Equine Spirituality; What is it?

What is Equine Spirituality? I first saw this as a heading category in a small used-book bookstore in Placerville, CA. It was an “ah-ha” moment for me. I was in the process of writing From the Heart of a Horsewoman: Horse–A Bridge Between Spirit and Matter. The book had neither title nor form direction at this point. When I shared the material in my blog, one of my writing mentors asked me if it was a spiritual book. My immediate reaction was denial. Who was I to write a spiritual horse book? I saw my audience as the horse people I recognized from the “how-to” horse world. Yet I knew this book was not an instruction manual. What I taught was not something that could be expressed in a curriculum. Each horse/rider combination was unique. Underlying and spanning the teaching of how to interact, communicate one species to another, was the passion and love of the relationship, the Horse/Human relationship.

Artist George Dillon

I wrote in the introduction to From the Heart of a Horsewoman: Horse–A Bridge Between Spirit and Matter a presentation to the precepts shared in the text.

“In these writings I will use words describing the spirit bridge, the reach for experiential oneness.  These words include God, Holy Spirit, Oneness….  These are not religious based words but words to take us to a place that contains wholeness, the completeness of the horse/human experience. But it is not limited to this relationship. As we explore this one relationship, we discover life is all about relationship. This is just a spanning of the one passion for unity to a passion for unity in all of life. The very word “unity” holds its opposite, disunited or separate. In our quest for the perfect ride, we are seeking unity on this level. This amazing, beautiful connection we have with horses is but a schooling place for the bigger connection that we have with all Life. This connection is in relationship, knowing that we are part of a whole ecosystem held in balance within our living home, the Earth, the Solar System, The Milky Way, The Universe.”

Again, the question, what is Equine Spirituality? I define it as coming into Presence in the company of Horse. It is moving into the space of Now as it is held by the heartbeat of the horse. This is expressed over and over by those who have experienced the Intimacy of Moment shared in the Horse/Human relationship.

Artist my granddaughter in her early (young) work. Zephyra Paxton

I am using my blog to present the concepts of my new writing endeavor Equine Spirituality: Everyday Presence with Horse. Please share your personal story, ideas or comments.

May The Horse Always Be With You — Lynnea

She Did Not Go Quiety Into the Night

We are never alone in our grief and the deeper the grief the greater the testament to the reach of Love.

From the Heart of a Horsewoman

Sparkle Plenty RIP September 19, 1992 – January 30, 2022

Although her feet and legs no longer supported her in strength and comfort and fluidity, her heart and mind still carried power and spirit. It had become so necessary for her to maintain her stance that even in the midst of massive doses of life ending anesthetic she tried to regain her feet. She did not go quietly, her lungs kept pumping oxygen, her eyes kept fluttering. My hand on her muzzle, I hoped to soothe her and soothe myself.

In 1992, on September 19th I embraced a new foal, a new life in my arms. January 30, 2022, I wrapped my arms around the neck of this aging gray mare, her life sparkling just as brightly as it had all those years before. Tears drip down my face as I write these words. I’m writing to share this…

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She Did Not Go Quiety Into the Night

Sparkle Plenty RIP September 19, 1992 – January 30, 2022

Although her feet and legs no longer supported her in strength and comfort and fluidity, her heart and mind still carried power and spirit. It had become so necessary for her to maintain her stance that even in the midst of massive doses of life ending anesthetic she tried to regain her feet. She did not go quietly, her lungs kept pumping oxygen, her eyes kept fluttering. My hand on her muzzle, I hoped to soothe her and soothe myself.

In 1992, on September 19th I embraced a new foal, a new life in my arms. January 30, 2022, I wrapped my arms around the neck of this aging gray mare, her life sparkling just as brightly as it had all those years before. Tears drip down my face as I write these words. I’m writing to share this experience because horse people, at some point in our lives, face an impossible choice that has to be made.

What is the criteria for quality of life? When does the balance from a good life to a precarious one change? For Sparkle and me, balance tipped when the pain in her hooves could not keep her upright, and she would fall. The last fall caused a knee injury that made life even more difficult for her. Her pain was my pain. And I could no longer look her in the eye knowing that it didn’t have to be that way. There was an ending to it, but that ending was so final. , an end of ife options, life choices, life dreams. (Now I am sobbing.)

