, relaxation and connection with horse that caused me to feel like I could ride like that, at that speed, for hours; and never get enough.

As Spirit’s adorable example of falling while immersed in pure, playful joy taught me so much about staying in a mind frame of happiness rather than in dread; this fall taught me that indeed my fear was much worse than the thing I feared.

This fall taught me how good it can be to let oneself risk, play, laugh and love enough… to actually FALL!……………………….from the sheer, wondrous magnitude of it 😉

Spirit jumping poles uninhibitedly!

Spirit jumping poles uninhibitedly!

Spirit in rare form! Playing with all his heart!<3

Spirit in rare form! Playing with all his heart!<3

Fourth Confession: How I Fell In Love Online….With A BLM Brand

Courtesy of Meg Hartman

Beautiful Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

An Unexpected Love…

At the beginning of the Year of the Horse, 2014, while horses were “at the gate” about to gallop into my life, bringing with them undreamed-of joy, I saw a picture on Facebook of a beautiful Mustang mare, Angel, who had been rescued and was needing a forever home.  It was love at first sight for me.  There are so many intangibles that I can only remotely describe how or why I loved her at first sight.  Perhaps it was the pure sweetness and love in her eyes… with a twinkling potential of sassy 😉

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel! Courtesy of Chris L.

One can only imagine what Chris, the founder of Mustang Rescue Network, thought, when I messaged her almost immediately that I wanted to adopt her!  When she questioned me about my horse experience and qualifications to adopt her all I could answer was, “Well, I’m leasing a glorious mare (Serenity) and currently caring for her daily as she had injured herself badly and needs a lot of TLC.  But I’m somewhat new to horses…”  (Oh yes, Novice Horsewoman indeed!)

I can now imagine Chris gently shaking her wise head and even more gently preparing how to say “No” to me 🙂  Which she did!  But that began a friendship between us, with the sweet Mustang mare as the bridge.

Angel was found in Georgia wandering down a road with many mysteries surrounding how she came to be there.

Angel in the woods.  Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel in the woods. Courtesy of Chris L.

Her BLM brand told only a tiny bit of her story. but allowed the Rescue Network to identify her western origins and give an approximation of her age.  She had been “gathered” in Nevada in 1996 at approximately 1 year of age and adopted at about 1.5 years of age. How she got to Georgia is unknown. When they contacted the person who was currently in possession of her, he claimed her to be an abandoned horse that he knew from working with her for some people in the past. He went to their place to find it empty and figured they had abandoned her near where he usually rode. He seemed to want the best for Angel…

Mustang Rescue Network folk were able to acquire her legally and foster her while they put weight on her and slowly began discerning where she could be happiest in a forever home.

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Angel enjoying her hay! Courtesy of Chris L.

Chris has had mustangs in her heart and soul since she first read Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West  ( by Marguerite Henry) as a young girl. She had ridden often with her grandmother and grandfather when young and had had the love-of-her-life horse as a young woman in upstate New York before moving to Georgia.  Angel’s appearance in her life began a wonderful series of events which began with her creation of the Mustang Rescue Network.

Over the next few months I began contributing to Angel’s care through the Mustang Rescue Network and Chris and I kept in touch about her progress.  I was also privileged to receive extra pictures of her physical progress as she gained her weight back, got some gloss in her coat and began some gentle training.  I never stopped hoping that, as I began to get more horse experience, maybe just maybe Chris would eventually let me adopt her!

But life had other ideas ;)…

I knew, the minute I actually met Chris and Angel in person in Eatonton, Georgia and played with her in some training games, that as much as I adored this pretty mustang, I wasn’t “the one” for her.  Chris was.

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel and Chris play together. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Christine and Angel play together. Courtesy of Chris L.

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Christine receives “Angel Love” in Georgia. 💗Courtesy of Chris L.

The months rolled on and each time I went to Georgia I met with Chris and Angel enjoying exquisite times being in the presence of this very special mare.

