Tag Archives: Horse training

Confession Number Twelve: The Bear Is Sleeping…For Now…

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An Unexpected Peace:

“It was then that Tristan came into the quiet part of his life.  The bear inside him was sleeping.  It is hard to tell of happiness.  Time goes by and we feel safe too soon.”  – One Stab (Legends of the Fall)

For better or for worse, I have, for many years, been fascinated with the movie, Legends of the Fall.  This movie has irresistible sweeping landscapes, sweeping music and sweeping passions.  The story takes the viewer beyond the internal “…and they lived happily ever after…”,  and shows what happens to the characters in the “ever after”.  It reflects the way real life ebbs and flows, albeit with far more dramatic storylines.

More dramatic than my life storylines, at least :).However, I do relate to the concept of the sleeping bear. Ah yes, the bear of hope, anxiety, yearning, fulfilling potential, being driven and my pesky inner “demons” that need healing.

I am in one of those times right now.  The bear inside me is sleeping and I am enjoying a wonderful period of rest, renewal, release and regrouping. (Yep, the truly essential 4 Rs)

By making the difficult decision to bring myself and my three horses back to Florida for a time, I have been shown very clearly that there were underlying issues that needed to be addressed beyond my own exhaustion and stresses.

First of all, my horses.  My horses are very content not to be constantly blanketed and un-blanketed!

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Serenity, in particular, is enjoying the balmy, breezy warmth of Florida

They are enjoying respite from the challenging winds of Wyoming.  They are very peaceful at the beautiful barn I’ve found for them.  Even finding that barn was a miracle.

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I had been making making inquiries about boarding barns in South Florida on a  barn-resource website, and this particular barn owner was the first to reply.  It was the first barn I visited when I got here for “reconnaissance”.  The beauty and peaceful energy, seemingly coming up from the land itself, were all I needed to know.  Although I visited a couple of other barns after this one, there was simply no comparison.  The barn decision was easy and has turned out to be better than expected.

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Spirit and a masked Baby Doe (protecting her eyes from the sun) who had recently had a lovely roll in the dirt ūüėČ

Second of all, I was able to get a farrier to see my three within a few days of arriving.  He’s been with this barn for 20 years.  He actually looked at the x-rays of Baby Doe’s navicular arthritis and spent a long time pointing out things in the images that no one had showed me before.  He has made a plan of action for her best pain management and to help her be a sound as possible. Yes, he’s actually a farrier who “shows up” on many different levels!

He then recommended a trainer that he and the barn owner have known for many years.  I had  already begun interviewing trainers but my “spidey sense” was sending red flags of “No”.

This trainer was open and listened to what I was hoping for for my three.  Each of them has a different personality, background and issues.  She heard that.  As we’ve begun work with them, I see more and more that she really does “get” that each of them is on a different path.  As for my own training ūüôā well, she sees to it that I’m understanding what she’s doing and gives tips and instructions on how I can also do these techniques…in time…

She also made me aware of a new treatment for navicular disease and I’m having the new vet, who understands navicular, out to the barn to implement this treatment this week!  Oh, to see Baby Doe out of pain…!

Then there’s getting back to my riding training…in time…

That’s another huge part of my sleeping bear.  I am consciously choosing to only do one thing at a time…I am resisting the ever-present pressure to take on more than I can handle.  I am taking care of my slightly fragile psyche right now. (By the way, in my way of thinking, it takes a lot of strength to let oneself feel fragile…)

I am also giving myself the gift of time….time to grieve Hercules’ death; time to grieve the loss of some of my dearest, most private hopes; time to sit on my balcony and just watch palm fronds blowing as the sun sets; time to sit in the pasture where my horses peacefully graze and allow my inner time clock to meld with their time clocks.

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Spirit and I having a “discussion”…while Serenity occupies herself in another direction ūüôā

Their clocks move very slowly… I watch each move, each ear flick, each eye expression change.  I watch how they’re chewing their grass or hay.  I watch each interaction in the wordless dance they weave together.

I am also giving myself permission not to know. Not to know what’s next.  Not to know when I need to do the next thing for the ranch.  Not to know who is going to be part of my life there, whether as staff or visiting friends.  I really don’t know.  And, surprisingly, I don’t care that I don’t know.