September 1992

2 weeks out

Two weeks without the physical presence of Sparkle Plenty. I now know that deep ache, deep in my soul, deep into the root of my being. I have sympathized with others, shared their loss with just a slight turn of heart to not be pierced too deeply by their sorrow. Now I know. There is no turning away. It is right here inside my heart, inside my throat, inside my head. There is a Facebook page, a group: Over The Hill Horsewomen. So many Illustrated stories of loss of the special horse in these women’s lives. I am now one of them, not separate in any way. I am now an initiate into the full cyclical connection of the horse-human relationship. Before I was one of them, sharing the space with them as a horsewoman; now I am them, I am the space.

2019

3 weeks out

Grieving Sparkle Plenty

What did The Lone Ranger do when he lost Silver?

When he had to put a bullet in the head of his partner?

When Silver stepped into a gopher hole,

racing a mad crazy gallop

the way they do in the western movies,

and broke his leg, SNAP,

sending the Lone Ranger somersaulting through the sage?

What did Gene Autry do when Champion

suffocated from a rattlesnake bite

on his muzzle, unable to breathe

through his mouth,

His great lungs and heart shut down

His vibrating nostrils swollen

Clamping his Vital Air passage closed?

What did Roy Rogers do when Trigger’s

great heart gave out mid-stride

in the never-ending pursuit of Justice

in an unjust world?

What am I to do with my grief?

What am I to do?

What am I to do?

2020

4 weeks out

She stands alert in her green grass pasture, attention drawn to the world of sounds, scents, and movement around her. Brush in hand, I see the long white hairs of her winter coat lifted to the warmth of the sun. I smooth the hair with the brush, trying to reach her skin where the gentle bristles relieve itching, laying the hair down smoothly in the direction it wants to be.

I am finally aware of all the prayers, the energies for the Highest Good, the heart healing that is swirling around us, sent from all those who love us. I am reminded again and again that in reality we are all One. I am so grateful for those who hold the vital space of life and love. Sparkle’s essence resides in my heart, my core, my soul, in the very cells of my body.

I go out to her grave in the pasture where she spent half her life. I cast wildflower seeds over the mound under which her body is returning to the very earth whose spirit she so gallantly and consistently carried. As time goes on, I know I will still grieve, but I will find the blessings of our time together sprout in unexpected places just like the wildflowers that will come up with spring rains.

It so took me by surprise that you aged faster than me. I always thought of us as in the same paradigm, graying together, stiffening in our joints together, retiring together. You beat me to the moment of returning home to The Source. I know you are in good company there. Mother told me she would take care of you, help you transition, settle until you found your freedom. You blessed my life beyond words. We are not done.

Scattering wildflower seeds March 4, 2022

2021 Winner of the EQUUS Film and Art Festival Winnie Award in Equine Spirituality

It is so amazing to have From the Heart of a Horsewoman: HORSE-A Bridge Between Spirit and Matter recognized within the company of equine artists.

I have printed out the entire email from Lisa Diersen so that you may explore the wonderful EQUUS Film and Art Festival site. It is so amazing to have From the Heart of a Horsewoman: HORSE-A Bridge Between Spirit and Matter recognized within the company of equine artists. I am honored to be a voice for our sharing of this spiritual experience with Horse. Thank you for riding with me.

EQUUS Winnie Winner – From The Heart Of A Horsewoman / Lynnea Honn

Inbox

Lisa DiersenAttachmentsFri, Dec 3, 3:12 PM (6 days ago)
to me

Hello, Congrats Lynnea! 

You can watch the WINNIE Awards Show here: https://equustelevision.com/watch/932  

You can see the WINNIE Winners list here: http://nebula.wsimg.com/0e4f5c7c27338986f06c0f6c9d98fe96?AccessKeyId=8D3373E05A6D33D4B706&disposition=0&alloworigin=1  

EQUUS 2021 Pop-Up Gallery: http://www.equusfilmfestival.net/2021-equus-pop-up-gallery.html  

This page will remain up. 

