Congratulations to the winners of The Partnership and Courage Contest
Enjoy the winning entries below:
My Dad was outvoted two to one. As cliché as it sounds, it was love at first sight when I met Premoe for the first time. He was a gangly two year old whose head was too big for his body, which was a mismatch of his origins. Percheron in his feet and bones, Appaloosa in coloring and attitude, and a splash of Pinto just to make things interesting, Premoe wasn’t necessarily the horse of my dreams, but through the years, he became a horse that everyone hopes to have.
I first met Premoe when a call to the Humane Society forced his owner to place Premoe and his half-sister at my neighbor’s house. Half-starved and untrained, it should have been a disaster in the making since I had only been riding for a handful of years. But the price was cheap. My neighbor said to offer $500 for him, but his owner beat us to the punch, practically begging for us to take him for $300. The deal was done, cash was exchanged, and Premoe became a cornerstone in my life.
It wasn’t an easy road by any means. I had a draft horse in my field who didn’t understand the concept of personal space, his size, or that he wasn’t going to starve. After being dragged across the yard numerous times by the beast, we decided he was too much for me to handle, so off to the trainer he went. He happily jumped onto the horse trailer
and traveled down the road just fine, but the hour and a half it took to get him off, then the dragging down the driveway and into the arena, didn’t bode well for Premoe’s schooling.
However, he ended up being a quick learner, and willing to please, and three months later, I brought him home, a much more amiable horse, and my new favorite partner in crime. I learned an important lesson during those three months, for the trainer didn’t believe in him. When I told her my aspirations to use him for jumping
, she laughed in my face, and told me that he would never be a jumper. It is safe to say that it was the first time I understood how it felt to have your hopes and dreams shot down, and it was the last time I would let someone make me feel that way. Premoe went to his first horse show only a few months after his training ended. While we probably didn’t win anything, it felt wonderful to be able to step into the ring and proudly present my horse. I knew he was special, even if the judges didn’t, and that was all that was important.
As the years went on, Premoe and I continued to prove people wrong. I did everything with that horse. We rode all over Washington and Oregon, including a five day overnight trip where we went swimming in a reservoir, did numerous open horse shows where we remained successful, played in gaming days and ran our hearts out (we might not have been the fastest, but you can bet we had the most fun!) and we tackled the dreams I’d carried since the early stages of my riding: to compete in jumping and Eventing. Premoe was one of those horses who never said no. He was game to try anything I threw at him, and although he might not have been the best at what I asked, he always put his heart into it, and never gave me less than everything he had, all of the time.
Towards the end of my 4-H career, I became a little cocky about winning. Premoe and I had been travelling to numerous jumping shows and had been racking up the ribbons and championships. So, when I came to Fair that year, I expected to be handed the Grand Championship. When I walked out of the ring with a simple blue, I was bitter. I whined and complained, and even questioned the judge afterwards. Frankly, my attitude smelled worse than rotting garbage, and as President of my 4-H group, I was an awful example. In the weeks that followed that Fair, I really sat back and questioned my reasons for riding. I apologized to my club at our first meeting of the year for my attitude, and I haven’t looked back since. I realized then that at the end of the day, the ribbons aren’t important. It’s about having the opportunity to own a horse, and to show a horse, and to be privileged enough to experience the joy that these amazing animals give us every day. Not everyone gets the chance to do what we do, and we should never lose sight of that. I did once, and I sincerely hope that I never will again.
A year later, we stepped into that ring for the last time, though I didn’t know it then. The next year, I would miss my last Clark County Fair due to college. I didn’t care about what ribbon I would get that day. The jumps were set, I had a smile on my face, and I was happy. Before we started, I gave Premoe a big pat on the neck, sank my heels down, set my shoulders back, took a deep breath, and asked for Premoe to pick up his wonderful rocking canter. We met each fence with the ease of longtime partners and when the class was announced, we had won the championship at last. That day meant so much to me, because we had reached the top of that mountain. We’d been doubted, laughed at, looked down upon, but at the end, we rose above it together.
When the time came for me to go to college, I had the tough decision of what to do with Premoe. I couldn’t afford to take him with me to New Jersey, but I wasn’t ready to let him go. I ended up leasing him that year, and the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I came home and we accomplished another one of my dreams: to event. I will never forget the first time I crossed through the finish flags of cross country. We did not have a clear round, but I didn’t care. I wanted to pump my fist in the air like I had just double-cleaned at the Olympics. Chills ran down my spine, the smile on my face practically split my cheeks, and the tears in my eyes were of joy. The dream I had for so long was finally a reality, all because of one special horse, Premoe. I hugged him as we walked back to the barn, laughing and crying.