I am enjoying things that I had not given myself permission to enjoy for a couple of years now.  Yes, indeed!  Things such as shopping, not for tack, but for sparkly high heeled sandals.  Things such as actually putting on a cute outfit for the day; something other than jeans, boots and a cotton shirt, since my days, before this respite, had always ended up at the barn, and any clothing gets muddy, torn and faded with barn work ūüôā Things such as taking naps, reading good books and seeing friends I hadn’t had time to see in the past while.

The horses are just fine. More than fine.  They are getting what they need.

Ah yes, the bear is sleeping. But time will go by.  I may indeed be feeling too safe, too soon.

I accept that.  For now, however, this is good.  This is very good.

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Sixth Confession: How I Went From “Dread” To Joy!

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The very kind, old, gentleman gelding, Buzz. He made sure I felt safe with him.

An Unexpected Horse Angel, Trainer Marianne:

By the time Trainer Marianne entered our lives in late February 2015, I and my two beloved horses had pretty much become ragged messes.   Only my intense, ferocious love for my two, in spite of my novice ignorance, kept the three of us from cracking wide open with desperation.

I guessed at, but was not fully consciously aware of, the things that had been inflicted on these two horses before they became mine.¬† That, plus my ignorance,¬†coupled with¬†some of the prideful, know-it-all, uneducated barn cronies’ incessant input, combined to create a situation¬†in which¬†I could no longer bear to ride my horses or ANY horse, for that matter.¬†Although I, myself, had never fallen;¬†another woman, who was an experienced horsewoman,¬†had fallen off my gelding during one of our rides,¬†my mare on trail¬†was lifting her head in discomfort, bowing to buck and coming up lame.¬†Plus,¬†the trail “energy” at Treetops Park was becoming increasingly¬†creepy to me. All these elements¬†had driven me into a state, which in the rodeo they call…”The Dread”.

Of course in the rodeo, these cowboys are experiencing massive “wrecks’ which can require months of¬†physical rehab and pain meds.¬† My “wreck” was emotional and spiritual.

I prayed and prayed for the right trainer to come into our lives.¬† It felt like these prayers fell on God’s deaf ears and would be never answered.¬† I¬†did have¬†specific desires¬†for what¬†I required of a trainer. ¬†Perhaps that’s why it took some time ;).

I needed¬†my trainer¬†to partner with the horse, to put the horse first, to not think of a horse as a human commodity and to be able to listen to the “still, small voice within” which,¬†ultimately, manifests in¬†what could be considered: ¬†“Unconventional Training Methods”.

Enter Marianne, Horse Angel. Custom-made for me and my two.

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Marianne, in her horsey, kind way, seeing that Buzz is buckled in. This was his last bit. As of today, we are using a bitless bridle on him. He is so happy

As she began working with and understanding their hurts, needs and lacks in their training, she then turned her focus on me.¬†” Why¬†aren’t you¬†riding?”, she queried.

“Never again”, I adamantly stated.

“But it’s fun”, she cajoled.

“No it’s not.¬† It’s dangerous, It’s a job. I hate it.”

“Okay…”,she conceded.

Then I watched her begin the healing process on my two and my heart began to open.

One day she said, “Buzz is a sweet old gelding who gives his whole heart when he’s doing a horse show even though he’s not a show horse. Come meet him”.

I did.¬† He put his head in my hand and sniffed me all over and allowed me to kiss him… lots! Marianne said, “He never does that.”

I secretly knew he was telling me, “It’s okay, Little One.¬† You¬†would be safe on¬†me.”

So one day, a few weeks later, when Marianne suggested that I just climb on Buzz bareback and she would lead me and him on a lead rope, I said, yes.  I love bareback riding and it was an irresistible offer.

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Marianne leads me on a bareback ride on Buzz

We rode for maybe 15 minutes.¬† When I dismounted I knew I was “back”.

Marianne never pushed.¬† She always waited for me to ask.¬† But, in time, I was asking and asking.¬† Let me ride him bareback again.¬† A hunter saddle?¬† Let me try that.¬† My western treeless saddle?¬† Amazing connection with every muscle in the horse’s back! ¬†Balance? Centered riding?¬†Thighs? Core?

In time, the superb details and the kindness with which she imparted them, caused me to anticipate each lesson with complete excitement.¬† I couldn’t wait to learn the next thing.¬† To learn half-halting with the reins, how to use the back of my arms. how to two point…

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The beginning of learning the lifting and tilting of two point. Ultimately the up and down of posting in a hunter saddle rests on this. Legs and heels positioned. Pelvis shifting with the up and down.

and…recently…how to post.¬† Hopefully…soon… I will begin learning the seated canter ūüôā

In a hunter saddle, the momentum of the thrust of the horse’s body makes one feel like one is flying. That, plus the perfection of the rhythm of the up, down, up, keeping thighs on saddle and heels balancing the whole mechanism is a perfection of impulse and synchronization that has¬†become addictive.

