MAGNIFICENCE & MINDFULNESS
I advocate for horses and nature and the peace and joy they inspire, through my art and children's books.
I started riding horses on family vacations whenever I could, deciding at 9 I wanted my own horse.
I remember looking into all the horses' eyes before I rode them to see if they were happy deep down. It was a huge concern because I didn’t want to ride a horse that didn't enjoy being ridden.
I still don’t. It has to be fun for both of us.
Forty-five years later, I found myself crying every time I passed a neighbor's orphaned foal. He stood alone in knee-deep mud without shelter through a winter of terrible rainstorms. Evidence of water (a dog bowl) and bits of hay trampled in mud was all the county required to keep from coming to his rescue. If I walked by, he eagerly came to the fence. There’s no doubt in my mind it was his idea for me to get him out of there as I had long ago given up my dream of ever owning my own Paint horse.
I had to do something. It was that or move; I couldn’t watch him get any thinner or colder. So I asked a local horse trainer if he would “go see the man about his horse” and negotiate a price. After paying a ridiculous ransom for this “registered” and unruly horse lacking the most important socialization training of his life—from his mother—I officially became a horse owner.
The next several years and variety of horse training methods proved the critical importance of a foal’s early training by its mother. My horse lacked the one thing natural horsemanship training methods rely on: a reliable flight instinct. His natural response to pressure was to resist or fight.
Additionally, he saw no benefit in moving his body on cue in an arena, just to go in circles. He understood going from Point A to Point B for a reason, but not just to do it over and over. He was curious and liked learning tricks, going to new places, opening and closing gates, kicking huge balls. But for lessons in the arena, he became minimally-compliant and resentful as the light drained out of his eyes. I finally faced the fact I did not rescue this horse just to kill his spirit.
So I found training methods that gave him a voice in what we did together. They saved us. His trust level rose; he honestly tried. He became polite and quickly accommodated verbal requests. He taught me to slow down and breathe while he responded to a request in his own timing; to eliminate all expectation energy and remember to include acceptance and gratitude energy; to be more creative in offering alternatives than demands. In exchange, I feel his willingness and reliance on me.
He reminds me of me: I don’t do well in dictatorships with rules and activities that make no sense either. We both thrive on curiosity, creativity, confidence, peace and joy.
Our similarities inspire my art. I use a camera, not to scout and capture perfect places or moments, but to capture mundane moments and later edit them artfully to reveal the peace or joy my heart felt in the moment (before and after examples).
Our painful start with common horse training methods inspired me to help grow empathy for all animals in children by helping them notice each animal’s personality. Out of this has come a new book genre—highly visual, fictional-non-fiction, “tea table books” for kids!
My horse and I aren't typical, and I’m okay with that. I haven’t ridden my horse in a couple of years. When asked, “But what do you DO with your horse?" I have to admit the day I stopped regarding him as a recreational vehicle, our priority became more about a relationship than any particular activity. He and I now share whatever activities satisfy curiosity, build confidence and offer peace and joy. Some day it might mean he'll suggest I ride him again. Or not. Til then, we play with what we can enjoy together at liberty, on the ground.