Link for the 2021 EQUUS Film & Arts Fest Program here: http://nebula.wsimg.com/c6854b91a3ec24316cd922119c89702c?AccessKeyId=8D3373E05A6D33D4B706&disposition=0&alloworigin=1  

The Trailer for the 2021 Documentary: https://equustelevision.com/watch/939  

Documentary will launch December 4th on the EQUUS Television Network! 

You can watch all of our interviews and trailers here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-kODnDnBfW6bHsD918NLOw/videos  

Please let us know if you would like to have your WINNIE Award shipped to your home.  

Again, congrats to you all from Lisa Diersen, Diana De Rosa, Julianne Neal and the rest of the EQUUS Film & Arts Fest Team! We are looking forward to moving into our new facility in Ocala Florida in 2022. Everyone who has been part of the 2020 and 2021 “Virtual” Fest will be invited to join us in the Pop-Up Gallery!   
Pony On,Lisa Diersen
Director/FounderEQUUS Film Festivalwww.equusfilmfestival.net 

Every horse has a story, it’s our mission at the  EQUUS Film & Arts Fest to share those stories, through film, art and literature.

From the Heart of a Horsewoman…Horse-A Bridge Between Spirit and Matter

“For those of us born with a passion toward Horse, and I am fortunate to
be among them, the ephemeral quality of our Horse longings, our Horse
relationships, bring questions alongside difficult-to-translate answers.
Why? What inner yearning calls me? What draws my Heart to Horses? Lynnea
Honn dances through the dimensions of these yearnings with metaphor,
lore, poetic prose, and fifty-horse-years of hands-on insights. Delight
yourself in this ‘chocolate’ of horse memoirs, one sweet bite, one sweet
paragraph, at a time.”
          Dawn Jenkins, Lady Farrier  Frazier Park, California

Thank you Dawn, for this wonderful review. And thank you for being the first reader to encourage me by “liking” and “following” From the Heart of a Horsewoman. We share the same path. Now we introduce this path to more of The Tribe of Horse. I hope they will resonate with the book the way we do.

Horse Books for Grown Ups

What constitutes a horse book for grown-ups? That is a really good question. I want to say that the characters are mostly grown-ups. Right? Maybe. The types of books may include fact, fiction, memoir, and fantasy. I have an eclectic list of books that I consider horse books for grownups. I must admit, I have never met a horse story I didn’t like. On the other hand, not all horse books embody the philosophy of what I consider right relationship. I think right relationship has been covered pretty thoroughly in other Heart of a Horsewoman blog entries. If you are curious about right relationship in the Horse/Human partnership, please read deeper into the blog. Or read:

From the Heart of a Horsewoman, Horse—A Bridge between Spirit and Matter by Lynnea Paxton-Honn, available from Amazon in e-book, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited August 2020. In this book I share my search for the depth of the Horse/Human relationship through pondering, poetry, and study of the multifaceted interactions that bring such wonderful satisfaction to the mind, body, and soul. I explore practical and spiritual aspects of this amazing interspecies entanglement. It is my point of view that Horse is a bridge between matter and spirit if we are open to that journey. It is my intention to share what that paradigm means to me.

How do I narrow the endless list of books that entertain, instruct, light my imagination, and pull me into the experience of the story? That is the conundrum. There are two that stand out for me, two that have a special place on my horse bookshelf, two that I give away and have to replace. I always keep two copies of these books, one for me and one for you.

1.  Black Beauty by Anne Sewell—I know this seems a children’s book, but at the time it was written, it was a social commentary on the plight of the horse as servant and slave. Its message is timeless, a horse book for all generations, a study in respect for life in all its forms.

2. Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley—I cannot talk to this book any better than the dust jacket description: “ ‘It’s not true,’ says a character in Jane Smiley’s passionate, and brilliant new novel of horse racing, that anything can happen at the racetrack’ but many astonishing and affecting things do—and in Horse Heaven, we find them woven into a marvelous tapestry of joy and love, chicanery, folly, greed, and derring-do… The strange, compelling, sparkling, and mysterious universe of horse racing that has fascinated generations of punters and robber barons, horse-lovers and wits, has never before been depicted with such verve and originality, and, above all, such sheer exuberance.”