For the next three years I remained in New Jersey during the summer in order to work with a professional rider. While I had a blast and learned a lot, I never forgot about Premoe. After I graduated, I ended up moving home for a while and Premoe joined me. I never thought that he would be in my backyard again, but I had always longed for it. Whenever I was home for holidays, I would look out at his field and wish he were there to greet me with his silly whinny. To have him there again, even for a short time, was a joy. I relished waking up every morning to feed him and clean his stall, spent hours grooming and riding him in the afternoons, feeling like a girl again when we galloped around and around the field just because. I didn’t realize that home wasn’t the same without Premoe until he was home with me again. The opportunity came to take him to an event, and I was ecstatic. I hadn’t shown my boy in three years, so I had no idea what to expect. At the end of the day, after a clear round in both cross country and stadium, there was a blue ribbon attached to his bridle. It was the first time I had won an event, and it was ironically appropriate, since he was the horse to help me get my start in the sport I love.
Unfortunately, reality hit soon after the show. I was moving to Virginia in less than three months, and again, Premoe couldn’t come with me to the East Coast. A family from Seattle area came to check him out, and when the girl rode him, I just knew.
I never thought that Premoe’s chapter in my life would end and I continue to hold onto the hope that he will revisit the book of my life someday. As much as I understand that it is not fair to either of us to hold onto him right now, selling him was like tearing a piece of my heart out. I never understood how special he was until he came back into my life. I never realized what an amazing soul and heart he carried inside of him until I rode many other horses.
Premoe taught me more than just how to ride. He taught me lessons that only a horse can. He never made excuses for what he was and if he didn’t get it right, he tried harder. He threw his heart into everything I asked him to and never said no. He taught me that what you look like doesn’t matter, if you believe in yourself then you can do anything. Premoe showed me how to stomp down on the people who doubt you and to make dreams a reality, even in the face of adversity.
If I could have had a different horse as a youth, and won belt buckles and championships and lots of blue ribbons, I wouldn’t. I look around my room today and can tell you the story of every ribbon that hangs on my wall. I remember each day as if it were yesterday, some more vivid than others, but each piece of silk carries a special moment in my life. I may not be rich with winnings, but I am far wealthier with the lessons I learned and the joy I found within owning Premoe.
He has a new home, now, with a girl who reminds me a lot of myself. Young and full of dreams, promise, and hope that she will rise up above those people who would try and bring her down. I am confident that Premoe will do for her what he did for me. He will be her confidant when times get tough, her best friend through thick and thin, and above all, her instructor on the road of life. As hard as it was to let him go, there was joy mixed in with the sadness, for I am more than blessed to be able to share the incredible gift that Premoe is.
Someday, when I own a barn of my own, I hope that Premoe will come home to me again. There will always be a place for him, no matter where I am, for he was my first love and the first thing in my life that made me feel beautiful. All I had to do was get on and ride.
My story with Spring Thaw
My name is Christianna Capra – I grew up in Colorado and Seattle but now live in NYC (since 1984), and have been horse crazed since I was 2 yrs old. Many girls are but it usually wears off at one point – it never did with me. My family couldn’t afford a horse so when I was young I made friends with people who had horses and became a helpful barn rat just to be around them and earn an occasional ride. I was always just as happy to groom, care for and be with them as I was to ride them though. When I was 11 years old, I got a paper route, cleaned a doctor’s office and worked at the barn to have my very own, very first horse. This was in Seattle and life was perfect!!!
Then at age 16 I moved to NYC, kickin’ and screamin’ with my mom and stepdad.
This started a 10 year hiatus from horses, as I knew I personally could not just do a “little bit” of horsey, it was all or nothing with someone like myself, so I finished high school and college – without them.
One night I was walking around Manhattan by myself – and went looking for “that hack barn” on the upper west side known as Claremont Riding Academy. I thought it would be cool to just check it out and maybe I could find a way to be around horses again. My soul was crying out for them and had been for some time now. When I got there, they were closed but there was a sign in the window saying “help wanted – part time grooms”. Hey, this is a way for me to be around them again and even get paid for it…I thought. I got the job and was working by the following weekend (for I think $4.00 per hour), and as a perk you got to ride on Monday’s. I rode just about every horse in the barn as time went on and one day I met / rode Spring Thaw – a 16.1HH Appaloosa / TB cross who had one blue eye, loud red coloring and quite a personality. I was warned to NOT canter him in the park, and that if he did canter to beware of the “dropping the shoulder and 180 spin move” he had been perfecting to remove his rider (so he could graze and then traverse 4 blocks of NYC traffic by himself back to the barn). Indeed, Spring did try to canter and “remove” me as the rider, but I did not fall off – and from there we seemed to form a quirky friendship or understanding. He soon became my favorite horse to ride – because we would go off the bridle trails and “explore” Central Park. Spring had only been at Claremont for a short time of about 6 months when I met him - he was young, ornery, and just enough mischievous – but also had been abused in his past (he was head shy and would become frightened of certain movements indicating he had been beaten or mistreated in that manner). When I look back now there were signs then that he was reaching out to me – he used to lick my arms when I was in his stall and then he would block the door to leave (it was a 6x8 ft stall) – but didn’t do this behavior with anyone else. And I could feel a “presence” in me whenever I was around him, that is there to this day.