It never ceased to hurt my heart to see her brand and the scars in her precious face where someone had left a halter on, obviously for years, so that her face also seemed “branded” with these halter scars.  However, sweet Angel didn’t seem to notice those things and became more and more herself as she felt safe, nurtured and had her hoof issues tended to.  The sassiness, only guessed at from the look in her eyes in early pictures, came out in her personality, which, combined with her sweetness, was completely irresistible!  ” Little Miss Sweet and Sassy” (as we nicknamed her) would walk around in her pasture with the cutest little swing in her hips and an adorable swish of her tail.

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Little Miss Sweet and Sassy! Courtesy of Chris L.

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Angel Enjoys Her Life In The Pasture! Courtesy of Chris L.

Anyone and everyone who met Angel, fell in love at first sight.  Since words cannot describe the loveable essence of this beautiful mare, I’m hoping the pictures I include do 🙂

When I first began writing this story about Angel, I had trouble getting anywhere with it.  I kept procrastinating.

Now I know why…

On many different levels, Chris had trouble conceiving that Angel could and should be hers.  It was so interesting to see how happy they each were with each other, how connected, and yet, there seemed to be some unseen barriers that Chris would need to overcome to be able to actually  say, “Angel and I belong together”.

Chris patiently and persistently worked through her hesitation.  As Chris came near to working it through, I was  honored to be with them both the day Angel let HER desires be known!

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Angel quietly let Chris know her wishes!

We had been hand grazing Angel and sat down on a log to chat about Angel’s prospects and if Chris was just about at the “place” inside herself where she could see herself adopting her.  In an utterly silent yet breathtaking manner, in the course of our conversation, Angel stopped grazing and came and stood right next to Chris, in quiet stillness, for almost a half an hour as we chatted.

In those minutes, I think Chris and I BOTH knew that Angel was stating what she wanted.  To be with Chris as her forever human.

Within a couple of weeks, the last internal barriers were torn down and Chris knew beyond any doubt that she and Angel would spend their lives together. She began the adoption process!

I see now that I couldn’t have finished this story without this joyful conclusion at the end of it 🙂

Ah yes, INDEED…in life….expect the unexpected!

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

Third Confession: Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen at Barns :) PART ONE

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UNEXPECTED LESSONS ABOUT ADVERSITY, GOOD FORTUNE AND HUMAN NATURE:

Now that I have your attention :), let me say that the dirty secrets about barns have nothing to do with mud, dust, horse manure or even a roll in the hay ;).  Novice as I am and was, I’ve come to realize that, when at the barn, the horses are perfect. It’s the humans that can be the problem.  Any horse person reading this is nodding rapidly in agreement…we all experience it.

I also learned a profound lesson.  Every wonderful thing has a seed of adversity buried in it.  By the same token, every adversity has the seed of wondrous joy in it.

While leasing the glorious mare, Serenity, I experienced two different barns.  I was in such a blur of newness at her first barn, that I couldn’t process the incoming impressions until a bit later.  When I could, after she had been moved to a better situation, I was aghast.

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That first barn was behind someone’s private residence on about an acre of land.  The paddock fences needing mending. The training ring was no ring but just an undefined area in front of the barn.  Poor Serenity was stall bound for days at a time because the promised evening turnout wasn’t happening, due to the broken fences.  Her stall was nearest the manure pile, so the flies on and around her were dense and the fly traps were black and filled.  Her human didn’t get there regularly, so she was often standing in her tiny stall, hoof deep in manure and urine.  When she did get out, she was so “barn/stall sour” that even riding in the makeshift ring was a trial.

A very adverse situation for that poor, patient mare.  But something wonderful was already taking seed.  A woman, who had formerly leased Serenity, had found a much better barn and had found space for Serenity there!