There they are—my top two favorites. What are yours?

Do you want a print copy of From the Heart of a Horsewoman at it’s lowest price? This is the place to pre-order your very own copy today for only $10! Each copy comes signed. If you are local, we will meet up for you to receive your copy whether at a book signing or special arrangements. If you don’t live locally, I can ship you your signed copy of From the Heart of a Horsewoman for only $5!

Go to the link to preorder. I hope this works. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeYCDsOUQuorBqL7SAVQYgpUmUmxVBnzaMB5WpHtd26dfOaLw/viewform?embedded=true

Here are a few other favorites:

3. Drinkers of the Wind by Carl A Raswan—It has been over twenty-five years since I read this book. I perused the dust cover and then opened the book to a random page and started reading:

“The Amarat killed a number of their young camels for a joint feast, and provided for our horses every drop of camel milk from their huge flock, even depriving the suckling foals of milk that night—a generous gift that proved to be the saving of our horses. Indeed, the Amarat were a Godsent miracle in the wilderness of the reaches of Wadi Khadaf. With new strength our horses followed in the wake of the camels. All that day we crossed a plain, until finally, toward afternoon, we reached the uprising center of Kirban. Would this be the land of death, my companions wondered? Would our graves be here?”

Drinkers of the Wind is a true story of the author’s passion, from boyhood, for the Arabian horse. Though published in 1942, it is about Raswan’s first “romantic” journey to Arabia where, in searching for the pedigree of purity in the legendary Arabian horse, he lived with the nomadic Bedouins as one of them in the early years of the 20th century. A beautiful read for lovers of horses of any breed.

4. The Last of The Saddle Tramps by Messanie Wilkins and Mina Titus Sawyer—This is the warm and humorous story of 63-year-old Messanie who traveled on horseback, accompanied by her little dog, all the way from Maine to California. Her doctor had told her she had two to four years to live, she was losing her family home, so she decided to follow her mother’s dream of going to California. She bought a good gelding, Tarzan, from a riding academy and splurged on a sixty-cent diary. She tied everything she thought she would need with string to an artillery saddle that made her feel young and set off on a November day with her dog, Depeche Toi. Twenty-five months later, her journey ended. This book is a gem. It is another one that I have had to replace.

There is a Facebook group calling itself “Horse Books for Grown-ups.” No, I didn’t copy the title. I started this blog last year and got side-tracked. The “shelter-in-place” mandate sent me looking for new reading material. The page has recommendations for many titles from people just like us. It also has authors’ promoting their horse books. I am not a fan of the romance genre, and many of these reads are romance stories with horses as the background subject. But some of these new titles are really good horse stories with horses as the main subject and romance in the background. I especially appreciated two:  Mutedby Leanne Owens, and The Hidden Horses ofNew Yorkby Natalie Keller Reinert.

5. Mutedby Leanne Owens—More than a horse book! My mind is still pulsing from the experience this book drew me into. The plot is intricately woven with twists and turns that are always at the right place. This is a horse book for grown-ups. The topics are current and ageless; good vs evil, compassion vs greed, and the delicate dance of the horse/human relationship. It is a story of tragedy and transformation. The this is an intelligent, compassionate portrayal knowledgeably written. GREAT Story. Horse whisperer vs giant pharmaceutical conglomerate is the basic premise. I would almost think that Leanne Owens is a channel for the Min Min, a local mysterious and mystical light phenomenon native to her home area of Australia, because this story is so provocative. The prologue is heart-wrenching. One reviewer on Amazon did not finish the book because of it. The author is sharing the reality of the severe challenges the Australian Outback throws at us puny humans. It is not necessary to read the prologue to fully enjoy the story. It does, however, lay the ground for understanding the journey of Lane Dimity, Outback horseman and powerful social media personality. Go for the ride of a lifetime—read Muted.