One day I arrived at the barn and heard the owner yelling about liability and to get rid of that horse…I asked who he was talking about and it was my Spring. He had once again – left a rider in the park somewhere, grazed on the public lawns and then returned to the barn (covering 4 blocks of busy traffic alone) only this time he caught the attention of a radio news reporter who shared the story with the rest of NYC – which then prompted his walking papers from Claremont. I asked what would happen to him, where would he go? They said that he would be shipped to a horse dealer on Long Island – where he came from and then it depends on who bought him from there…a family, another barn or worse – a meat dealer…
I ran home, panicked, knowing that somehow I had to find a way to save Spring…my boyfriend Michael said to me – “why don’t you get him, you seem to like him a lot…” I thought that is crazy, I know what it takes to have a horse, a lot of responsibility, a commitment to care for them, and I live in NYC, etc. Yet, Michael must have known somehow that this was meant to be because within 2 days we had worked out a payment plan with the owner of Claremont and within 6 months he was paid for and we were hunting for a place in NY State or New Jersey that had a field and grass so that he could live like a horse. I wasn’t totally sure what exactly I was doing getting a horse at this point in my life, but a little voice inside kept saying that it would end up okay and that this was the thing to do.
Claremont is now closed. In many ways that is a good thing, it was a wretched place for a horse to live, while better than being slaughtered – horses lived in dark stalls (some of them straight stalls – where they could never lie down), had to walk up and down ramps from the basement or the upstairs (which was a complete fire trap – if there were a fire there was NO escape for any of the horses), and they never got to be horses in a field, to play or eat grass – with the exception of Spring grazing himself in Central Park. Once I saved the money to pay for him, I found a place in New Jersey to bring him to live. The day he was set free in that field brought tears to my eyes as he ran around and around with his head high and tail up screaming out loud, as if to say “thank you, I’m free”.
Over the next 10 years we have become the best of friends, we competed in lower level Eventing for 4 years and did pretty well, but mostly he became my friend and teacher. I learned patience, confidence, trust, spontaneity, perseverance, true unconditional love, and that there is nothing that beats a sense of humor…
Spring has helped me through some of the toughest times and decisions in my life, and if I were back there to make the decision again – I would do it 10 more times…
In late 2006, Spring became very ill due to Lyme disease. At that point I retired him from riding and competing, which was a little sad for me because I love the view of the world from his back, but we had to try and get well. We ran through 3 courses of drug treatment including a 21 day IV treatment which taxed his kidneys so we had to stop. We kept trying varied drug dosages for over a year and each time the lyme roared back and even worse than it was before. I began to despair and really couldn’t stand the thought of losing my best friend. Then I met a vet, Dr. Judith Shoemaker, who is internationally known for her incredible successes and includes alternative methods and holistic therapies in her practice – she had seen this scenario before and said that he was drug resistant. So we put him on a regimen of herbs, acupuncture, and oxygen therapies to kill the lyme disease – and frankly, at this point I had nothing more to lose.
Today I am very relieved and happy to say that as of 2009, Spring is well and back to his mischievous self, he is estimated to be 22 years old and he spends all day playing with the two 5 year olds in the field where he lives. His energy is back and with that his attitude also. He knows he is loved and cherished. And I ride him now, mostly bareback in the woods and trails for fun…and if he wants to canter I let him and soak it up as a gift. We have a second chance and we are loving it.
There is another twist that came with his recovery – Dr. Shoemaker also gave me a lead to check out. I have always wanted to create a career with horses somehow, but knew I would not be a professional trainer or rider, or a vet, etc. After meeting, diagnosing and spending a few hours with Spring, Dr. Shoemaker came up to me and said “eagala.org – check it out because this horse would be a brilliant EAP therapy horse”. I did look up the site and that night “found myself” – this is it – this is what I want to do with the rest of my life! Because of Spring Thaw and him getting so very sick, I found EAGALA and became a certified equine specialist as part of the treatment team for EAP (equine assisted psychotherapy). EAP is a form of emotional balance treatment where there are 3 treatment team members to help people with emotional problems, imbalances and healing. There is a mental health professional (who also becomes EAGALA certified), an equine specialist (horse person), and the horse(s). EAP can successfully treat – addiction problems, eating disorders, behavioral and performance problems, family and couples therapy, and so much more. I know that Spring and I will be incredibly good at this work, we are a great team. So who knows how many people we will have the chance to touch and heal before we are done?
So on this journey, I have found my spirit guide in Spring Thaw, and through him I have found my life’s work – or my passionate purpose as some say. Spring has an uncanny gift for this work and many times I get the feeling that after 12 years together we are only just beginning…
Now I see that he had to get sick in order for us to change gears and for me to find EAGALA and my path for the rest of my life, this is my way of being in service to others and how lucky that I would get to do that with horses and also how lucky am I to have my truest and best friend as my partner and master teacher to help me make that leap. This spring we are launching our EAGALA model program called SPRING REINS OF HOPE (Getting to the Horse of the Matter) out of Stewartsville, NJ. Its very exciting to be on this journey...
