I’m not an expert in horsemanship, but I’m learning to speak the language. I’m 33 years old, and for 32 years I thought I “knew” horses. But the truth is, I only knew what the textbooks told me. For years I drove to a barn, got on a horse, rode around for a bit, jumped off and went on my merry way. I didn’t get real horse owner experience until I was 30, when a big, beautiful, redheaded quarterhorse named Matilda came trotting into my life. I boarded her at a stable in town, met tons of horse people, and thought everything was grand. But soon after the new horse high, I realized I was falling flat in communicating with her. Hell, I had no idea what I was doing. She had a hard mouth from a previous owner and bad ground manners. Instead of trying to work through the obvious, I was taught to use stronger tack and have stronger hands to pull back. This went against every bone in my body, but I did it anyway. I wanted to be accepted, I wanted to be the city girl who could ride, I needed to fit in. When the harsher bit stopped working and my arms got tired, I deflated, I was lost. I didn’t want to go to an even harsher bit, but what was I to do? At the same time, my husband Mike and I made the decision to adopt two mustangs. One straight out of the wild and the other who had a bucking problem. Reality set in and something had to change.
I didn’t realize “the” change happened for me until I met the right people. Who are “the right people” you ask? Oh, you know, the random people fate throws your way because for some reason the universe knows better than you. The people who become your life, inspiration and shoulder to lean on. The right friends that let you be you, and support you along the way.
My wild horse journey started with a group of people coming together for a common cause. That common cause? The advocacy for the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Being from NJ I thought it would be hard for people to accept me wanting to help, but it was exactly the opposite. They welcomed me in as one of their own and taught me that passion can be used to do great things.That kindness, by how you treat a wild horse, can help build a better relationship with their future adopter. Through them, I learned to love educating unknowing humans about wild horses and seeing their disbelief in how the government treats them. I felt accomplished in knowing at least one more person knows and I can actually help make change, no matter how small. The wild horse world gets highly political and missions constantlty get derailed, but if this group has taught me one thing, it is to keep trying and to always fight for what you believe in. I’m honored to be fighting the good fight with them, and I would say some of these people have become my dearest friends. AND all of these people in some shape or form, have influenced in how I act with my horses. I call these guys My Soldiers.
Through my soldiers, I met a man in MN who would go on to teach me the art of horsemanship. My extremely supportive husband supported my mission to fly out once a month to train with him and my horses. He trains with the ways of Tom and Bill Dorance, and Buck Brannaman (a personal idol to me). He taught me to start on the ground to accomplish what I want in the saddle, rather than just jumping on and kicking my feet. He showed me how to use my body language and energy to move my horses and to teach them. He introduced me to a flag to act as extension of myself to help further my training. My tack changed to a soft snaffle bit and a mecate rein. The reins I used to pull and pray my horse stopped, are now an extension of my mind & heart asking my horse to yield to the lightest pressure possible to move their 1200 lb body. I used to focus on as harsh as necessary and now it’s as light as possible. I’ve become a smarter and more understanding human being when it comes to horses. There is still so much to learn and I know he has so much more to teach. I consider myself very lucky to have him in my life. He’s My Mentor.
The day I met the one and only spirit horse woman, my life was different. She is everything I was striving for. Creative, inspiring, knowledgeable and in tune with wild horses. But watch out! When inspiration strikes, she hits the ground running with a burst of positive energy trailing behind her. And you can’t help but smile and say “Wait for Me! I’m coming too!” Her photography and stories have inspired me to share my own and dig deep within me to find the artist inside. But the really cool thing is, even though she’s a photographer, she taught me to see beyond the lens, to see a wild horse’s soul. To read their body language and study herd dynamics. To put the camera down and enjoy the moment, perhaps crack open a beer, and watch them graze in the sunset :) I call her My Like-Minded Passionate.
Through all my wild horse endeavors out west, there was someone back home in NJ that became essential to my life. However, our story didn’t really begin until we realized we wanted the same thing: to become selfless with our horses and to understand how to have a better relationship with them. She yearned for the same knowledge I did, and with that our bond grew strong and we began our journey of horsemanship together. Through our journey she has kept me on track, and without her I wouldn’t be where I am today with my horses. When I have bad sessions and I’m feeling down, she hops in her car and helps me work through it, and NEVER lets me give up. She’s the friend everyone wish they had. But lucky for me she’s my friend, My more than Horse Friend, but Life Friend.
So as I look back, I see the moments clearer that brought me to where I am today. Letting positive influences into my life was the best thing I could've ever done. Because of them I will never stop learning (and I never want to stop), because I have this incredible support system in my life. For me it was crucial to get out of a negative mind frame and make it a positive one.
So, I’m asking you the reader, to take a step back and think about your "horse" friends. Do they build you up? Are you always learning from them? Do they listen without judging? Each and every person I mentioned above does all of this, and I only hope I return the favor to them. I can continue on my wild horse journey because I know I have the right people to support me.