6. The Hidden Horses of New York by Natalie Keller Reinert—Ms. Reinert writes with an intimate knowingness of horses. Her descriptions are intricate, tender, compassionate, and dynamic. Who knew there were so many horses in the city of New York? We know about the racehorses, mounted patrol horses, and carriage horses. There are also therapeutic riding horses, school horses, and docent horses. There is a setting on city property where horses are housed very comfortably in shipping containers. This is a place where rescued Thoroughbreds are housed until they find their forever homes, along with those die-hard horse-lovers whose finances don’t allow for the bigger barns. I loved Ms. Reinert sympathetic portrayal of all of New York’s horse denizens. I had a problem with the stilted romance theme that loosely and haphazardly wove its way around the horse stories. I did say I am not into the romance genre, didn’t I? Natalie Keller Reinert is obviously a horsewoman, heart and soul. I recommend the book.

There are too many horse books to share. This blog is Part One and will be continued when From the Heart of a Horsewoman is available for sale on Amazon so that you can add it to your collection. Be sure to check out “Horse Books for Grown-ups” on FaceBook.

Happy Reading, Lynnea

 

 

 

HORSES, Heroes and Archetypes

The Taming of Bucephalus

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with larger than life, silver screen horseback heroes. It was the horses that were my heroes.  More than that, it was the relationship between the man and his horse, true partners of mutual respect and understanding, which inspired my admiration.  In almost every origin story, the horse of untameable spirit is rescued by the hero. With tenderness and compassion, the hero wins the power of the horse spirit.  The horse is still wild but has given, without coercion, his loyalty to the hero, thus transforming the two into one for the highest good.  WOW! Truly a relationship to aspire toward.

It can be said that this horse/human relationship is Hollywood fiction, but if you asked any person that relies on a horse for their life or livelihood, the answer would be that this is real.  It is the archetype of the hero, the hero’s journey, and the horse as guide, strength, power conductor, and partner.  It is about transforming the limited-body reality of being human to having all of the assets of an apex earth- energy animal, in body and in spirit.

The legend of Alexander the Great and his taming of the magnificent Bucephalus is well known among the Tribe of Horse.  The stallion was brought before the King, Alexander’s father, by a horse trader offering to sell the horse for a large sum of money.  The giant black horse, though beautiful, was unrideable, and so the King was not interested.  Alexander, then only 12 or 13, said he would ride the stallion and if he was thrown, would pay the money himself.  On approaching Bucephalus Alexander saw that the horse was shying from his own shadow.  Talking softly and turning the black into the sun, he removed his flapping cape and stood quietly and soothingly in presence with the horse.  The horse quieted and Alexander vaulted upon his broad back, and together they galloped towards the sun. The rest is history.

The Black Stallion poster

            Recently (a relative term) this story has been retold in Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion.  The myth was beautifully recreated for the silver screen by Francis Ford Coppola.   This is a harrowing adventure of life and death, resurrection, and transformation, the bigger-than-real-life hero’s journey.  Those of us who grew up on The Black Stallion series couldn’t help but be enthralled with this masterful, artistic reenactment of everything that is challenging, beautiful, and rewarding in this magical archetype of the Horse/Human relationship.

The awesome reality is that this relationship is not magic.  Each of us, if we take the time to understand Horse nature and behavior, to honor it and practice the tools of communication that are offered everywhere we look these days, at clinics, instructional DVDs, and books, can have this beautiful bond with our horses.  Like anything worthwhile, it is time consuming, arduous, and needs to be practiced with patience and love.  A passion to share in the presence of these wonderful animals is a prerequisite.  In order to harness the archetypal energy of horse, we must come with humility, understanding, timelessness, honesty, and willingness to relate from the place that is the being of the Horse.

Take a minute or five to view the YouTube video of the Taming of Bucephalus     https://youtu.be/i1J9UueYLNk

And a clip from the movie The Black Stallion                               https://youtu.be/SDW2CT5neyM

 

Beauty Revisited

I am struggling with bringing Beauty out of the realm of the subjective, intuitional and metaphysical into objective, measurable and scientific concept.  I am looking to validate the intrinsic beauty of Horse.

This search has brought me into the harmonizing concept of mathematics in nature, art, architecture and all things human striving for rhythm and balance.  Philosophers, scientists, artists, Theologians have all sought the paradigm of Beauty.  Who am I, one small person in this great universal complex in which we reside, to take on the essence of Beauty?  Because it is about Horse.