I am so very grateful for the day that I wandered into Claremont and met Spring Thaw, and wouldn’t trade a day, even a moment of our time together for anything in the world.
Thank you Spring – and I love you! You are the one true thing I can believe in.
SPRING REINS OF HOPE
To my wonderful chestnut mare
I run a loving eye over your glistening, rich russet coat,
Its dapples and shine radiate your health, your happiness,
It shows nothing of your past, no glimmer of pain, no hint of fear.
I touch you, with a steady, calming hand and gaze into your eyes.
Soft, warm whickering breaths are returned to me,
You show no sign of tension, no flicker of fright, no ounce of uncertainty.
And then I realise,
How I have succeeded where others have failed,
How we have conquered the doubts, the ridicule, the 'impossible'.
How my dear friend have we ended up here?
It seems so simple now, all that was lacking from your past,
All that you needed for your future , all that now makes us great...........
I wrote this for an english project shortly after I sold my mare, it absolutely tore me to pieces, but yeah :(
For three years I worked as hard as I could to get things right, those hours of tears I went through making those decisions that could change my life, those hours of pain I went through to get everything right, those hours of laughter I had when I was with you, those glorious moments that were few and far between, those terrible moments which more often then not, those pretty blue ribbons which excluded me each time, those large amounts of money I spent on giving it my best, those days when nothing went right and I had you to fall to, those days when everything was perfect and I had you to thank.
It had been just over three years ago when I met you in January 2005, you scraggly little pony who stole my heart with the first glance, that scraggly little pony that cantered up to me when she first saw me, that scraggy little pony who changed my whole life and perspective on life. You scraggly little 6yro who still wasn’t broken in.
For a painful 5 months I waited for you, I waited to be able to call you mine, I waited ever so patiently to have you in my life. I worked with countless other horses in that time, little ponies galore, they were fancy and prancy and some quite fluffy but nothing measured up to your brilliant little neighs and your clever little looks.
June 4th 2005 my ever lasting dream came true, I could finally say I owned you, or more correctly you owned me! From that day I on, I had a daily commitment to feeding you, working you, brushing you, oh and I guess loving you! I had never known hard work until now, hard work surely came with owning a horse, along with the words commitment, time, money, tears, happiness, money, pain, joy, and did I say money?
I’ve never known the feeling of truly being afraid either before you, you showed me how to be truly afraid that something’s going to go wrong, you showed me life isn’t all dandy and fun, you have to take the good with the bad, you showed me being weak isn’t what is needed, and you don’t have to feel confident as long as you look confident. You showed me that there are two sides to everything, each side entirely different.
Along with the bad you showed me the best, you showed me what feeling on top of the world feels like, you showed me the joy you have when you get that exclusive movement correct or that joy when you pass that one spot without rearing. You showed me how to break down fears and how to face what scares me. You showed me its possible to love something without regrets, you gave me everything you had and put up with me when it went wrong. You showed me how to smile and laugh on a terrible day, you showed me what its like to be at the top. You taught me to take the good and cherish it as long as possible.
I remember the thrill I got when I filled out my first every entry form for an ODE, writing ‘Royal Storm’ proudly in big letters, proud to own you! I remember the tears I had at the end of the day where we finished a dismal last with terrible dressage, two stops on cross-country and a terrible but clear showjumping round. I remember the thrill I got when I got my first gymkhana schedule and remember circling all the classes I wanted to do! The hacking, the games and the showjumping. I remember how upset I was at the end of the day, no ribbons in the flat, I tried my hardest but we just weren’t showy enough, no ribbons in showjumping, we knocked to many rails, we got 2 ribbons in games though? I was so proud! I had my first ever ribbon and so did you!
You suffered from so many problems, so many vet visits, so much more money to spend. We tossed up the idea to sell you on, but I refused, I liked my little pony much to much to sell on to someone who might not love you the way I did. You could barely walk on the bad days; I would see you hopping around your paddock, wishing I could somehow magically fix your feet which had fallen apart. I was wishing your stifle lock would disappear; it hurt to see you lock up and it hurt to see me have to work you through it when I knew it was causing pain.
I remember the tough times, the stupid tricks you’d pull, the evil little rears that would get me off and your habit of not cantering on the left rein, oh gosh you annoyed me at the best of the times!
I remember the best times, like the day we jumped 1m and I was in tears, the day you got that left canter absolutely perfect, the day I truly felt you go perfectly with me, the day we won our first ever showjumping ribbon. You were simply perfect and my sense of direction when I was lost.
