“I bought a lame horse.”

The thing is, after looking at ten other horses and not finding the “one” – I knew instinctively he was the “one”.  I didn’t need to get on his back. I didn’t need to see him move.  I just needed to stand quietly with him by a rocky creek on gorgeous spring day. And somehow, I knew deeply and intuitively that he was the ONE.

He was my first horse.  I had just entered my 30’s and rediscovered my love for these amazing creatures.  It started like so many of these stories do – renting a horse, than leasing a horse and then fulfilling the ultimate dream of purchasing a horse.  And yes, he was lame.  And he was head shy.  And he didn’t like small spaces.  And he didn’t like men.  At that point in my equestrian journey, I had just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  Slowly and with much patience, Dunbar and I figured it out.  Not without error or mistake or occasional frustration.  I relied on the books of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, my monthly subscriptions to Western Horseman and Equus Magazine and the guidance of the most extraordinary and kind stable master and his wife.

Dunbar transformed my life.  My weekends in the city were quickly replaced by weekends at the barn with the best of friends and the best of adventures.  Casual Friday’s were an opportunity to wear my Dan Post boots to work making my office smell of manure and worn leather.  Baseball hats were replaced by cowboy hats.  Corporate Jena was replaced by Cowgirl Jena.  It’s not hyperbole to say that everything changed because it did.  North Wind Farm exists today because I promised Dunbar that he would have a pasture of his own to live out his days.

He was an extraordinary horse and he made me a better human in every way.  More patient. More adventurous. More courageous. More confident.  More compassionate.  More observant.  More knowledgeable. More responsible. More present. In those early days at the Bent Tree Stables, I earned the nickname Trail Boss.  Truth is, it was always him leading the way.  His steadfastness and kindness guided me through the deaths of my father, mother and nephew.  As Brene Brown says, “connection gives us purpose and meaning to our lives.”   Dunbar taught me that I was enough and that by being our authentic and imperfect selves we could create magic.

Love goes on even in sadness and grief.  Dunbar left this earth in 2017 at the age of 34 on a cold, February day.  I still feel his presence around here and swear that occasionally, I see him standing under his favorite cherry tree covered in pink petals. That chapter has ended but a new one was born.  It’s a story of a place called Paradise and a new Danish friend.  It’s a story of a big, beautiful warmblood in the United Kingdom named Dunbar.  But that is a tale for another day.

It is such an honor for this collection to be named after him and celebrate his ongoing legacy.  I was absolutely humbled when Mary approached me with this idea.  But here’s the thing.  This line celebrates the journey we all take with these four-legged wonders. So here’s to the horses that rode off with our hearts and altered the course of our lives. What’s not to love about the journey?