Handsome is as Handsome Does

. In emotional overwhelm I dismounted, wrapped my arms around Handsome’s golden neck, and wept tears of gratitude into his blond mane. I felt Dianne join our embrace, the three of us holding one another in heart celebration.

Hoofbeats pulse earth’s heartbeat

Rhythm of life in matter, incarnation,

Particles, strings, waves of potential

Flooding the energetic body

Thrumming through flexing feet,

Calves, thighs, and hips,

Root chakra humming,

Sacral chakra strumming,

Hara spinning, caressed and massaged   

By the Horse Heart I embrace.

Handsome is as Handsome Does

I am 76 years old and a passionate, lifetime horsewoman. In the past 8 years, I have been unable to get on a horse unassisted. The last two years I reconciled myself to the idea I would never ride again. Severe osteoarthritis was eating at my joints. After two complete shoulder replacements, a right hip replacement, a degenerative nerve to a muscle in my right hip (which cost me the ability to lift that leg and swing it over the back of a horse), and severe sciatica in my left leg leading to a looming option of back surgery, I decided to try physical therapy one more time. I was assigned a therapist who listened to me: a 75 year old woman bent over a cane, not able to step up and down from a street curb without help. Exercise by exercise, Logan began to bring my body back. In the beginning, it was exhausting, physically, emotionally, and energetically trying to negotiate pain limits, general weakness, muscles that just would no longer respond. Fear of pain got in my way. My belief that arthritis, gravity, and designed obsolescence was the natural way told me I was aging out. Logan never asked too much while continuing to encourage me to do the exercises, a little at a time, and gradually increasing the time and intensity of the workout. Yes, I know, common sense, but not all Physical Therapists are created equal. Some have a work out regimen, and that is what is followed, an irrefutable dogma. Finally, with Logan’s guidance, my body began to strengthen. I was able to put aside the cane; still careful at curbs, my dog and I could walk a flat mile. My Medicare-allotted time with Logan was running out. I reached inside for one more goal: to mount a horse unassisted. Without hesitation, he directed my exercise to mounting from the off-side, the right side of the horse. Faith in his knowledge allowed me to begin to believe that this goal would be attained. However, we ran out of time before the goal was realized. I continued the exercises, slowly reaching the pinnacle of standing in firm foundation on my right leg and swinging my left leg over the back of a chair. 

The second ingredient of realizing my goal was the horse. After my last horse, Sparkle, died, I sold, gave away, or tossed all the accouterments of horse ownership, including my mindset. Now I needed a safe partner to mount myself on: a safe horse, a safe human, and a safe environment. If she agreed, I knew just the horse/human combination: my long-time friend Dianne and her honest Haflinger gelding, Handsome. I reached out, and she responded with a resounding “Yes.” The day we chose for the “big event” was one of those perfect, midwinter, spring-like days we sometimes glory in the Sierra Nevada foothills. We met at Laughton Ranch in Jackson where Handsome is boarded. From the barn, we passed through a leaning pasture gate, negotiated a goose-grazed green pasture, passing a pond and horses standing in the sun. We went through another gate and walked a dirt road towards the out barns, round pens, and sand arena, all well-used. Handsome lived here in a big paddock. He was nibbling his grass hay when we arrived. He nickered to us, knowing the routine. Dianne collected the saddle, bridle, and brushes; then, together, we collected Handsome. We curried and brushed him at the hitch rail. Dianne saddled him and warmed him up in the round pen and then took him through his paces in the arena. There was no mounting block in the arena. My goal for unassisted mounting was not from the ground but from the solid base of a mounting block. It was back near the hitchrail. We walked back. Dianne aligned Handsome to the black steps and asked if I was ready.