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Hunter saddle, beginning posting!

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Western treeless saddle! Awesome feel!

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Posting in the western treeless! Pretty much heaven as I see it!

Marianne,¬†in kindness, encouraged my strength, balance and coordination plus my seemingly innate feel for a horse’s body.¬† I don’t know that I truly¬†have those gifts but…

Here’s what I do know:

Through patience, kindness, faith and love of human and horse, this novice horsewoman is beginning to experience a world she could not have even imagined. The profound body connection between human and horse is practically indescribable in words.

From the ashes of my “dread”, the pillar of my¬†joy is growing and building.

Perhaps we can all begin to trust that from the “wrecks” in our lives… hope, kindness, patience and a renewal, better than where we started and beyond what we could have dreamed, are all possible.

I am still very much a novice horsewoman and novice rider. 

Sooo much more to learn! ūüôā

But, oh, the joy of it all!!!

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Fifth Confession: How I Became A Recovering “Horse Annoyer” ;)

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An Unexpected Truth:

One day, early on in her work with me and my two, Trainer Marianne turned to me and in the most matter-of-fact voice said, “Christine, you are annoying your horses.”

After I stopped laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks :), I considered her words and took a quick self-inventory.

Those that know me in person, know that I resemble a big, ol’ Labrador Retriever.¬† I express my joy at seeing someone I care about with huge hugs (the equivalent of a Lab jumping up on someone and licking their face all over).¬† There is¬†much virtual “tail-wagging” in my enthusiasm!¬† I¬†tend to resemble the Lab wagging his tail so ferociously near the living room coffee table¬†decorated with¬†Swarovski crystal figurines that he¬†sends everything shattering to the floor!¬†Just from the pure joy of love ‚̧

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This can be distressing to an introvert or someone who is highly sensitive.¬† Which is funny, because I, too, am an introvert and highly sensitive….I just become a Labrador when I get excited ūüėČ

In the world of horse, this tends to be, to say the least, a disturbing quality.  Horses are slow in their movement.  I am fast with hands flying everywhere.  Horses, being creatures of flight, are always discerning if there is something from which they need to flee.

When I would come up to them, excited, touching, fumbling with halters or lead ropes or just staring because of their amazing beauty, the horse would interpret this as…”something is very wrong and I should flee” or “stop poking and hugging and touching my delicate nose” or ¬†“it’s TOO much sensory input and I’m ANNOYED!”039045

Trainer Marianne, being a kind, gentle soul and somewhat of a horse herself,¬†quietly and persistantly¬†corrected me every time I did something “annoying”.

Here are some examples of how NOT to be annoying to a horse.

1. Approach horses with energy high and a matter of fact attitude.

2. Don’t hesitate in an action, it makes the horse think something is wrong.

3. When leading a horse on the lead rope, don’t keep looking back, it worries them.

4. Don’t stand in front of a horse and stare.¬† It’s irritating to them.¬† They don’t stand like that with each other.

5. Don’t talk so much.¬† Horses communicate with body language.

6. If something like a halter or tack gets tangled while you’re trying to put it on, don’t stand there and fumble.¬† Take it off and pretend you’re fixing it or doing something that has nothing to do with that failed attempt.¬† Then they get curious instead of annoyed.

7.  ALWAYS move slowly.

Then she taught me this…

…there’s nothing more healing to a human than to stand in the crook of a horse’s neck facing out the same way they are facing.¬† Oh how true this is.

In the quiet of a horse’s being, all else is forgotten and one is transported into the profound inner¬†world they inhabit.¬† This feeling, more than any instruction, taught me.

I’ve cuddled, played with, danced with¬†and¬†loved up pets like my cats and dogs with my¬† ”¬†Labrador ways” and it always went well!

Ah, but horses are not that.¬† They have heightened sensitivities, perceptions and a decision making process that says, “Fly first, figure it¬†out later.”¬†¬†It’s probably how they survived as a species¬†for 55 million years or so.