The move didn’t happen immediately because Serenity’s human was dear friends with the first barn owner.  They would drink wine and gossip together.  So,  when the opportunity came to move Serenity, her human was conflicted and almost missed that opportunity!  Thankfully, the horse angels were with that glorious mare, and within three weeks of my meeting Serenity, she was moved to a peaceful, more spacious barn and stall, right on the border of wonderful horse trails.

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133Great news, right?  Yes.  But further down the “trail” of this story, I see now how the seeds of adversity were already being planted… lying dormant for months.

Meanwhile, as my time with Serenity was coming to a tear-filled, heart-wrenching conclusion, the seeds of joy were, unbeknownst to me, SPROUTING, as I came to know the hilarious, Appaloosa gelding, Spirit and the exquisite, Paint mare, Baby Doe, both of whom would shortly come under my stewardship. These stories are told in previous posts :).

The barn where they boarded, on the surface, looked like an equine dream home!  The name of the barn was fancy and British-sounding.  It was surrounded with white fencing, green pastures, and a stream ran through the property.  There was a proper training ring.  The buildings themselves had a grand, tudor look to them.  Ah… what a “whited sepulcher”…!

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It came clear very quickly that the owner of the barn, where trainer Bryan leased about 12 stalls for his business, was an alcoholic who would ride his horses hard and cruelly tied down, while drunk.  His horses never got turned out.  His assistant was a good-hearted woman, who had family problems,  drank on duty, which caused  loud and aggressive behavior around the horses and would slap the horses if they weren’t complying, even ones that belonged to trainer Bryan 😦

None of Bryan’s horses even got turned out in the glorious, green pastures, because the owner had the property up for sale and didn’t want the horses tearing up his grass.

Many of the lower barn buildings were in disrepair and unsafe for horses to be in. (One sweet, three- year old gelding ripped his eyelid and needed 8 stitches due to some “mystery” nail or wood splinter).

I saw such signs of claustrophobia and boredom in my exquisite mare, that even though I couldn’t verbalize the signs of her oncoming colic, I knew, 24 hours before she colicked, that something was very, very wrong with her.

There was more, so much more…as I came into stewardship of my two, I began making firm plans to get them out of there!

Then one Sunday, I arrived at the barn, to see a crashed up Cadillac, bent up metal posts and found an apple in Spirit’s water bucket!  What???

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Upon investigation, it turns out the barn owner had let his 16 year old son have an unsupervised party on the grounds of the barn, where drinking was allowed.  Clearly, these drunk teenagers had made their way into horses’ stalls.  Given the apple in Spirit’s water, I had the proof I needed that my horses needed to be moved immediately.  Trainer Bryan had, formerly, not been agreeable to this request, as they both were still in training and he didn’t want to have to travel to another barn to train them.

Yes, there it was! The seed of good fortune!  Right there, in the middle of the adversity of the horrible conditions at this barn…

(to be continued…)

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Second Confession: How I Became Obsessed With Horse Manure :)

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Unexpected illness, unexpected obsession:

A week after the exquisite mare, Baby Doe, became mine, I arrived at the barn for a simple Saturday of grooming, playing with and riding my two beloved horses.  When I entered and saw Baby Doe’s stall empty, I thought trainer Bryan was working with her and I went out to the arena, only to see trainer Bryan, on the grass, walking Baby Doe in a circle swiftly.  “She’s colicking”, he said.  “No worries, I’ve given her Banamine and have been walking her for more than half an hour.  We can’t let her lie down. She’ll be fine.”

But she wasn’t.

We needed to see some (for want of a better word) manure coming from her.  It wasn’t.  No problem. We just needed to walk her more.  Which we did for two more hours.

Anyone familiar with horses knows that colic is a very real potential of a death sentence. I couldn’t even fathom this at that time.  All I could do was…walk her.

No manure.

A call to the vet was made, who turned out to be the substitute vet. She is a wonderful vet.  With the heat and abundant thunderstorms this summer in South Florida, many horses were colicking and vets were busy.  Add to that, my beloved girl, Baby Doe, had only arrived from Illinois less than two months ago and was still processing that stress.