Beauty builds bridges
between you
and the creative forces
in Nature…
between you
and
infinity.
Torkom Saraydarian

Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder.  And yet the study of art and mathematics show there is a universal form to beauty – an asymmetrical balance that creates an ever-evolving movement, forever seeking to bring the whole into balance and forever recreating its asymmetry in a harmony that carries the eye into a mystery of searching.  It is called the Golden Ratio, universal “sacred geometry” that shows itself in the spiral of galaxies, in the crest of an ocean wave, in the curves of a conch shell, and in the complex spiral of DNA.

What is the Golden Ratio?  So now I am going out on a limb, talking about mathematics, design, form and natural, organic beauty.  Quite a combination of concepts.

Elaine J. Hom, Live Science contributer, says “The Golden ratio is a special number found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. It is often symbolized using phi, after the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. In an equation form, it looks like this:  a/b = (a+b)/a = 1.6180339887498948420 ….”  golden Ratio

graphically it looks like this:

 

 

The artist, Diana Rueter-Twining, creates this vibrant beauty in her sculpture, allowing the essential horse energy to emerge through static form. Her wonderful creation, Maestro, is a perfect example of Horse in the potent balance of the Golden Ratio.  She says of her process:

“Dressage is a discipline of horse and rider requiring extreme strength, grace, balance and will. It is often associated with the famous white Lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.

 

I chose to pay homage to this in my sculpture, MAESTRO*.  In studying the horse I found that proportionally the horse in this gesture approximated the Golden Ratio or Divine Proportion in mathematics.”

 

 

“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man” is a famous quotation attributed to Winston Churchill.  The horse embodies the golden ratio many times over in its form.  We can’t help but admire the shape, the combination of curves and angles, the flare of nostrils, the flag of tail, the curtain of mane – beauty expressed in every part and every movement – universal, primordial beauty. Horse beauty is a dynamic, living thing.  It shines in the elegant cadenced dance of the dressage horse, the classic curves of the Spanish horse, the crest of the wild mustang, the arc of the hunter over a fence.  Horse is a universal symbol of free-flowing Beauty, Spirit, Courage, and Freedom.

Beauty also comes in relationship, searching for that melding of horse/human understanding, reaching into the mystery of inter-species connections.  As a teacher of foundational horsemanship, I ask my young students at their first lesson, “Why do you want to learn to ride a horse?”  The most common answer is, “I love horses.”  Can’t go wrong with that.  Starting from a place of love can only lead to success.  For me, watching these young horse people struggle, trying to grasp the physical, mental, and emotional intricacies of learning to handle and ride a 1000 pound horse and then suddenly pushing past the barrier of not being able to being able, is absolute beauty.   I am passionate in sharing with these young people the experiences and practices that my 56 years of teaching has taught me.  Yes, teaching teaches.  My mentors teach me, the horses teach me, and students teach me.  Learning reaches out through an entire lifetime.

100_1764

Acknowledgements – I am supremely grateful to Diana Reuter-Twining for allowing to use the image of her wonderful sculpture of Maestro.  You can find her on Facebook and at her website http://www.bronzed.net

 

 

Rippling Wave – a “first horse” story

First horse stories are a beginning.  A beginning of a lifelong love affair.  That first horse holds a place in our heart and soul that lays the groundwork for all the horses that come next.  Our passion leads us to the horse and the horse leads us to a new dimension of learning, experiencing and relating.  Here is a first horse story from Dianne McCleery that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.  Enter the experience of her first love affair.