Horses, if we listen, if we humble ourselves to approach them as THEY require being approached, can wordlessly teach us the mysteries of these primeval times which they knew.¬† They can teach us that, perhaps, in all our dealings with others, both human and animal,¬†we can set aside our habitual behaviors.¬† We can act with¬†sensitivity to the being with whom we’re interacting.

We can certainly be much less annoying :)!

I am still “in recovery”.¬† I stumble….a lot.¬† I am humbled….a lot.¬† But recently, the highest compliment ever paid me, which I shall cherish always, came from Trainer Marianne…

…¬† “Christine, you are finally becoming a horse.”

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Third Confession Part Two: Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns :)

Baby Doe and Spirit Under The Stars! Artist: Merel Burggraaf (www.merelburggraaf.com)

UNEXPECTED LESSONS ABOUT ADVERSITY, GOOD FORTUNE AND HUMAN NATURE

In Part 1 of this post, I think I firmly established that the dirty little secrets at barns have very little to do with manure or rolls in the hay ūüėČ but have everything to do with human nature in all its aspects.

I also described the journey of acknowledging the seeds of joy in each adverse situation, while knowing that bubbling quietly under the calm waters of good fortune, adversity can be just beneath the surface.   It is all part of the balance of life.

As life at the “fancy” barn became increasingly more intolerable for Spirit, Baby Doe and me, a final incident, described in the last post, gave me the tipping point I needed to help convince¬†trainer Bryan help me to get my two out of there!¬† And, simultaneously, events were occurring at the barn where I had once leased the glorious mare, Serenity, that opened up two stalls and had Felice, my former barn buddy, becoming manager of that barn.

Within a week, my two were trailered and moved.

As a “parting shot” from the fancy barn, an ugly situation occurred that erased any doubt from Bryan’s or my mind regarding leaving.¬† Bryan had been fostering orphaned baby ducks on the property.¬† As they grew¬†bigger, more ducks¬†were joining the flock.¬† They were Muskogee ducks, not indigenous to Florida and¬†many people are not pleased with their presence in our lakes and canals.¬† Still, they are God’s creatures, too.¬† The owner of the barn felt the presence of the ducks was hurting his chances at getting offers on his barn.

One day, without consulting Bryan, he had some “men” come up from Miami, and there, at the barn, within earshot and sight lines of the horses, they strangled half these ducks to death and carted them off in their truck.¬† (Probably to cook up at some restaurant for unsuspecting patrons.)¬† Even writing about this, eight months later, causes waves of nausea, disgust and deep sadness to wash over me.

The next few months¬†at Felice’s barn were, what I like to term, the “I Love Lucy’ months ūüôā

Baby Doe Reunites With Her Full Brother, Fritz, While Spirit Sticks His Sweet Nose Into Their Reunion :)

Baby Doe Reunites With Her Full Brother, While Spirit Sticks His Sweet Nose Into Their Reunion ūüôā

Felice had never managed a barn before and though it was only her Paint gelding (who, by the way is full brother to Baby Doe), my two, and a 20-year-old, noble gelding named Gismo, four horses are still a lot of horses!!!!

We worked together, with her husband, made our mistakes (MANY mistakes), had our triumphs and epiphanies. Luckily, nobody died and¬†the booboos that occurred were all fixable.¬†Still, in the course of this, there were so many moments, that, had they been filmed, would have looked like “I Love Lucy” episodes, that we found ourselves laughing more than crying ūüôā

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Spirit Taking A Sunbath ūüôā

It was a peaceful time.

It was a wondrous time, as well. Felice and I began having groups of her special needs, autistic students come to the barn and interact with the horses on field trips.¬† Every Saturday, there were at least 3 or 4 special needs kids that came¬†to the barn to¬†help us¬†scoop manure, bleach water buckets, lay shavings and just laugh, enjoying the horses’ antics.

Greeting Baby Doe

Greeting Baby Doe

Angel Paints Beautiful Pictures On Patient Gismo During Our "Barn Field Trips"

A Student Paints Beautiful Pictures On Patient Gismo During Our “Barn Field Trips”

Yet under the surface of the peace of these months, seeds of adversity were slowly maturing.

Unbeknownst to us, the owner of the property was looking to list it and sell.

We¬†were finding¬†we couldn’t give the horses turnout unsupervised, because the fencing was so rotted out that they could have gotten out, or worse, really injured themselves.¬† It was too cost /time prohibitive for us to replace it and the owner refused.