October 2006, you showed me what its like to win for a change, something must have clicked in your head, we had competed in the Launceston Royal about 4 days before this particular show, to bring down 3 rails in our SJ class. I had no hope of winning anything at the show but I entered the 85cms and 95cms with a vain hope of jumping clear. Well to my surprise you jumped the 85cms perfectly, to then jump the jump off perfectly and the quickest, to earn yourself that desired blue ribbon hanging around you neck. To my even more surprise you jumped a fantastic clear round in the 95cms, the highest we’ve done yet! We got to the jump off where they were a little to big for you, but you gave it your best, just knocking a single rail, which was my fault, but to my surprise you managed a strong 2nd, beating horses who had gone clear, but it proved to me that day you were fast and brilliant once you reached a jump off.
I pottered around that 2006 – 2007 eventing season, just doing some grade threes, I wasn’t a big eventer, but we managed a few places. We got to our first ever state champs in eventing, aside some bad luck we managed a 5th place, certainly a surprise for me! And only .2 out of the placings!
2007 was the change of everything; I got to more showjumping events and started to bring home some ribbons! It became very rare for you not to place or win in a SJ class. Your first 1.05m was scary! You hooned it around the jump off course to place 4th in a large class, I was so happy, and so looking forward to what might come after this. Numerous other little places followed, always winning the 85cms class and normally the 95cms and a place in the 1.05m.
I did my first B grade SJ day, the Tasmanian Interschool’s SJ Championships 2007, where I managed to win the first round, a simple 95cms -1.05m for the jump off, once again a blue ribbon was tied around your neck and I sat back and thought how long it had taken me to get you to even canter on the correct leg, and here you are now winning showjumping.
I had stepped you up to grade two eventing for the 2007 – 2008 season, we were never quite in the placings until our state championships, and we were winning after dressage, certainly a surprise! But as usual my winning after dressage curse came and we had a fall on XC, you brave little pony who doesn’t stop at jump leapt a jump that you should have stopped at, making it impossible for me to stay on! But we finished the course and finished the weekend in 5th place, enough to make me smile.
By now I had to sell you, you were 14.2, I was a long legged 175cms tall teenage who could almost wrap my legs around you! I had you advertised on a few horse websites with little interest, but that did not faze you, I wanted you to be mine for as long as possible.
I headed of to the 2008 Interschool’s SJ Champions with fears and hopes. I had us entered in the A grade class, the highest it went. Boy we got a shock! First round up to 1.10m, but it left us again in the blue ribbon spot with that lovely ribbon tied around your neck, you happily leading the winners lap. You started to struggle in the final round, they had gotten to 1.15m and you just weren’t there yet, pulled a rail with a disappointing finish, but managed to land us a 4th, your quick little spins and sharp corners made us quicker then those bigger horses.
I had the 2008 Interschools Eventing Championships left as well, our first Pre-Novice event? How scary! I was trampled moments before my dressage test was on, I rode my test in great pain but you took care of me, making my life so much easier to ride you through the correct movements. We managed a lovely clear XC round, you had not stopped at a XC jump since that faithful first ODE back in 2005, and you managed a lovely clear SJ round, bringing us to 3rd place! Our first pre-novice and we were in the ribbons!
Our biggest challenge came up. The Tasmania PC Showjumping Championships. You blitzed it with ease, you’d gotten the feeling of ribbons around your neck and you wanted more. You out jumped everything and anything to win the B grade championships which got to the insane height of 1.20m, getting as tall as you! You proved that day you were the best and nothing would stop you. I was never so happy that day, I was so happy with the fact my work with you had payed off. Forever that trophy stays in your name, sitting on my shelf currently, sitting next to the photo of us once we received it.
By now I had a fair bit of interest in you, a lovely family came from Victoria to see if you were suitable for their 12yro daughter, it was if she was seeing you through my eyes, and instantly I knew she was perfect for you. They rode you and loved you, you passed your vet check with flying colours, they booked the transport to take you Victoria and before I knew it you were not mine anymore,
I had to sit down to realise what this meant, June 4th 2005 I brought a freshly broken RP x TB mare named Maddie. On May 24th 2008 I sold a highly educated RP x TB mare named Maddie. Just shy of 3 years of having you in my life, my directions if I got lost, my saviour when it all went wrong.
How was I meant to sum up what you meant to me? You were simply my hold in life, my best friend and saviour. I could not sum up in words how much you meant to me, but I’ll tell you I love you and the moment you loaded onto that truck to Victoria, I’d miss you forever.
I knew you were happy with your new family, they loved you, and from what I heard you were happy with them. I knew there was no way I would ever forget about you, you were the special one, the one that would try as much as was humanely possible, the little 14.2 mare who gunned it round a 2** XC course for me, the little mare who would clear showjumps as high as her! The little pony who made me feel on top of the world.
There are no words to describe what you did for me, you saved me so many times, those days I felt like ending everything, I just had to picture your pretty little face and you kept me hanging in there.
