Like most women who suffer from a life-long obsession with horses (and yes, I meant to write suffer. My husband could most likely pioneer an argument that our ever-expanding horse bills should be written off as a mental illness. Horse husbands everywhere would applaud him), it was a condition I was born with. While other young girls were quite content to play with barbies and their plastic kitchen sets, I was pigtails deep in some serious paddock politics with my Breyer horses.

My riding as a young girl was mostly a yearly summer trail ride with my father, which are some of my most cherished memories. One of the greatest gifts my father gave me was the love of horses. I will never forget the one summer a young thoroughbred named Moe spoked, and took off with my dad during what was supposed to be a boring, afternoon trail ride. My dad hung on to his mane for dear life and looked scared to death – I still laugh to myself thinking about it. But eventually, my story took the same turn as so many – the Breyer horses got packed away, my summers became full of friends, and the flame in me that connected with horses slowly burned out.

It wasn’t until I had graduated college and was spending time was my relatives at the Ohio state fair that I had an encounter which made me remember my childhood love. I had recently graduated college and was dealing with some personal issues I couldn’t shake – disappointment around some of my life issues, having a degree but absolutely no direction in life (hello, toany recent college grads. Yes, this is normal), and just a general apathy towards my future. While trying to walk off the regrettable amount of funnel cake I had consumed, I came across a barn and just felt an urge in my heart to stop and look around. I locked eyes with a beautiful, black quarter horse who had his curious head poking out the stall door, obviously enjoying the fair goers passing by. While I had no business doing this, I was so drawn to this beautiful creature it was all I could do to walk over to him and pet his sweet face.  It just took was that one second – the warmth in his eye, the smell of hay, the way he softly nuzzled my hand – and I was a little girl again, who wanted nothing more than to have a life that involved these majestic, completely intoxicating creatures.

After my trip to the fair and my encounter with Ohio’s very own “Black Beauty”, I found the courage to start taking riding lessons. And yes, it took courage, because we all know the horse world can be cruel and judgmental, especially to those who got their start a little later in life. I rode with a natural horseman for a few months but, in all honestly, switched to English because I like their outfits better. Yes, it wasn’t some internal debate about technique, what’s right for the horse, etc. I just really loved the way dressage riders looked, and obviously felt like my future horse needed a sparkly browband.

After a few years of riding and leasing barn horses, I (for some reason) decided I was ready to buy my own horse. Horse people everywhere, feel free to laugh here.

I remember the first time I sawChanning, one summer night out at a barn in rural Georgia. It’s one of those life defining moments I’ll always look back on, even though I certainly didn’t think so at the time. He was a wildly green, 4yo plain bay thoroughbred, who couldn’t pick up the right lead if his life depended on it. Being a typical adult amateur without a clue of what was important, I had daydreamed my first horse would be a flashy chestnut mare, a regal black warmblood, or basically a real life Spirit, the Stallion of the Cimarron (thanks for setting me up for another unrealistic life fantasy, Disney) Needless to say, I was less than impressed with the quiet gelding right in front of me.  I pulled my trainer to the side of the barn, and plainly told her “I’ll lease this horse, but I would never buy him” (words I would soon be eating). Luckily, I had barely enough budget for a failed, plain as day racehorse, and that’s exactly what I needed.

Two weeks after that fateful day, I found myself running to the bank to pull out cash to buy Channing. I don’t know exactly when or how it happened, but I had very quickly, and very deeply, fallen in love with this shy, nervous little horse. When I first looked at him, all I saw were his shortcomings. Too skinny. Too green. Too much work. But when he looked at me, he didn’t see anything wrong with me. He saw me, he really saw who I was – an over emotional, inexperienced rider whowould yank on his mouth, accidentally counter canter him for months, attempt my own personal jump puissance when he was 5yo because I had watched too many YouTube videos of Beezie Madden (the list goes on. you get the point) – and he decided to love me anyway.

I’m not sure if I believe everything happens for a reason, or in fate, but I do believe God brought Channing into my life at a very specific time, for a very specific reason. A few months after I purchased Channing, on a hot summer day while I was driving out to the barn, my father unexpectedly died of a heart attack.

There are no words I can use to accurately describe the despair and heartache that followed for both me and my family. I’m sitting here, trying to explain the sickness I feel inside when I think about it and I can’t. Sometimes I don’t think about it for a few days, then all at once it hits me that he’s gone, and the panic sets in like it’s happening for the first time. The weeks that followed his death are like a dark fog I wish I could forget. I remember thinking I would never feel whole again, would never laugh, would never forgive God. So many nevers.