There just wasn’t enough grazing available.¬† The horses were getting increasingly¬†irritable and restless, being in their stalls long hours.

Riding The Trails At Treetops Park. Baby Doe Is Directly Behind Me And Spirit.

Riding The Trails At Treetops Park. Baby Doe Is Directly Behind Me And Spirit.

So, even though we had the superb advantage of acres of trails just outside the back gate, my two, at least, were having issues.¬†There was not¬†enough structure. Trainer Bryan didn’t get there as often as promised. Their youth required more experience than this Novice possesses.¬†They were¬†exhibiting increasing restlessness that would sometimes cause erratic behavior on the trails.¬†Some differences in philosophy between Felice and me resulted in inconsistent human behavior with them.

The¬†sleepy seeds of adversity began sprouting above the ground when, at the first of the year, two new boarders took up residence at Felice’s barn, bringing their wonderful horses as well as their own¬†big personalities and personal issues.

On the surface, it looked like good fortune because these women were very experienced horsewomen, with experience with young horses!  Given that, by now, trainer Bryan had his hands completely full at a new barn with students and horses and no longer had time for me, it looked like fortune had smiled.

However, the¬†next two months¬†became a kaleidoscope¬†of disparate energies.¬†There seemed to be¬†a¬†team of outspoken “barn¬†know-it-alls” coming up against me. My horses began¬†displaying more irritable, aggressive behaviors.¬† Time after time, I found myself¬†not listening to my inner voice, sobbing through bouts of anxiety and not standing up for my truth.

Ah, but then…one day…it was finally ENOUGH! ¬†I, FINALLY,¬†stood up for¬†my¬†truth. I “made the fist”.

One by one, with each human, I set boundaries (with kindness)¬†as to what I would and wouldn’t do; as well as what they were allowed to do¬†to me and my horses; or¬†say to me and my horses. Oh, what a difference TRUTH makes!

Within a week, a new trainer came into my life who was everything I could have hoped for.  She and I are completely in sync with our philosophies and instincts about horses. Only she has the years of experience, knowledge and training that this Novice may not achieve in this lifetime.

Everything, EVERYTHING changed for me, Baby Doe and Spirit.  I will look forward to telling these stories in future posts!

Then, good fortune truly opened up the floodgates.  The owner of the property had found buyers.  Shortly thereafter, in a single 24-hour period, the owner declared that once she closed on the property, the new buyers, with NO horse experience whatsoever, planned to take over management of the barn!

Loading Up To Go To Cameo

Baby Doe Loading To Go To Cameo

Spirit Being Just A Wee Bit Stubborn Loading For Cameo :)

Spirit Being Just A Wee Bit Stubborn Loading For Cameo ūüôā

Yet again, I¬†had my two out of there within¬†the week!¬† God’s good grace and trainer Marianne found us the two last places at Cameo Farms.

Cameo Farms, where things are peaceful and well managed with an experienced older couple. Cameo Farms, where there are acres and acres of pasture and turnout.¬† Where my two now sleep under the stars and graze to their horsey hearts’ content.¬† Cameo Farms, where trainer Marianne lives just a block away and has “adopted” us…me and my two… seeing us in such need of care and comforting.¬† Cameo Farms, where in just a few weeks’ time, my two are blossoming with contentment and becoming their true horsey selves.

Such joy.

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Baby Doe Under “Baby Doe’s Tree”. The Tree Seems To Lean Over Her Protectively ūüôā

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What A Very Happy Appy, Spirit!

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Adversity could be fomenting even as I write this.¬† I read recently that God sectioned off our days into 24 hours because our¬†human frailty cannot bear more than that at one time ūüôā

However, this I know.¬†Joy is always undergirding every adversity, every trouble in our lives.¬†¬†I gird myself with faith, hope and love as I continue on¬†this journey of horses and… LIFE!

Afterword:  I had commissioned a water color painting of my two from Dutch artist, Merel Burggraaf, since it is hard to get photos of the two of them together. Check out her website at: http://www.MerelBurggraaf.com.  She is an exquisite and very intuitive artist.

All these barn changes were happening as she quietly worked on the painting¬†off of pictures and videos of Spirit and Baby Doe.¬† I hadn’t told her anything about what was happening.¬† So imagine my delighted astonishment when she sent me a photo of the painting she’s done.¬† There they are, Baby Doe and Spirit, happily grazing¬†under the stars!