Rippling Wave

I was a horse-crazy little girl, wanting nothing more than to have my own horse. My father was a career military officer. We moved often, leaving behind friends and beloved pets. Money was tight, and no way was there time or money for me to obtain my dream.
Over the years I took lessons and on occasion had ridden friends’ horses. And never did the dream of having my own horse die.
Then, when I was sixteen, a school mate who knew I loved horses asked if I wanted one. Her sister was off at college and had no time to ride hers. After the farrier would shoe this horse, he would come up lame for several days afterwards. She didn’t feel right in selling him.
I asked my parents if I could have him, fingers and toes crossed. Luckily, I had a part time job at a ranch, so I could afford the monthly costs for a horse. Wonders of wonders, my parents said yes!
I became the proud owner of Rippling Wave, Rip for short, a half-Morgan, half-Standardbred gelding. I thought he was beautiful and fell in love at first sight. He was a dark chestnut, about fifteen years old, and supposedly well-trained. I moved him to a small boarding facility where he had a stall and attached corral. I had stars in my eyes and floated through the next few days.
When Saturday came, I saddled and bridled Rip and led him through a pasture to the trail behind the property. Taking a deep breath, I mounted up and, for the first time in my life, was riding my own horse.
What I hadn’t counted on, and was too green to notice, was that Rip hadn’t been ridden in a long, long time. He danced under me, swinging his butt this way and that, as I wrestled with the reins to try to get control.
A man on a white horse rode up the trail. At that point, Rip, who had slid down a short bank to under a tree, reared up. A tree branch caught me around the neck, and Rip took off at a gallop. The man’s horse bolted after him. I ended up in the dirt on my butt.
I was crushed. I searched in the dirt for my glasses and luckily found them. My dream come true had turned into a nightmare. My neck hurt, my butt hurt, my soul hurt. The man rode his white horse back up the trail, leading Rip by the reins. He handed them to me, asking, “Are you okay?”
I nodded yes, not trusting myself to speak.
I led Rip back through the pasture, un-tacked him, put him back in his corral, and slunk back home. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. I didn’t want to hear, “I told you so,” or “Be careful what you wish for.” I had already learned to hide from my family what was happening in my life.
I tossed and turned that night, not knowing what to do. I had my horse, and at this point, it was a disaster.
The next day, I returned to Rip. Another boarder was there, and I told her what happened. “Sounds like he was just fresh,” she said. She pointed to a flat area and said, “You can lunge him there.” I asked what lunging meant and she explained. (Lunging is putting a halter on a horse, attaching a long line, then standing in the center moving the horse around you. You are safe on the ground; the horse can get his ya-yas out.) So I haltered Rip, attached a long lead line, and sent him out around me. At first he kicked and bucked, which had me holding on for dear life and learning the meaning of “rope burn.” But soon he settled down, trotting rhythmically in a big circle, head lowered. I went home that night feeling a bit more optimistic.
After several days of lunging where Rip became nothing less than a gentleman, I saddled and bridled him again. I took him out to the trail and wisely hand-walked him down to the community arena. This time when I settled into the saddle, there was no dancing, only a well-trained horse that walked, trotted, and cantered on command. Now I was ecstatic! I was a horse owner, and I was in heaven!
Rip turned out to be the perfect first horse. I spent hours on his back, riding him in the arena, down trails, across meadows, and even once to the beach where we splashed through waves. Interestingly, he never once turned up lame after shoeing.
A couple of months after Rip dumped me on my butt, I came across the man on the white horse again. He looked at me in astonishment. “Is that the same horse?” he asked. I nodded. I was riding Rip bareback, no saddle, in a halter with a looped lead rope for a bridle, no bit. Life was good.
I had a wonderful six months with Rip before we had to move across country once again. My father’s secretary loved horses. She could afford the monthly board, but not the cost of a horse. I gave Rip to her, and he lived pampered for the rest of his life, giving rides to her and her nieces and nephews.
When Rip reared up and caught me by the neck in that tree, that wasn’t the first time I’d come off a horse. Nor was it the last. But it was certainly the most traumatic and taught me to be very, very sure a horse is ready to be ridden before even thinking about putting a foot into a stirrup.
And I bless the kindness of Rip’s original owner who made a horse-crazy girl’s dream come true, my parents for saying “yes” when I asked if I could have him, and the wise woman who taught me how to lunge a horse.
–END–

Dianne Chapman McCleery is a lifelong horsewoman.  Her credits and accomplishments are included but not limited to completion of CSHA”s Horsemanship Course, Barefoot Shoeing instruction and a one time certification in energy healing.  She specializes in Natural Horsemanship and Equine Behavior, having studied under Anne Soule of Foothill Equestrian Center.