This was the moment. I knew I was ready, and yet I trembled. Not my horse, not my saddle, not the left side. Remembering to breathe, I looked down on that neck, knowing it was his round barrel that I would swing my leg over and settle onto, not this short neck reaching out in front of me. Dianne counterbalanced the saddle, steadying the already steady Handsome. I put my right foot in the stirrup. I may have collected some mane, I remember reaching for it, and swung my left leg up and over. I felt the skim of the cantle on my calf, and then I was on. I was on. I was mounted on the living back of a horse. Somehow, I heard Dianne ask what I wanted to do. I wanted to feel the horse walking under me. I wanted to feel that earthly energetic connection. All I wanted was exactly what I was doing. And she let me do it, she facilitated the experience. I am so grateful. 

We didn’t over do. After riding, I dismounted, then mounted, rode, and dismounted again. I felt the rhythm of Handsome’s movement flow between my legs. That was all I needed. In emotional overwhelm I dismounted, wrapped my arms around Handsome’s golden neck, and wept tears of gratitude into his blond mane. I felt Dianne join our embrace, the three of us holding one another in heart celebration.

My friend Dianne, editor, writer, artist, energy worker, horsewoman.

Thank you!

Equestrian Seniors Poster Boy

An astounding 57K responses, 640 comments and counting. Read all about it.

5.7K Responses and Counting

Kurt Herrmann

At 71 here I am with a very green 3 year old Andalusian mare. Fortunately she’s got a willingness to learn and sensible nature. Continuing to live the dream, one day at a time with a heart radiating gratitude.💗🙏

May be an image of 1 person, standing and horse

5.7KYou, Tam Warner, Cherie River Maitland and 5.7K others

Equestrian Senior Poster Boy: 57K Responses and Counting

What is this platform, and who is this man? My brother sent me a text early this morning that said, “It’s unbelievable, my post has 57000 responses.” The platform is Facebook’s group “Equestrian Seniors.” It has a huge international following. It is a place where older horse-folk share images and stories of sorrow and joy, all of us celebrating the fact we are still horse people enjoying our horses in the later part of life. I have shared posts in the group a few times. Equestrian Seniors truly is a gift for horse people of all nationalities, religions, genders, and cultural points of view, and we all come together in a loving and caring relationship with horses.

 So who is this man? He is my brother, four and a half years my junior, which automatically sets up the Little Brother—Big Sister syndrome. It is a lot of years that we have shared this life and this horse passion. And of course, if you know anything about siblings, you know that the relationship can be wrought with great challenges in ideology as to who is right and who is wrong, emotionally charged, with seemingly mountains of murky mess to navigate in order to find some level of communication. Gratefully, we have matured, and we can now share each other’s joys and sorrows with a full heart, not tainted by embedded triggers that come from growing up together. You can’t know how honored I am to call this man, this horseman, my brother.

Why does  one posting generate tens of thousands of responses out of all of the posts that are entered daily, weekly, and monthly on the Equestrian Seniors platform? Certainly what Kurt had to say was very simple, so is it the image? A beautiful, golden dappled Andalusian mare standing so regally next to a humble man, honoring that space of still being in the presence of Horse. Is it the idea that at our age we take on the challenge and reward of a young horse?

To say the least, Kurt was not born with the  proverbial “silver spoon.” He bought his first horse with his own money diligently saved at the age of 13. Horses were in his blood as they were in mine. We did not have an easy family life. More than me, Kurt dealt with childhood physical and emotional abuse. On the flip side of that, we were embraced by a loving and nurturing mother. The love of animals came through her. As he matured, Kurt faced gender prejudice. Hard work and a passionate nature gave him a fulfilling career. He dealt with the addictions of alcohol and drugs. He was caregiver to both our mother and father in their last years and days. He now is caregiver to his husband of thirty years. My brother-in-law, Michael, was diagnosed with acute myeloma leukemia three and a half years ago.

Kurt carried a big, big load of life “baggage.” While our father was at the end of his life in my brother’s care, Kurt kicked his addictions on his own. The vibrant passion of his nature once again glowed in the sunlight. The gleam of his dream of riding a beautiful horse with grace beckoned. He returned to living fully in his life. I had my brother back.