I will forever be grateful to my needy, young thoroughbred for forcing me back to reality, and to stop me from snowballing down an unhealthy rabbit hole of self-destruction to cope with my pain. With or without a devastating event, I had bought a 4yo ex-racehorse, he was in a self-care barn, and I had a responsibility to him. I couldn’t lie in bed all day with my grief. I had to wake up, I had to clean his stall, I had to feed him. I had to keep moving.

For the months that followed, being with Channing was, without a doubt, the only joy in my life. The hours I spent with him were

the only moments I didn’t feel drowning in pain and anger. As soon as I looked into his big, innocent brown eyes, swung my leg into the saddle, or simply sat and watched him graze, I felt the first tiny glimpse of hope enter my heart. Channing reminded me then, and still reminds me to this day, that there are still beautiful, pure things in this world if we open our hearts to them. Somehow, deep inside of me, I knew If I was able to find joy with him, I would eventually find joy in other things again.

And I did. My life has changed so much in the years since I first bought Channing. I no longer hide in his stall and cry into his mane when I don’t want to face my life. I love my life. I married my best friend, we have a beautiful baby girl and a lovely house right down the road from Channing. I no longer have to wake up at 5am to pick his stall, or have the freedom to right him 6 days a week. I’m lucky if I get to see him twice a week now, but when I do, you better believe I have a silly grin plastered across my face and am thankful for every second of it.

When Mary first showed me the pattern she was thinking of for the “Channing” print, we laughed because it showed horses in various, excited states – bucking, rearing, cantering and well, at that point in his training, Channing was a bit famous for his colorful antics (what OTTB isn’t, right?). When I think about it now though, I realize Channing is really there for ME in every state of my life. Single, married, mother, broken, whole, joyful, – he has stayed with me, and been there for me, every step of the way.


Here’s to the horses that inexplicably and mysteriously touch our hearts, walk alongside us while we heal, force us to be present, and once again bring out the wonder we all felt in our hearts as little girls, innocently playing and daydreaming with our Breyer horses. To me, you are all that and more, my sweet Channing.






“God is with those who patiently persevere”

My grandparents had always had horses and so did my parents meaning I was born with horses in my blood. So, it did not come as a surprise that when I was 14 I officially said that I would give anything to have a horse of my own. We sold our camper and that same day I went on the hunt for a horse. I remember the moment that I first lay my eyes upon my heart horse. First my heart started to race as if my body knew it had found home for the first time. My hands shook as my eyes searched wildly around the pasture in which she inhabited. I saw a swish of a tail that was attached to a body that was out of sight. My family was just about to leave, but something was pulling me to the tail that had made my knees buckle just by knowing it was connected to a horse that I would fall in love with. She came out from behind her hiding spot; a beaten shack that was supposed to serve as a barrier against the wind and cold. It was falling apart with rusted nails screeching as the wind applied pressure to its fallen apart exterior. With bated breath I waited until that tail lead up to a face that I will never forget. She came suddenly into my life, one minute I’m living life in the fast lane and then next I was leading a large lesson in patience. She was 3 when I got her, a scrawny, gangly thing; like most yearlings. While the rest of my family was looking at a pretty palomino I had eyes only for her. Little did I know at the time that my life was going to change drastically all because of her.

I waited a year to begin her training with the guidance of my parents and my uncles. The first time we saw her run we were in shock; how could a horse her size run as fast as she was able to. I am still unable to find the words to describe what watching her run is like. It’s similar to watching a caged bird be set free; an awe inspiring moment where the silence is so loud no one dares to say a thing. That was also the moment I realized I had only one chance to teach this horse to hone her abilities and make sure she is able to get the most out of her life. She would not be a caged bird; one of the horses that would not live up to their potential, wasting away in a pasture never to run freely like they were destined to do.

Six months into this she taught me a hard lesson on forgiveness and courage. I was bending down to give her a treat for she had done such a wonderful job lunging for the first time; a huge accomplishment that I was very proud of. But then, tragedy struck as at that exact moment another horse struck the fence causing a deafening zap, it is still the loudest sound that I have ever heard. She flew upwards smacking into my head with hers. I don’t remember much of the experience except that I was in a lot of pain and everyone was yelling. The last thing I remember is holding that carrot in my hand, and then everything fades and I can’t remember much else.

I was diagnosed with a severe concussion and a broken nose with possible skull fractures. This lead to monthly hospital visits, MRI’s, missing three months of my freshman year in high school, and headaches that would bring me to my knees. Yet, my heart still yearned for my horse. I refused to see her for a while afterwards, in fear that I would end up hating her for what she put me through. But as it turns out seeing her made my healing process so much faster.

