Second Chances

This is Part 3 in the Remarkable Series, a story chronicling the fulfillment of a dream and the rescue of Kodiak Jack, the horse I adopted from Omega Horse Rescue in July of 2022.

The human and horses lessons intertwined in our journey feel worthy of sharing . . . for those who simply need hope about second chances, for the want-to-be rescue horse owner who needs a primer on what to expect, for the frustrated equestrian who can’t figure out what is wrong with her horse, for the individual who has hit a relationship wall and desperately needs a new way of looking at life, and for the dreamer who is about to give up but wonders if there is a still a possibility to see their vision realized.

So here I tell our story — one that is still unfolding. It captures the extravagance of God’s grace, the fruit of perseverance, the beauty of slow growth, and the remarkable gift of hope that comes through second chances. May it encourage you to press on, expecting the remarkable to manifest in your life too.

Hindsight is such an interesting thing. We can look back and see how the pieces came together, yet in the moment, we can be completely out of touch with reality. That definitely described me after the last fall off Teddy.

The wisdom of many urging me to choose safety as the guiding factor was deeply felt, but the internal dialogue was filled with much doubt and shame factoring.

Can you relate?

When we are hurting — emotionally and physically — it is impossible to think clearly. I should know this as a trauma-informed coach and therapist in the making. Yet that didn’t change my response. I didn’t give myself the time to heal. Instead, I took over the reins of control and was determined to find a horse while I was on summer break from grad school.

Eventually, I tripled my budget and looked at a warmblood schoolmaster at a nearby farm. I was literally ready to bring that gelding home, with a bit of fear and trepidation, but the pre-purchase exam revealed significant health issues that far exceeded the commitment we wanted to make. My husband had prayed that every issue would show up and it certainly did!

It felt like another door was slammed. And then another with a horse that I was scheduled to visit, only to have the owner cancel the appointment hours before and ghost me indefinitely. Oh, the drama! Talk about a roller coaster of emotions!

While we were finally in agreement as a family, along with the support of my trainer, to make this investment, we couldn’t find a horse in our budget that met the specs:

  • quiet, safe, kind
  • sound
  • gelding, no mares
  • 10 to 15 year-olds
  • 15 to 16 hands
  • not a rescue
  • not green
  • Quarter Horse
  • no Thoroughbreds

I didn’t think I was looking for a unicorn, but one horse listing after another felt like this was an impossible feat.  Just as I was about to give up, the rescue posted another horse that fit the bill. Much to my dismay, there was already an adoptee ready and willing. The rescue mentioned this other horse again, who needed to go to a home with training. This time, they showed me a photo.

I confess, I’m that girl who falls in love at first sight. And that I did.

Kodiak Jack & Lisa Pulliam, Founder of Stable Minded
Photo Credit

There was my dark bay gelding with black socks and a white strip on his nose, just like the horse of my childhood dreams.

Could this be the horse for me? Based on looks, yes! Based on the description, no!

For one, he was too big coming in at 16’1 hands.

Second, he was not only a thoroughbred, but he also raced, as he was meant to do as one of the many grandsons of Seattle Slew, the renowned Triple Crown winner.

Third, he was a rescue with a colorful history. After his racing days, he was sent to slaughter in 2015. The rescue saw him at that time and posted him for direct bail, but the person who purchased him left him a pasture. Another individual took him for a lesson at a barn and when he wouldn’t trailer home, left him there. That barn owner let him sit until she needed to sell her farm and then tried to find a home for him. The rescue got wind and took him back. They attended to his health, as he was underweight and feet were awful, and put him in 60 days of training. 

Based on my “unicorn” list, Kodiak Jack was a “no-go.”

But I did the thing I would tell others not to do. I went to meet Kodiak Jack, against my better judgment. There was something inside of me that felt like I couldn’t say “no” until I saw what he was really like, especially after talking with the trainer who described him as a “very nice horse.”

I like nice. Actually, it’s a requirement in my books. If you can’t been nice, I’m not your gal. 

Turns out that Kodiak Jack is way more than nice. He was and is truly remarkable. He is resilient. He is forgiving. He is bright. There is nothing about him that seems like a horse that has been left to pasture for seven years. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was someone who loved this horse like he was their own from over the pasture fence.

Did I already mention that he is kind? He is gentle. He is brave. He is curious.

In my first encounter with him, I saw all this and more. I witnessed his courage as he navigated through a trail obstacle course with a handler and then me and my dear friend, who is now his Auntie Janelle. His “try” is amazing. Under saddle, he was a bit of a clumsy boy, without the training or muscle needed to carry himself, but his instinct was “whoa” not “go.” When he felt me unbalanced, he stopped. That’s exactly what I need in a horse!  And when it came time for his pre-purchase exam, he endured test after test without fuss and even found it to be relaxing to be poked and prodded. Y’all that’s a great trait for an equine-assisted coaching/therapy partner. 

So while Kodiak Jack came up short as a Triple Crown protege, I saw within him a remarkable story of second chances yet to be told.

I think his name even nods in that direction. While “Kodiak” means an island in the Gulf of Alaska, “Jack” really captures the essence of this boy, as it means “God is gracious.” Oh yes, I do believe God has been gracious to Kodiak Jack in bringing him this far in life in spite of the odds against him. And God is equally gracious to give this little girl the horse of her dreams.

After much deliberation, we landed on Kody as his barn name, which means “helpful.” It very much feels like a promise of what is to come from this boy. He may not be the unicorn I had in mind, but he is a remarkable dude with a second lease on life, destined to be the best kind of helper as together we serve clients eager to arise, stabilize, and thrive. 

Reflection Questions for Your Remarkable Journey

What comes to mind when you try to recall your childhood dreams — the ones you may have tucked deep away in your heart and mind?

What is on your unicorn list? No, it doesn’t have to be a horse.

What is that thing, that achievement, that relationship or experience you’ve always wanted?

What are the remarkable gifts that are right in front of you?

Ready for part 4?

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