How do you say thankyou? I don’t think its possible to say thankyou to your horse, but every day tell them you love them, you love them as if they weren’t going to be there tomorrow, you love them as if there your best friend, and to me Maddie was my best friend. My simple reason for staying together, my saviour when everything else crumbled
I have a new horse now that Maddie has left, a talented 16.2 TB mare, who’s got some huge horseshoes to fill! She’s heard all about Madds and tells me she wants to fill those horseshoes and possibly go even futher, I tell her, she might fill those horseshoes but she wont fill the whole in my heart which is just there for my special Maddie pony.
Ann Murray Livingstone
"The Wonder Horse of Tatamagouche"
Mae was dead. Mae Dillon, the Wonder Horse of Tatamagouche was dead - dreadfully, irrevocably dead.
I could barely grasp the cold hard facts in the terse newspaper article that accompanied my grandmother's newsy letter. "Owner Owner Will MacQueen had to shoot the 10 year old mare after she was injured in a car accident on Main Street. Mr MacQueen said the mare reared when she confronted the car, struck the windsheild with her feet and threw her rider...who was not badly injured. Ten months ago. Mae had a colt. Prince William, that Mr. MacQueen is training"
At fourteen, I had only experienced the death of one beloved pet, so death at best was still a very difficult and remote abstraction. Mae was so far away. tucked in a tiny village nestled between the French and Waugh riveers in Colchester County, Nova Scotia. I, on the other hand, resided in Vernon, in the lush blossom bedecked Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.
However, that did nothing to ease the heartache as the tears slid down my cheeks and dripped heedlessly onto my shaking hands. "Mae a trick horse, was well-known throughout Nova Scotia as that alone, but her chief claim to fame lay in her attraction for children. She and her owner had looked after the children of Tatamagouche for several years. She had hauled a cart containing three or four children and a dog and usually two children on her back. She was a familiar sight on the village's main street. She once carried her master to Charlottetown and back- a distance of more than 200 miles."
I had never had my own horse, so Mae was my surrogate and my beloved friend. However, I could only see her on summer vacations. Those particular vacations did not occur often as my family had to cross a continent to see friends and relatives.
My first recollection of Mae was during the summer of my sixth year. I was lifted onto a broad warm back. I sat there in ecstacy, as this very large creature posed obediently as the camera clicked. My young legs even then fell naturally into the curve of the mare's sides. Holding the reins in both hands I felt completely in control as Mae stood patiently. This was part of Mae's everyday routine. She was the popular subject in a multitude of photographs.
Mae's entourage was an ever-changing small swarm of children. They trotted by her side or sat in a coveted space in the two-wheeled cart. The luckiest of all were the previleged two that perched on her back amidst the harness as she proceeded sedately down the village street. She was a large comfortable Standardbred mare with a kind eye and a calm disposition.. She was chestnut, a lovely warm reddish-gold. She had two white socks and a white stripe on her face.
Mae was adored absolutely by all of her small charges. She was the perfect mare to introduce a child to the world of soft inquiring lips slipping across a tiny palm, as it was held up bearing the expected treat. Her kind eyes would look down into the small upturned face. Then she would delicately take the proferred sugar cube and crunch, crunch, it would be gone.
The feathery touch of her soft whiskers flicking across my small hand sent a delicious shiver of longing and love through me for the great kind mare looming above. I would stand in front of her and fling my arms as wide as they would go in a huge hug. My face would be pressed to her chest for, after all at six; one does not have an extended reach. The warm horse scent that seems to permeate lanquid, hazy summer days would fill my nostrils. Sheer bliss. Heady with love, scent, touch and sight, when night fell I would fall asleep with lovely chestnut mares cantering through my dreams.
That summer when I was nine will be etched in my memory as a halcyon time in my young life. I had returned to Tatamagouche after three years. My expectations for those two weeks in August were boundless. Indeed, Mae still lived in the barn next door to my grandparent's home. Bright and early the next morning I went to hang on the fence between the two properties. I hoped for a glimpse of my dream horse. Will MacQueen was there pottering about the yard. Friendly and patient with all young people he noticed me hovering. I was invited into the barnyard. For the next two glorious weeks I belonged to the "share Mae club."
The anticipation of each day had me up at sunrise. Impatiently I would bolt toast and slip out the back door before anyone was stirring. The dew would be wet and heavy on the grass. I would drift quietly through the mist-shrouded dawn to the fence and duck between the rails. Mae's voice would lift in an inquiring nicker. Her head, surrouned by a nimbus of light would appear from the gloom of the box stall. I would offer my gifts of carrots and apples. She would dispose of them with quick efficiency. We would spend the next hour or so in companionable silence, drowsing in the morning sun.
Finally, Will would emerge from the house and amble down to the barn. Then came the enjoyable time of grooming and harnessing Mae for the day's pleasue. By that time various young people would have arrived axious to join in the day's activities. The group formation changed every day as well. On the days that the train came through the village we would all go for a ride down to the station. The train would come chugging along the track puffing smoke and whistling spasmodically. Under Will's firm hand, Mae stood steadfast as a rock amidst all the noise and confusion.