She taught me that forgiveness is a virtue that many will never have. I forgave her as soon as a saw her, she had done nothing wrong; it was simply her fight or flight reaction kicking in when she heard that zap and saw all of the horses running. At the end of the 6 months of hospital visits I was finally concussion free and the first thing I asked was when could I ride her. Though there are days where the pain is still prominent, when I see the scar on my face, where I forget things I told myself I never would, and times when I realize I will never be the same person I was before.

She gave me the courage to keep going even when I was fearful. She gave me the strength to start over from scratch. Relearning how my brain worked, teaching me new limits for what I could handle, giving me a new outlook on life. I could remain hidden indoors all day avoiding what life had to offer me; let one injury define who or what I was going to be. Or I could take hold of the reins once again and not let this destroy me. I made the right choice and followed my heart; knowing that I would rather injure myself repeatedly than never sit in a saddle again. I am so glad that I made that decision, for one month later, I rode my heart horse for the first time, and it was like finally breathing after months of having water filling my lungs.


How an anxious horse healed my anxious heart.

Throughout my childhood, I always loved horses. From the time I was 8 years old, when I took my first horse camp at Sunshine Farms and rode Cinnamon, a clunky, dun quarter horse mix, I was hooked. I would spend every weekend at the barn: riding, mucking out stalls, helping my trainer with the horses. When I wasn’t riding, I was thinking about horses. I read books on horses, I subscribed to magazines about horses, I watched, along with 50 other people in the entire world, show-jumping on television on Saturday afternoons and, of course, like any self-respecting horse-obsessed little girl, I collected as many Breyer horses as I could and proudly displayed them in my bedroom. I even started the first Horse Club in Baton Rouge whose members consisted of me and my best friend, Claudia. Our meetings were held in the oppressively hot and sweaty attic above my parents garage. Shockingly, our membership never increased and we were forced to close our doors. I don’t think either of us minded too much since the threat of heat exhaustion was ever-present during our meetings.

When I turned 11, a tsunami of anxiety and terror crashed onto the beaches of my innocence. It wasn’t entirely unforeseen. Our family went through series of significant losses and my parents found themselves emotionally numb and ill-equipped to handle the volume and intensity of my emotions which were unrelenting. This was also the onset of what has been a life-long struggle with anxiety and panic.

During those years, my riding suffered. Incapacitated by fear, I was terrified of falling, being run away with or losing control. My anxiety was crippling. In every aspect of my life, tidal waves of panic and fear suffocated me. I saw doctors, social workers, psychiatrists and was eventually hospitalized during the fall of 7th grade for my unmanageable anxiety. This experience transformed me. It hardened me to my emotions and to being vulnerable and l learned that keeping myself safe meant keeping myself contained and walled-off from the intense emotions that had brought me to this dark place.

Eventually I got out of the hospital and I immediately got back to riding. It was the only place I felt normal. No one was going to make fun of me or treat me like a crazy person at the barn. Middle school is always tough but it’s much worse when you happen to spend a few weeks in a psychiatric institution. And I think, intuitively, I knew that riding was the one thing that would heal me.

The Christmas following my hospitalization my parents gave me my first horse. Her name was Lovey and she was a beautiful bay Arabian. She was young, around 6 years old, and was definitely NOT a “school master.” Lovey was a spirited, sometimes wild, nimble, smart, delicate horse that had a big personality. In a way, she was like me and was very much my mirror.

It took some time, many tears, a few bruises and a lot of grit but as the months wore on, Lovey and I got to know each other and started to trust each other. And I began to love this horse. Lovey was my confidant and my constant; I told her everything that I was too afraid to tell anyone else. She gently demanded that I show up for her and she proved herself over and over again by being there for me. In a way, Lovey was my very first true love. She taught me about patience, presence, humility, confidence, strength, determination and trust. Our partnership truly evolved into this beautiful union of souls and brought me out of a very dark time.

I can honestly say that the most important things I’ve learned about being human, I learned from a horse. There is something absolutely undeniable about the connection that riders have with their horses. The bonds that are forged are non verbal but require more communication and presence than most human relationships.

I left the sport when I went off to college. It took me 22 years to return to it, but getting back in the saddle felt like coming home and I know I have so much more to learn from these incredible animals. Lovey taught me so much, and revealed the power of the human-horse connection to me. She literally saved my life at a time when I was completely lost and I will forever be grateful that our paths crossed when they did. I now look forward to what my next Lovey will reveal to me.