With the vet’s arrival the “baptism by fire” both for humans and for horse began.

The hours of invasive procedures on my Girl were started. To begin with, they had to tranquilize her in order to shove a tube down her nose and pour down a gallon of water, followed by a gallon of mineral oil.

More walking.

More waiting.

There were two anal exams to see what her organs were doing.  Each of which could have caused a septic rupture…

By 11 o’clock that night it became clear that she had displaced her intestines to the left. Good news, because had they displaced to the right, we would have had to put her down within hours to save her from excruciating, unfixable pain.

Then came the next procedure. ..intravenously fill her with fluids for an hour, administer a med that would shrink her spleen for fifteen minutes, during which time we would longe the heck out of her in order for her intestines to hop over the spleen and get back into place.

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Oh, my Baby Doe, my Girl, you have a mission to fulfill! You and I agreed you didn’t want to be a show horse. You made it possible, by having that hitch in your right shoulder, for me to be your human partner in this life, so that you could minister to those in need…disabled, disadvantaged, special needs, those in sorrow, those who need the healing presence of Horse…

What a faithful creature she was as she, in indescribable pain, was longed, valiantly trotting and loping in the hot humid night.029

The all night barn vigil now commenced.

Humidity intensified, mosquitos got busy, the stars radiated and trainer Bryan and I found some lawn chairs, placed them by her stall and settled in for what was to be a long night at the barn.

I am still trying to find words to describe the various experiences of this night.

First, there was the anxious worry.  He and I took turns standing by her stall, looking for a sign of manure, trying to comfort her in her agonizing pain.

My sweet, loving Girl had turned into a wild savage that bit and kicked if we got near her.  She was flailing her head and pacing. Her ears were ever flat on her head.

Neither Bryan nor I slept a wink.

Eventually the lights turned out.  The horses settled in for the night.  And a kind of magic occurred which one only experiences in a barn in the wee hours of the night.

The silence was exquisite. Punctuated only by snorts and shufflings of the horses. We could hear a background lullaby of crickets and cicadas outdoors.  As I peeked into each stall, I saw horse after horse lying down in a deep sleep.  My boy horse, my Appaloosa, Spirit, had sprawled out in his stall, sound asleep and looking like a baby colt.  I couldn’t take my eyes off that dearness.

Each hour, trainer Bryan, going above and beyond any expectation, would lead my Baby Doe out to walk her for a half an hour or so.  I would drag myself out of my lawn chair to be present, but couldn’t have begun to muster the energy Bryan did… hour after hour.

In those late night, star-filled  moments, it was confirmed to me that there are truly people of honor walking this earth and that I was blessed to experience his caring and indefatiguable soul.

At 5 a.m. the first sign of manure!  I don’t know when manure has EVER made me so happy!

But we weren’t out of the woods yet.   At 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. more relief for the Girl in the way of manure!  We cautiously celebrated and took turns going back to our homes for showers and changes of clothing.

However, when I got back to the barn later that afternoon, the roller coaster ride of the past 24 hours took another dip.  She had gone hours now with no more sign of manure relief.  It could be that her intestines were still displaced to the left.  We might have to repeat the whole procedure.

Trainer Bryan called the vet.  She suggested letting her run free for awhile in a pasture, without overheating, and then to hand graze her for about 15 minutes.

As I watched my glorious Girl run, buck, leap and play, looking like the regal faerie horse she is, her whiteness contrasting with the deep green of pasture grass, I knew that this was no longer a horse that was ill.

After grazing her, I took her back into her stall to cool her off and…immediate success in the manure department!  It was proof positive that her intestines were back in place and the procedure had unequivocally worked!

My darling Baby Doe, thank you for your courage, patience, acceptance and profound soul.  You healed so many parts of me that night as I was privileged to be part of your healing. Thank you. 739