On other days we would drive out for a jaunt in the country. We moved slowly along the gravel roads leading into the rolling hills above the village. Daisies, buttercups and Queen Anne's lace grew in wild abandon in the ditches and along the roadside. Bushes luxuriant with wild roses dipped and swayed in the warm wind. The rich heavy scents of ripening grains and and fruit mingled with the lighter perfumes of the wild flowers.
Then, home again. Mae was unharnessed, rubbed down and fed her grain. As twilight fell, she would bury her nose in a pile of fragrant hay. When she settled for the night, I would wander slowly home to supper. Then to dreams of chestnut mares chasing one another through sweet scented meadows.
One day Mae cast a shoe, so she was led up the hill to the blacksmith's forge. In those days small villages had their own forges as many horses had to be shod. As I walked by Mae's side I peered ahead into the forge's dim interior. The fire was banked to a bed of glowing coals. The heat lifted in shimmering waves and enfolded me in tight sweltering bands. Mae stood quietly and patiently as her hoof was measured and trimmed. The new shoe, shaped and altered while red hot, was dunked in the water. Steam rose, obscuring the sweating smith from my view. With quick deft strokes he fastened the shoe securely.
Wil lifted me onto Mae's bare back and I twined my fingers in her reddish-gold mane. Taking the halter rope he strode down the hilll. He stopped occasionally to let Mae forage for delectable grasses at the roadside. The sun gilded Mae's red coat and caressed my bare legs. I leaned forward along her neck and hugged her tightly. As I clung in somnolent comfort, she walked quietly with her head touching Will's shoulder. Will sang softly and Mae's head nodded in time to the music. At the barn I slipped reluctantly from her back. Another day with Mae was gone.
During that summer I was able to record some of these memories for all time. My mother took photographs of my beloved Mae and me. When I look at them, I am immediately returned to a simpler, gentler ime. Mae was also well known throughout the region as a trick horse. She could count, add and subtract by tapping her hoof on the ground. She would take Will's hat off. She would answer yes or no by nodding her head. On command Mae would rear high into the air standing straight and steady on her hind legs. I sometimes sat burrowed into her her neck as she rose to intoxicating heights. She could also sit down on her rump. Not a very dignified position but, even so, Mae always had an aura of dignity. At nine, I thought that she was the best horse in the world. Now all these years later, she still has that special place in my heart.
However, even the most perfect times must end. My vacation drew to a close. Amidst many tears I bade my dear one goodbye knowing that I would not see her for another three years. My anticipation was at a fever pitch as the summer of my twelfth year approached. I had ridden in the ensuing three years in both Saskatchewan and in B.C. Still, Mae was always in the back of my mind.
When we arrived in the village, I slipped away as quickly as I could. I was through the fence, into the stable yard, hoping against hope that she would be snug in her stall. She was not there. As I disconsolately kicked a pebble around the yard the back door opened.. Will stood there, much older than I remembered him. I asked for Mae. He had allowed a village girl to take her for the summer. My hopes were dashed. Heartbroken, I turned to go. I saw Mae once that summer. The girl brought her by the barn one day and Will called me over. Mae was there for half an hour and I could take pictures. That was the last time I ever saw my beloved friend.
Years later. hospitalized for a couple of days in that village in Nova Scotia, a friendly nurse told me more of Mae's death. Sleepless, I chatted with her. She remembered me from that idyllic summer so long ago. She was Will's great-neice. She told me the village girl was riding Mae the day of the accident. The girl was cantering Mae down Main Street when a car pulled too quickly out of a side street. In that spilt second Mae made the decision that would end her life. She tried to leap the car in a vain but valiant attempt to avoid crashing headlong. As her forelegs shattered the windshield, the rider was flung clear. Bleeding profusely from her wounds Mae fled to the haven of her stall. They found Mae there, with blood soaking the straw beneath her. The R.C.M.P. constable shot Mae as she lay dying.
Even after all these years and riding several favourite horses, Mae still remains in my heart. In the watches of the night, I still can see, hear and ride my beloved Mae. I can still dream of lovely chestnut mares chasing one another through sweet scented meadows.
My name is Brenda McArthur and I own and operate Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue located in Hagersville Ontario. I will tell you a bit about who we are and what we do here at the rescue.
I have always had a passion for horses, even as a child. When I was 10 years old, I used to help out at a local riding stable all day to have the opportunity to ride for one hour at the end of the day. At 14 I worked at a riding facility as the lead for trail rides and any other chores that were needed. I would spend my summers and weekends there. I did this for about 3 years.
I became a member of the Dunnville Humane Society Board and held the positions of Director of Investigations and Director of Foster Parenting. These were volunteer positions as Haldimand County did not have Humane Society services at that time, only animal control.
