Have you ever noticed how there are times in life in which a story needs to be told, even when it is still being written?
That is the case of this story I want to share with you . . . one of rescue and redemption, perseverance and patience, growth and grace, and the remarkable gift of unexpected hope.
It is a story about human and horse.
Yes, it is my story of a little girl with big dreams. And it is also the story of Kodiak Jack, the horse I adopted from Omega Horse Rescue in July of 2022. Kody was a race horse who failed to measure up and was sent to slaughter, but miraculously was rescued yet abandoned for seven years, before finding his way into my life.
But this isn’t just a story about a human and horse.
It is a story for you, the . . .
hopeless and desperate for a promise of second chances . . .
longing for dreams to come true and tempted to give up . . .
ready for broken relationships to find a fresh start . . .
willing to let the frustration give way to grace . . .
wandering and search for a purpose . . .May this story of ours encourage you to press on in your journey, looking for what you thought was impossible and quietly but boldly hoping for what might be ahead.
Have you ever considered how your childhood dreams have influenced your life? You know, those make-believe moments when you envisioned yourself as president, Wonder Woman, or a powerful lawyer? Maybe you dreamed of being a doctor, nurse, or mama of many?
Life’s influences inevitably shaped our thoughts of who we could become and what we could accomplish one day.
But then we became adults and realized life wasn’t made of dreams but rather hard work and happenstance, or faith and grace, depending, of course, on what you think of God and your place in this world.
I couldn’t tell you when my childhood dream to own a horse began, but I do know there has not been a day in my life in which it did not exist. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up and live on a farm large enough that I could ride my horse to the mailbox. I know, a silly dream. I suspect it was a coping strategy, envisioning a wide open space away from all the abuse, in which I could simply breathe without a worry in the world.
Maybe I caught the bug after hours spent on my rocking horse. Or maybe it was after my first pony ride, even though the little fella laid down while my dad was leading us along. Why my dad was doing the leading is beyond me, considering he had no horse experience. With all that I’ve learned about the survival response, I am sure that pony felt my father’s spiked heart rate and went into shutdown. All I remember was dad hollering, “Jump off!” As that pony was swapped out for another, and dad insisted that “You always get back in the saddle.” Interesting how both those instructions have guided me at very significant times in my life!
The dream could have been birthed in thos esummer camp days, cantering bareback in a wildflower meadow on a paint named Cow.
Or maybe is was the mare named Lovey, who taught me how to jump . . . and get dumped when she popped me right out of the tack and into the mud pit at the end of the ring.
I suppose loving horses may have been in my genes. My uncle and his second wife owned two that carried us through the wooded trails of old estates turned parkland on the North Shore of Long Island. There was nothing like the full-out gallop through the hills. They were the most alive and exhilarating moments of my tween years. And yet, it was one of those trail riding days that change the trajectory of my life.
Jimmy, my uncle’s horse, loved to cut tight around the trees, which was an issue since I was riding double with my arms wrapped around my uncle and knees jutting past the back of the saddle. I kept telling my uncle what was happening, but I think Jimmy was ready for both of us to be off his back (I cringed thinking of how much pain my body weight was putting on the back of his spine). We were only minutes from the house after a long day out, and my knee was slammed right into the trunk of tree. It was the first of many dislocations, bringing an end to my dancing aspirations and rerouting my life both socially and physically.
Nonetheless, my passion for riding continued. I went on to join the equestrian club team in college. Catch riding (aka, getting on a horse you’ve never ridden before at an IHSA show) was not for me. The stress far outweighed the joy, so I eventually quit, not realizing that it would be more than twenty-seven years before I ride and jump again.
My dream to be a horse owner was pushed to the back burner as adulting took over. Marrying Stephen, a teacher committed to working at a boarding school meant owning a horse or property of our own was out of the question. No regrets in that department as we have been blessed with so many other joys in our marriage — children, community, and experiences that are priceless in comparison. Yet the longing continued!
When Stephen was recruited by a day school in Pennsylvania, we found ourselves living in the middle of horse country. Chester County is home to many of the US Olympic Eventers and world-renowned Devon Show Grounds. And yet, the cost of owning a horse seemed impossible on a teacher’s salary and with entrepreneurial work, plus college tuition bills for our four children. I grumbled and complained each time I passed a horse farm.
One spring afternoon, I the decision to choose gratitude gave breath to dreaming again — not about owning my own horse, but rather imagining how I might simply be able to serve or work with horses.
Less than six months later, the door swung open and I was invited to step into an equine-assisted learning program for children and young teens as a volunteer. The following spring, I began my training as an equine-assisted coach with Natural Lifemanship, and early that summer, I stepped foot on the property where StableMinded has become. A year later, a beautiful partnership was forged with Honey Brook Stables, the place where I get to partner with horses in serving humans seeking personal and professional growth!
I can’t count the times I’ve wept with gratitude on my drive home from the stables!
And yet, the dream of that little girl who simply wanted a dark bay horse to call her own still beat strong in my heart.
Reflection Questions for Your Remarkable Journey
What comes to mind for you when you think about your childhood dreams?
Does that dream still beat within your heart?
Did you shelve that dream? Surrender it?
Can you identify the heart of that dream? Why does it mean so much to you?
What would change in your life today if that dream became a reality?
Ready for part 2?
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