IMAGES WORTH 1,000 WORDS…OF PEACE & JOY
Editing everyday moments to reveal what my heart sees.
I begged to ride horses on every family vacation. I was sure I wanted one of my own but by the age of 9, I was already clear about the likelihood of that.
I would look into every horse’s eyes before I got in the saddle, to see if they were happy. It was a huge concern to me because I didn’t want to ride a horse that didn't enjoy being ridden. I wanted us to be in synch.
I still do. It has to be fun for both of us.
Decades later, I found myself crying every time I passed my neighbor's orphaned Paint horse foal. He stood alone in knee-deep mud without shelter through a winter of constant rain. Evidence of water (a dog bowl) and bits of hay trampled in the mud was all the county required to keep from coming to his rescue. If I walked by, he eagerly came to the fence, and to this day, there’s no doubt in my mind it was his idea for me to get him out of there; I had long ago given up my dream of ever owning a horse.
I was compelled to rescue him. Either that or move. I couldn’t bear to watch him get any thinner or colder so I asked a local horse trainer if he would negotiate a price and my long-ago dream finally came true.
The next several years and variety of horse training methods—all based on a foal’s critical imprinting of a flight instinct by its mother—frustrated trainers and reaped few results; my horse’s natural response to training was to resist, then fight. Fortunately, though, he had a natural curiosity and willingness if something was in it for him.
Eventually, he accepted being ridden, but moving on cue in circles at different speeds in an arena made no sense to him unless there was a big ball to kick from one end to the other. Trails were good because they were full of new sights and sounds. Opening, passing through, and closing gates made sense as if the fancy footwork led somewhere else. But perfecting cues and gaits in an arena was a non-starter.
I lost my desire to drill him because it only started a fight. I didn’t rescue him to turn him into my idea of the perfect recreational vehicle—especially against his will.
So I built a barn with a large stall and paddock leading to a pasture, found him a mini horse buddy, and brought him home. No more arenas; no more lessons; no more riding. Just liberty work, agility games, and groundwork.
I give him the option to say no, to walk off or to offer another suggestion until we’re in synch. I visualize what I want him to do with consistent words and body language, and watch him figure it out. I praise a lot and he seeks it. I breathe more. He knows the safety boundaries and respects them. His pride after figuring out a request is palpable and his nicker when he hears me approach the barn makes it all worthwhile.
This was the peace and joy I wanted all along with horses—to be in synch.
And this is what inspired me to take my fine art degree and 30+ year career in graphic and web design and create images of horses and nature that bring more than a record of a moment in time into a room—it’s the feeling of being in synch. I carefully edit each image to emphasize the peace or joy my heart felt (before and after examples).
I also want to encourage the empathy I felt as a child for animals, so I use my images to create picture books for all ages with a story written from the perspective of my horse. I’ve taken this highly visual, fictional/non-fiction, “tea table book” for kids into middle schools to talk about creative writing from the point of view of a pet and it’s been super rewarding to see how much kids try to understand their pets!