When You’re Not Looking

This is Part 2 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.

Have you ever noticed how the thing you’re looking for is out of sight until you stop looking for it?

Whether it is a dream or simply your car keys, it’s easy to miss what is right in front of your face.

That’s how I felt when my trainer approached me about working with one of her horses, a stout and snuggly dark bay with a white heart on his blaze. In his short time at the stables, it became apparent that his sale ad did not tell the whole story and so I was honored to join the team effort in trying to understand how to best serve him.

Teddy’s startle response indicated significant trauma, so I took to working with him as I would with any client needing trauma-informed care with a focus on building a trusting connection fostered by consent and choice, not compliance and control.

The bond with Teddy grew quickly, but it was not easy an easy path forward. Our trauma stories collided, challenging us both to heal at a deeper level. Yes, both of us have a dramatic startling response. Both of us don’t trust easily. Both of us lack confidence.

I had to learn the hard way to practice the principles of connection and relationship building that I teach again and again to my clients:

  1. 1. Check in with your SELF. What are you bringing to the relationship?
  2. 2. Check in with THEM (horse or human). What are they bringing to the relationship?
  3. 3. Check in with the ENVIRONMENT. What is happening at this moment, such as noise, weather, herd/others? And what could have happened before you got there?
  4. 4. Check in with EACH OTHER. What expectations and anticipations are influencing your interactions?

When your goal is growth and time is limited, it is hard to go slow and take inventory of all these areas that influence connection and healing.

Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t count on yesterday’s success to predict today’s experience.

Instead, I had to let go of expectations, anticipation, and tasked-oriented focus, since all of that thinking actually raised my resting heart from 68 BPM up to 80 BPM. Teddy showed me by his resistance that 80 BPM was simply too high for his threshold. If I approached with too much energy, he would give me a “Peace out, sister, you’re on edge!” response and not connect until I let it all go and came into the moment with him.

Yes, Teddy taught me how to breathe and regulate my energy level in a way no other horse, and certainly, no human ever had done before.

The trust we eventually built became clear the day he began licking my hand. Gone was tension around his mouth, no longer locking his jaw shut. It was around the same time I accidentally trained his smile with my delight and a scratch on the whithers when he lifted his head and turned his upper lip toward the sky! Together, we found such joy! We became a better version of ourselves because of all the hard twists and turns we had to work through.

However, just like in human relationships, there may come a time when working with horses in which you recognize that you’re not the best fit for each other.

I had the best intentions for Teddy to become my forever horse, but our limitations and needs collided . . . in the footing. The same tension that we both hold in our bodies feeds off of each other. While we can survive together on the ground, getting in the tack is not good for either of us. Unfortunately, I had to learn that after two of his spooks landed me hard into the footing. I had to make the difficult decision that Teddy needs a human who can be soft and relaxed in a way I am still growing towards. And I need a horse who is far less sensitive and able to handle my moments of tension.

That decision to not purchase Teddy was absolutely gut-wrenching at first, especially because I didn’t know what would happen to him (as of this date, he is still at the farm and being well cared for, with bonus kisses from me and lots of protected contact [sessions over the fence] time with my clients). I cried buckets as the grief washed over me. I not only lost a dream but had to come to terms with letting go of that which I could not fix and start all over again on this journey of finding a horse of my own.

I am sure you could relate. How many times have you had to let go and accept the untimely end of something or someone you deeply loved?

It is part of the journey of life to live and love and let go.

The way forward is painful, so we tend to pacify it or numb out. No wonder I rebounded — as we all often do after a breakup. Iwas guilty of endlessly scrolling Facebook groups looking for a horse to buy. It was not a good idea, but no one could stop a stubborn woman like me. If I only knew then what I know now about what happens when we skip the tasks of mourning, such as processing the grief and accepting the new situation at hand.

No, time does not heal all wounds. But it does give space to think more clearly as your brain and body return to a calmer state.

In my rebounding, I submitted an adoption application at a local horse rescue. Initially, I had my eye on a mare who seemed quite talented, but alas she was too small. Then a quarter horse gelding who looked charming and quiet. He was already spoken for. The rescue pointed me in a different direction . . . but that seemed just crazy, so I kept looking.

Reflection Questions for Your Remarkable Journey

How do you think your expectations and anticipation influence your relationships — with a horse or human?

What would it look like to slow down and allow time to be a significant part of the growth process?

What would it look like to accept your limitations and release the expectations you have of yourself?

What is your natural reaction to disappointment? What do you do to cope with loss and grief? What might be a healthier response?

Ready for part 3?

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