Just as they are doing in real life now ūüôā

Artist: Merel Burggraaf (www.merelburggraff.com)

Artist: Merel Burggraaf

Part Three Of My First Confession :)! (…From No Horse to Two Horses in Less Than a Year :)

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The Unexpected Song:

In Part Two of this unexpected journey, an exquisite, purebred Paint mare¬†had arrived at the barn where I had become Spirit’s human and where he was training,¬† She was to be trained up and finished to sell as a show horse.¬† Certainly, her lineage was impeccable and pricey and her conformation (simply described, the way her¬†different body parts¬†size up¬†in relation to each other) brought gasps of admiration from those who know and understand such things.

All this Novice Horsewoman understood was that this horse was gradually emerging from her tranquillized and shut down state after her four-day journey and that she and I were bonding.

She would call out to me when I would arrive at the barn, we would spend time just hanging out together with much snuggling and¬†softly voiced¬†“conversations” and one day she was actually able to communicate with me, in my mind, with a clear sentence, ” Please, I don’t want to be a show horse.”

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There was no way I could afford the steep price that would be asked for her.  I was determined, however, to find a way.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, when this mare had arrived, the vet had noticed a slight hitch in her right shoulder when she went in a circle.  She and trainer Bryan were going to wait for thirty days and recheck her to see if it was just soreness from the trip or something else.

Things were just beginning to get interesting :)…

Time passed swiftly in that month of August.  It was a hot, rainy summer here in Florida.  I was learning to ride better, still not very well, but better ;), learning and relearning about longeing, different tack, feed, hay.  I was noticing many things at the barn, where trainer Bryan was leasing about 12 stalls, that were very disturbing.  I was spending time with both my little Appaloosa AND the exquisite Paint mare.

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The thirty days were ticking away.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it, told my dearest friend the story up to this point,¬†confessed that my heart was breaking with love for this mare and asked him for a loan.¬† A BIG loan!!!!¬† Much to my surprise all he said was, “How much?”¬† “Um….fifteen grand?”, I stuttered.¬† “Okay”, he said simply.

While trying to remember that breathing is sort of essential to remain living ;), I immediately called and texted trainer Bryan (it was ONLY 11:30 at night) and told him I wanted to buy her.

(For the record…I can’t stand that we humans buy and sell horses and call ourselves their owners.¬† It reeks of slave trade to me¬†but, for now, it’s the way it is.)

The next day I arrived expectantly¬†at the barn to encounter a scowling trainer Bryan.¬† The folks who had bred the mare and sent her to him were longtime business friends of his and had,¬†for almost 20 years,¬†sent him horses to train and sell.¬† The last horse they had sent had come up un-show-worthy due to some rear leg¬†tendon issues.¬† It was the mare’s full brother, Fritz.¬† Now, it turns out, the vet had rechecked the exquisite mare and the right shoulder hitch was a chronic condition which deemed her un-showable.

What?¬† She can’t be a show horse?? My heart¬†was pounding with joy and wonder!!

Sometimes horses will find ways to cause “lameness” to themselves when there is a job they are asked to do that isn’t right for them.¬† Conventional horse people will tell you that those of us who understand this are delusional, but when one is around horses, reads incessantly¬†about horses and is obsessed with horses :), one begins to see this is not anomalous.

Trainer Bryan had determined that he was going to send this beloved mare back to these breeders and demand money for her transport, board and training up to this point.  He was livid.  He was incensed that they had done this to him a second time!

They claimed that somehow her four-day journey was responsible and were not going to pay him a dime.  In fact, the male breeder threatened, if Bryan sent her back they would put her down because now she was of no value. (Welcome, Novice Horsewoman, to just a glimpse of the dark and nasty underbelly of horse breeding and the various ways horses are utilized for human pleasure).

Thus ensued 48 hours of me weeping and pleading for him not to send her back, he arguing back and forth with the breeders and many petitions to heaven that things work out for the best for this exquisite mare.

Well, the angels definitely are on the side of the horses, ultimately.  That 48 hours ended with ME paying trainer Bryan for her transport and training and board up to that point (considerably less than $15,000!).

The exquisite Paint mare was mine!

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And though it’s considered bad luck to change a horse’s name, there is an opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe (by Douglas Moore), in which the title character is described thusly:

“Warm as the autumn light, soft as a pool at night…deep in your lovely eyes, all of enchantment lies, and tenderly beckons, Baby Doe, dearest Baby Doe.”