In 2001 when Welland Humane Society was contracted to provide animal control and animal cruelty services for Haldimand County, I obtained employment with Welland to provide animal control and cruelty services in the County. I obtained my official Agent status through the OSPSA which provided me the authority to conduct cruelty investigations. I also was an animal control officer.
Upon leaving the Welland Humane Society to obtain employment with Haldimand County Administration, I became a board member on the Welland Humane Society Board of Director with which I held the position for a year.
During the past 10 years I rescued 2 to 4 horses a year which quickly became 4 to 6. I began to realize there is such a great need for horse rescue in this area as horse cruelty is not as recognized as the more domestic breeds such as cats and dogs. I realized we needed an advocate to educate and provide a service to the public to help prevent horses from being subjected to auctions and even worse, slaughter. I needed a bigger farm.
We found the farm in Hagersville in the summer of 2007 and this dream started to become reality. We moved into the farm in December and the work began. We have a 48 acre farm with a few barns and arena. The main herd has a 17 acre paddock. There are a few smaller paddocks we have built to house horses that need more hands on care. We are still building more paddocks and hope to have more built in 2009. We are also looking to build a quarantine paddock, however this all comes with a price tag.
We are not legally a non profit and receive no funding. We raise funds through donation boxes and public donations that are sent in. We sold calendars this year with pictures of our rescues and it went very well, we printed 250 and sold most of them. We are currently starting a used tack drive to collect used tack to use or sell for funds to help the rescue. We also bake horse treats and are selling them as well. We have been selected as a recipient for the Mayor's golf tournament this year to receive $1500 which we will build the quarantine paddock. We will also hold a garage sale, tack swap sale in july at the farm.
The farm operates on our personal wages as Dave and I both work full time to keep it going. We have 16 volunteers that come out to help with chores and working with the horses. I also have a trainer, which donates his time to the rescue to conduct clinics for the volunteers so that all are training the horses with the same method. We use the Chris Irwin method which is a non-resistance training program. With this program, you are communicating with the horses in their language; it is a wonderful program that is very effective with these rescues as many of them have behaviour issues. I also have a Farrier, which donates his time every 4 weeks to trim as many horses’ hooves as needed for free, what a gift!
We are desperately seeking a vet that will help us; we are hoping someone will step forward to donate a few hours a month to provide some examinations as vet care is one of our biggest expenses.
We currently have 40 horses on the farm, 32 of which are rescues.
During our first year, 2008, we brought in 42 horses, adopted 22 horses to good homes and euthanized 4 horses that we couldn’t save, however, at least they don’t hurt and are not hungry anymore. They have gone to a better place.
One of our special rescues is Rosie; she is an 18 year old Arabian mare that was so emaciated that you could count every bone in her body. She was also blind in one eye as apparently she had been hit with a paint ball. I was contacted by an acquaintance as the owner was going to euthanize her. I brought Rosie home in the fall of 2007 to see if we could save here and within 4 months she was absolutely a gorgeous loving horse. She has been adopted by a great family near Chatham and is loved by a 14 year old girl every day. Rosie touched everyone that met her as she was so kind and trusting even after the rough life she had endured. Since Rosie’s adoption, her original owner from 18 years ago has found us and is so glad that she has been saved. This man was devastated when he saw the pictures of what had happened to her.
Our current special case is Bella, a 3 year old mare that is going blind, she has cataracts. We are hoping to help her as she has many good years ahead of her. She is so very friendly and loves people. She deserves a chance.
We totally rehabilitate the horses we take in from feeding to training, even if they are already ridden, we assess them over a 6 – 8 week period and take them through our full training program from leading to riding. This is so we can best fit the horse to the new owners. There is an adoption procedure in place where I interview the potential adoptees and inspect their farm. There is an adoption contract that allows me access to the horse and vet records for follow up. I do follow up and will remove a horse if it is not being treated properly.
We rescue the horses from local auctions and take in unwanted horses for the public that can no longer care for them.
Basically in a nutshell, I have dedicated my life to helping horses. Some ask me why do people mistreat horses and I respond by saying, why do people mistreat dogs, cats, children and each other?? It is out there everywhere and we can all make a difference. My motto has become “Where the Whispers of Horses in Need are Heard”. I feel as though when I go to an auction, their eyes lead to their soul, it is as if they are saying please help me, that is where I get my strength to carry on this huge undertaking.
I BELEIVE OUR STORY DEMONSTRATES PARTNERSHIP WITH DAVE AND I, THE VOLUNTEERS AND SUPPORTERS AS WITHOUT THE PARTNERSHIP, WE COULD NOT ACCOMPLISH ALL THAT WE DO FOR THE HORSES. THIS STORY ALSO DEMONSTRATES OUR COURAGE TO TAKE ON SUCH A HUGE UNDERTAKING ALONG WITH THE HORSES COURAGE TO ALLOW US TO EARN THEIR TRUST