 

 

Second Chances by Dianne Chapman McCleery

 

The summer I was 52, I spent being 12 again.
It’s sweet when life gives you second chances. And when that chance has to do with horses, well, that’s twice as sweet.
I was a horse-crazy little girl. Unfortunately, I was born into a military family, and numerous moves made riding difficult at times. However, on one of those moves we lived in Fairfax, Virginia. I took lessons at a riding stable deep in Virginia horse country, an hour away from our home, and progressed as steadily as one could while riding one day a week.
Once when I was at those stables, I saw a girl my age, around twelve, cleaning out a stall. She held a pitchfork, and a wheelbarrow was stationed across the stall door. Dickie, my favorite mount, was tied outside. I wanted to be that girl; I wanted to be holding that pitchfork, be a part of that stable, making life pleasant for horses, not just showing up once a week to ride.
Several decades later, I lived on the opposite side of the country in the California Sierra Nevada foothills. One day I signed up my kids to take riding lessons at a local equestrian center. I watched two of those lessons, then approached the owner. “Anne,” I said, “would it be okay, I mean, can I take lessons with my kids?” I tried desperately (and probably unsuccessfully) to keep the pleading tone out of my voice.
The answer was an enthusiastic, “Of course.”
Although I’d had horses several times in my life, I hadn’t owned a horse in over fifteen years. I wasn’t even sure I could get up on one. That worry ended when my mount for my first lesson was Rosie, who was 13.2 hands tall, a pony, very easy to swing up on. Months passed, and the kids and I improved our riding skills, became more educated about horses, and enjoyed being at the stables.
About a year later, a note appeared on the bulletin board – the Saturday stall cleaner needed someone to take over her duties for a couple of months while she recovered from surgery. Hmm, I wondered if I could do that. I could offset some of the money we spent on lessons. And I thought back to that day when I was twelve and longed to be the one cleaning stalls. Did I really want to clean stalls now? At my age?
I read that note for a couple of weeks before I brought the subject up to Anne. “Do you think I could cover stall cleaning duties on Saturdays?” I asked. Again, an enthusiastic, “Of course.”
So here I was, on the plus side of 50, with a job cleaning stalls, shoveling, well, you-know-what. Although there were other adults who did this, I would by far be the oldest. Also, my normal work takes place in front of a computer; I’d never before had a job where I was a laborer. And the pay, although generous by industry standards, was at a rate I’d hadn’t seen in decades. My husband thought I was going off my rocker. Maybe I was.
I showed up the first day in worn jeans, an old t-shirt, and work gloves. I found that shoveling manure and shavings into a cart was not difficult. However, getting it out was.
In the first pen, I loaded the wheelbarrow to the brim with wet shavings and manure. Then I had to muscle the full cart out of the pen, not an easy task. There was a slope up to the top of the manure pile. I got stuck half way up and had to retreat. I made a run at that pile and barely got the cart to the top. Then I tried to upend it to dump it; it wouldn’t budge. I had to turn around, squat, grab the lower edge of the cart, and, straining away, shove upwards with my legs. The cart tipped over, and finally it was empty. One stall down. After that, I learned to take half-loads.
Although I never learned to love cleaning stalls, there were parts of my job that were pure joy: hearing horses nicker in the cool of the morning when I showed up to feed, visiting with others who loved horses, learning how to wrap legs and evaluate horses’ health and wellness. And it was definitely a physical job; some days I was so tired by the end of my chores, I could barely hold it together to drive home.
But, I was spending full days at the barn, which I would have loved to have done when I was twelve and was pretty darn great at 52. I could visit with others who loved horses; I built new muscles; I watched Anne work magic with green horses; I would listen as Anne taught others, something I found particularly valuable for my own riding for the repetition of the basics. The payback for cleaning stalls was all I’d hoped for.
I can’t say I was sorry when the regular stall cleaner came back to work since my back was beginning to complain. But I felt I was able to have an experience that I had desperately wanted when I was twelve. What a sweet second chance!

Dianne Chapman McCleery lives in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. She loves all things horses and particularly enjoys learning body work techniques to help improve horses’ lives.