There’s a photographer at our ranch today. Jamie, a brilliant and talented young horse woman has decided to have some pictures taken with her two greatest loves, Kendall and Lily; both horses of course. The shots of Kendall, one of 12 rescued horses in our program, show Jamie beaming by her side. Though no longer able to carry Jamie, they will always share a special bond. For Kendall is a life-saver, and it is Jamie’s life that she saved. And for this and so much more, I say thank you.
Research shows that one of the most common causes of failure in relationships points to a breakdown in communication. According to Mehrabian’s communication study; only 7% of what we say verbally with words actually communicates, 38% is based on tone of voice and 55% is communicated through body language. This is where we believe that horses can help couples to either establish or improve their communication and in doing so improve their relationship.
For those of you who don’t know me I’m the Pony Lady, aka the Howarth Park pony lady, a title I have been aptly named and known as for the last 28 years. On October 25 we closed the barn door on yet another successful Howarth Park season and to commemorate this auspicious occasion I called Mr. Jim Grady of KZST DJ Hall of Fame to request a shout out of thanks to all of our loyal family following and the kids that make our pony corral go round. Grady of course opted to have me do it myself and quickly had me on-air at which time he began peppering me with pony ride trivia questions such as how long had I been in the business of horse business and during that time how many pony rides had I given?
Today is unlike any other day in the life of this horse girl. It is morning time, and a chilly one at that. Feeling my body’s pain I gingerly prepare myself for the bitter cold weather that has blanketed my field overnight painting it white against the early morning light. It is definitely a day to bundle up as I tentatively make my way out to feed my horses. Greeting me with their sweet sounds of horse’s eager to be fed I begin my routine; one that I have done so many times before. Moving slowly, but surely I feed each one of the fifteen rescued horses and ponies that participate in our Equine Assisted Skills for Youth Program until all are happily ensconced in their favorite morning ritual of eating.
It was the summer of 2007 when we first met. Her registered name was Laundering Money and she was running in the twelfth race at Sonoma County fairgrounds. One could not help but notice the big bodied mare throwing an even bigger tantrum in the staging area. With no less than four handlers manhandling her in their futile attempts to keep her feet on the ground, a war was waging to get her tacked up in time to race. Fighting for her life, or so she thought, I watched her hurl herself every which way but loose in her attempts to loosen her handler’s grip on her mouth. As I watched I couldn’t help but notice the whites of her eyes literally screaming for help. But with all of the frenzied attention focused on slamming her squarely into a hole that did not befit her, no one cared and not one was listening. Her eyes caught mine and the whites glared out from under her panicked big browns. Finally saddled with grooms running alongside I watched as they jumped the jockey onto her back only to have her just as quickly hurl him to the ground.
Milo is a proud and handsome bay gelding. Part Peruvian Paso and part who knows what, he stands tall even though by horse standards he is quite short. One can barely see his arresting brown eyes hidden beneath a mass of wild forelock. They say the eyes tell all and Milo’s both beckon and caution one to approach with great care. Once upon a time not too long ago there existed a barn-size chip on Milo’s shoulder, one of defiance born from distrust. A nearly impossible burden to bear, Milo retaliated as his attempts to communicate a growing discomfort with his human partners continued to fall on deaf ears and untrained eyes. It was as if no one was listening.
When your passion is horses, there is no age requirement necessary to the pursuit of that passion. No one knows that better than Lucy who recently celebrated 84 years in addition to a renewed sense of her equine passionate self. Born in Seattle, Washington and raised in Canada, Lucy’s early equine experiences were slightly less than positive. At the all girl’s high school that Lucy attended, riding lessons were a part of her daily routine, though her fear of horses made it her least favorite part. After a bad fall Lucy chose to hang up her riding helmet for what she thought was a permanent departure from both horses and the horse world.
Today, I had to do something I have never done before. And that is to put down a healthy horse; an old, but otherwise healthy horse. Granted, this horse’s years of service had long since come and gone as his ability to shuffle all four feet in time with any regular beat had sadly, accepted defeat. But none the less his appetite was good, his weight was good, and his spirits were good. And he still had a spark in his eye. In his eyes, life was good, no great. So why you ask, did I put this horse down? Sadly, it all comes down to one thing, money, dollars and cents, or the lack thereof, and timing. And there is never a good time to run out of money.
As the Director of The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, an equine rescue that includes a life skill/leadership program for youth utilizing horses as both guide and teacher, you always go in search of happy endings. It is the ultimate gift and reward to be rewarded not necessarily in dollars and cents, but in the sense that you have made a difference in the quality of the lives of both the horses and riders that come your way. Such was the case this sunny Saturday in July.