So apt were those words in describing the exquisite mare, that I knew that was her true name. She IS Baby Doe.

Afterword: To this day, when I call her to come to me from the edge of the large paddock, I sing those words to her and she comes running to greet me… and my song ‚̧

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First Confession: Part Two (How I Went From No Horse To Two Horses In Less Than A Year:)

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Oh yes! More unexpected was just around the corner!

Part Two:

When I left off in Part One…

I had¬† been describing the devastation and grief I experienced when the glorious mare, Serenity, had been moved to another barn.¬† Just for the record, even writing about it now brings up fresh grief added to ongoing anxiety over her well being.¬†¬†For so many reasons, it¬†was and still is tough to visit her at her new barn.¬† Not the least of which is the sadness that overwhelms when I have to say goodbye and leave.¬† She’s been on my mind so much lately.¬† I try to comfort myself with the words my best friend continually says to me, “Christine, you can’t save them all”.¬† Cold comfort.

However,¬†just as she was being moved, I was being introduced to Horse Number One!¬† The adorable, ueber-intelligent, mischievous, big-hearted, three-year-old Appaloosa gelding, Spirit!¬† He “had me at¬† hello”. Or should¬†I say “…at nicker” ūüôāphoto (8)

My barn buddy, Phyllis, had introduced me to trainer Bryan, because once Serenity was virtually lost to me, I was going to begin looking at rescue horses.  She thought Bryan could help me.

Wiser heads convinced me that perhaps I should explore getting to know whole and healthy horses before dealing with horses in need.¬† Gee, why didn’t I think of that? ūüôā So when Bryan introduced me to Spirit, I easily agreed with the wiser heads.¬†¬†The one problem being¬†Bryan wasn’t so sure that he would sell me the little Boy.

There is a saying in the horse world, “green on green equals black and blue”.¬† In other words, pairing me up with a virtual baby, when I was so very inexperienced, could be difficult and dangerous. Bryan was training him daily and giving me lessons weekly for the next few weeks.¬† Then he had me ride Spirit for my lessons and observed how good he was for me under saddle.¬† Even if he had a horsey jump/flinch or spook, somehow¬†the little Boy¬†kept me on him.¬† (This has held true in the ensuing months as well).WP_20141005_15_22_53_Pro__highres

With ongoing training promised, Bryan finally agreed that Spirit could be mine.

In the meantime, just about every horse person I knew was shaking their head in concern that I would be dealing with a three year old; which did NOTHING for my confidence!  Looking back, perhaps they were right.  But it was already too late for me.  I loved that little gelding wholeheartedly.  With lots of prayer, and in humility, I went forward with buying him.

Eight months later, I am still getting a daily education on the three year old horsey mindset and there’s been a bit of black and blue – nothing more than a broken toe and a few bruises ūüôā¬†Perhaps part of the “accelerated plan” our Creator has¬†for me was just this:¬†how to deal with an intelligent, energetic, clever, lovebug of a baby horse.

As Spirit was still boarding at Bryan’s barn, I had the opportunity to get to know many other horses in my time there and just happened to be there the day after an exquisite Paint¬†mare, at that time named Sylvia, arrived from a farm in Illinois.

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She was five years old, had¬†had some fine training, had been in pasture for a couple of years and¬†was coming to Bryan to be trained up (“finished”)¬†to be a show horse and¬†be sold.¬† Her¬†“family tree” is a an impeccable list of million dollar horses and she was to be sold for top dollar¬†after Bryan¬†did the finishing of her.

When I met her, she was still tranquilized,very still, quiet and shut down.¬† I offered her some baby carrots.¬† People poking their heads into her stall told me she wouldn’t eat them because she wasn’t used to treats.¬†¬† After a half an hour of speaking to her softly, petting her and letting her smell the carrots, even in her shut down state, she ate them ūüôā Of course!¬† She’s a horse!

She began getting more animated in the week that followed.  I would spend lots of time with her as well as with Spirit.  She would even whinny, calling out to me, when she saw me coming for a ride on Spirit.

Then one day, she and I were just having some pet and scratch time and suddenly¬†it was as though I heard a tiny voice in my head.¬† “Please, I don’t WANT to be a show horse”.¬† I gasped because this sentence was so clear and audible.¬† I looked at her and said aloud, “I can’t afford you sweet Girl.¬† But I will do everything in my power to honor your request.”

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Thus began the saga of Baby Doe….

Coming soon…Part Three ūüôā