After college I worked with horses teaching lessons, training, riding, massaging, and saddle fitting. I was still very involved in the rescue world and finding my way. I had one foot in the traditional way of doing things, but with my own twist. I had another foot in gentler methods, but I wasn’t following any of the big natural horsemanship gurus.
Radar was the first horse that I started to really do things my own way. He was the beginning of the path that I am now on, though I didn’t know it at the time.
Radar was a big gray Percheron/Thoroughbred cross that came down from Canada as a rescue from a PMU farm. He was known for his ability to buck. Vertically. I had known him since he was a 4-year-old and ended up purchasing him when he was about 10. His prior owner loved him dearly but had come off one too many times. He made everyone nervous – myself included.
I had a special bond with Radar. He scared me when I rode him, but I only came off of him once. It was my fault. I was riding bareback and was turned around talking to a friend. A deer jumped out, and I hit the ground. The fact I hadn’t come off of him sooner was a miracle – not at all a testament to my riding ability.
For the last couple of years that I had him, he lived in a 40-acre field with his very own herd of horses. He would round up the entire herd of ten horses and bring them galloping up when I arrived and whistled for him. We would spend hours together just hanging out. I would sit amongst the herd and journal. I enjoyed being in the presence of the herd.
This approach to spending time at the barn was unlike anything I had ever done before. I was doing what felt good. At first, I was still riding Radar but eventually decided that maybe there was something wrong with his back that led to all of the bucking. I used that as my reason to just let him be a lawn ornament. Once I stopped riding, there was only one horse in the whole herd who was still ever taken out for a ride.
I unknowingly began to create what I am now trying to deliberately create – a relationship based on being rather than doing. I was bonding deeply in a way that I had always yearned for yet never had the opportunity to. Our relationship was no longer about riding and training. It wasn’t about right and wrong; reward and punishment; pressure and release. We were just spending time sharing space.
My life slowly shifted into a life without horses. I stopped teaching, I stopped working on the horse ambulance, I stopped working for the humane foundation. I was overwhelmed. My heart was aching from all of the abuse, destruction, and misuse of power that I witness daily. Radar was my last connection to the horses – and then he died.
I was, for the first time in my life, living a life completely outside the barn. I needed the break, but it wouldn’t take long for the call to connect with a horse to consume my heart and Soul once more.
Radar had helped me to crack my heart open wider and see the potential for something new. It would still take me another six years to realize what he was trying to teach me.