Reader, Thinker, Writer, Lover.
Horse Magic

“Ugh, what is this? An AA meeting?”

She rolled in with a bravado that belied the tiny little body she inhabited. She came out swinging with an I’ll-hit-you-before-you-hit-me mouth and body language that was sharp and biting and clearly not interested in what we had to say. Read more…

September 27, 2016

A Fig

Written by Posted in Horse Magic, Poetry Comments 6

I call myself a Teacher

but today,

the horse called me



It said, stand back.

Watch how I gather

unruly energy

and place it,

quiet, but white hot

in their bellies.


Watch how I pluck

unintelligible words from the air

and make them clear.


Opaque hearts,

now transparent.

Inscrutable eyes,



Observe, teacher,

how I take the shy

the loner

the heartbroken

the sad

and lean into them –

filling the dark holes,

demanding presence.


Making them forget for a moment

their cuts

their violence

their hunger.


And so, today, I am not a teacher.

Like Amos,

I am not a prophet,

nor am I the son of a prophet,

but I am a herdsman,

plucking wild figs.”


I’m gathering their stories.

Hold out your hand -

I’m giving them to you.


You know what I hate about teenagers? Their honesty.

You know what I love about teenagers? Their honesty.


It’s like they haven’t learned to filter their emotions to please us, yet. Either that, or their feelings are too big to try to contain and manage.


On top of being teenagers, these were the walking wounded. I entered the room and I could just feel it. A cloud; a heaviness. Hurt. Anger. But there was also excitement and a good kind of nervous energy.

Read more…


I was told last week that I have a “hot seat.” Normally, I would take this as a huge compliment; but as it relates to riding horses, I didn’t like it. To put it simply, it means I ride forcefully and sort of insist on my way, my pace, my rhythm. I was riding a horse new to me, and he didn’t particularly like my hot seat; we both were irritated and wound up by the end of the ride. Read more…

March 9, 2016

Written by Posted in Horse Magic, Poetry Comments 1

Sometimes I catch her gazing at the sunrise.

She faces east

and looks up, staring

as she chews her hay.


She seems to be contemplating;

but, what? Read more…


I felt like that kid from Home Alone; you know, the one on the front cover with his hands clapped to the side of his face yelling “AHHHHHH!!!!!” Of course, I stayed cool and cheerful on the outside, while horses went their own way, kids ignored directions, and my lesson plan disintegrated into ashes. Read more…

HH Enrich Sign

We show up with pitchforks and passion,

with Carhartts and compassion, and a whole lot of courage.


We are not slowed down by the blizzards and gale force winds of winter, or the roasting heat and dust of summer.


Day after day, week after week, month after month…adding up to thousands of hours, we are not deterred in our mission to serve horses and riders.


I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s a tribe, a family, really. I’ve volunteered at a lot of places in my life: schools, churches, as a court appointed special advocate; but the Hearts and Horses volunteers are the most dedicated, passionate, wonderful group of people I’ve ever met.


We’re just regular folks. Some of us have a lifetime of horse experience, others of us are just figuring out how to catch a horse and put them in a halter. One might argue that we’re sort of eccentric and a little weird outside of the HH home, but here, we fit in. We have a place. We understand each other and the mission: “to promote the physical, cognitive, emotional and social well-being of people with special needs through equine-assisted therapy.” And we dedicate our bodies and souls to it entirely.


Driving up the winding road Carter Lake Road, I can bet every volunteer feels like me: a sense of excitement, a lowering of blood pressure, a gut feeling that we’re probably going to witness some kind of miracle today.


And when we step out of our cars, it’s like we step into a cocoon of support and kindness and passion. We hear the leaves rustling in the giant cottonwood trees and the sound of horses whinnying for their breakfast. We hear children laughing as their parents round them up for their lesson and we hear wheelchairs and walkers clicking into place to bear their rider to the arena. We take a huge happy breath and smile and know we’re home for a little while.


The days can be a whirlwind of activity: miles and miles of walking, brushing, catching, tacking, setting up arenas, tearing down arenas, chasing wayward kids, cleaning up the occasional vomit, wiping a snotty nose. Our feet hurt sometimes and we often can’t feel our fingers or our faces in the winter. We take turns throwing the Western saddles on the tall horses, based on whose back doesn’t hurt that day.


It doesn’t matter if we’ve seen each other a few minutes ago, we always exchange a smile or a joke or a nod of the head as we pass each other, leading our horses to and fro.


And sometimes, we get the treat of sitting down to lunch together, wolfing down a hodgepodge of what we brought in our brown bags, some leftover cookies from a few days ago, and using the chili pepper from last week’s pizza. We joke and tease each other, and occasionally share a tear over a poignant ride.


We all have our reasons for being there. We don’t often ask why, we just get it. We understand that many of us see Hearts and Horses as an escape from a world that is often cruel and devoid of miracles. We crave the joy and endless positivity we find here.


We are an army. More than that, we’re a family. We’re the barn cleaners, the horse leaders, the side walkers, the office helpers of Hearts and Horses.



Teen Group 1: Depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, aggression, suicidal, fear, abuse, neglect, anger, self harm.

Teen Group 2: Confident, engaged, well-behaved, respectful, friendly, talkative, gentle, calm, introspective.

Am I describing two different groups of kids? Nope. This is the same group of teenagers; only in group 2, they are surrounded by loving therapists and volunteers who are totally invested in their engagement and success. And most importantly, they are paired with a 1200lb animal that doesn’t care about their history or diagnosis. This animal only cares about the current moment. The animal’s questions are: how will you treat me? Do I respect your body language? Do you make me fearful or make me trust?


And just like that, a miracle occurs. A miracle. In mere minutes. Read more…


It’s 6am mornings, dawn barely breaking,  40 degrees and wind howling, bucking bales while they whinny for their breakfast.

It’s pulling a wagon through three inches of mud and slop, slipping and sliding while your hair swirls around your face.

It’s worrying until 11pm, then finally caving and heading out into the freezing drizzle to blanket.

It’s picking hay out of your pockets and horse treats out of washing machine and dirt out of…well, everywhere.

It’s having them raise a hoof to you and yelling, “Oh, I’ll GIVE you a reason to raise a hoof at me if you don’t put that down this minute!” Read more…


Believe me when I say that I like to be in control.

Those who know me well enough to keep their mouths shut might describe me in less generous terms. I like to be in charge, I like to know what’s next, and I most certainly don’t like surprises.

So when I began riding horses at (ahem) a later age in life, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. When boosted up onto a large, flighty, sometimes unpredictable animal, my control instincts went into overdrive. I think this is why dressage appeals to female riders my age: there are rules to be followed. Tests. Timelines. Clear measurements of success. It was created by the Germans, for goodness sake. Read more…