There I was, back in Seattle in December of 2010, recently certified in Equine Guided Education, with no horses of my own and no idea how I was going to practice this work. I had a new friend, Sue, who was in my certification class at Skyhorse, and she happened to live only 45 minutes from me in Snohomish, Washington. We had met up a couple of times, and done some EGE practice together with her 2 horses, and so she invited me over for New Year’s Eve to make Vision Boards and drink wine. To be honest, the only reason I went was because of the wine. I really did not believe in Vision Boards. I had no idea what to even envision for my life, much less put it on a poster board. But, I figured it couldn’t hurt to cut and paste things out of magazines and chat with Sue and another friend of hers and enjoy a bit of Cabernet.
Perhaps it was something about cutting pictures out of magazines that took me back to my childhood, but there I was, just like when I was a young girl, only choosing the horse magazines and plastering photos of horses all over my board. I didn’t bother to put anything else on there – no farm or barn or romantic beach walk pictures – just horses. I didn’t really think about it at the time, in fact, I left the board at Sue’s place claiming that “I would finish it later,” since there were still a few blank spots on it where I could squeeze in a few more horses.
Well, my Vision Board disappeared behind some bookcase somewhere, never to be seen again – or so I thought.
2011 began without much incident. I was still riding another friend’s horses, and taking care of her farm whenever she went out of town, but that was the extent of horses in my life. I was working full time as a Human Relations Director at a growing production company, and though I daydreamed about leaving and pursuing a career in EGE, or taking people on trail rides, or simply introducing people to horses and allowing them the opportunity to experience a relationship with them, it seemed like worlds away from my reality, and I had no idea how I was going to change that.
Then, in the summer of that year, Sue asked me if I wanted to ride a new little mare she’d bought named Daisy, because she didn’t have time to work with her much. A 4-year old quarter horse with only basic training… I wondered if I’d really be up to the task. Well, she was young and pushy on the ground, but amazingly level-headed under saddle. I must admit, I really fell in love with her a few days later, when a bee landed on her and she threw an absolute fit – the only fit I’d seen from her and I never saw one again… only because I have the very same fear of bees, and if it weren’t for Daisy needing help calming down, I would have run away immediately myself. And so, 3 days a week, I would drive 45 minutes out to ride Daisy, often before going to the office in the morning.
I tried not to love her, but I did. How silly could I be, loving someone else’s horse… that could only lead to a painful good-bye at some point. But I couldn’t help myself. And then, one chilly Saturday morning, Sue met up with me in the aisle of the barn and said, “Ashley, I know you might move to California one day, and I want you to know that I see what a special bond you have with Daisy, and I would never take that away. If you go, Daisy can go with you.” Of course I burst into tears. I was absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude for that gift. I had no idea if I would ever really get to move to California, but I had been wanting to for years. My marriage was falling apart, I was struggling to salvage it, and I knew my husband hated the thought of moving to California. Still, if I ever did go, I would have Daisy.
In November, I returned to Skyhorse Ranch to take the certification course again as an advanced student for continued study. I still wasn’t sure how this work was going to be part of my life, but I had done a couple of workshops that year with Hallie, another student certified in my 2010 class, and I knew I enjoyed it. Hallie, not surprisingly, lived in San Jose, California though – so it was quite a commute for me.
Just before the course, Ariana called Sue to ask if she would be interested in a paint mare who had been left at the ranch. Ariana knew Sue was interested in building a youth program, and this horse had been ridden by young girls.
Sue asked me to assess the horse for her when I went down for the class. I prepared myself, determined to stay professional and objective, and above all, not to like the horse. Now, I do admit that I love horses in general. However, I have also come to know that I connect in a special way with only a few horses. The moment I led Taj out of her stall and her ears perked up, I started to feel that connection. As I was leading her into the arena, one of the other students said, “Oh is that your horse?” and a little 10-year-old girl voice inside me wanted so badly to answer, “YES! Yes it is!” But I maintained my professional distance, and I did not say that. I knew in 5 minutes that this horse wanted attention and direction. I took the lead rope off her and she continued to walk circles and figure eights with me around the arena.
Taj was underweight, had a windsucking habit that had worn down her top front teeth, and a tendency to pin her ears when approached. But there was something in her eye that was kind and curious still. Though I really wished Taj could come to Washington so I could spend time with her, I called Sue and told her, “This horse will need a lot of attention. I don’t think you have the time, you have so much going on.” To this she replied, “Oh! I just gave notice that I am taking a 2 month leave of absence from my job, so if you think she has potential in EGE, then I can take her!”
And so it was that Taj shipped up to Washington a few weeks after I returned from Skyhorse myself. I met the trailer with Sue and walked her up the narrow driveway to her new home myself. I spent hours picking ticks off of her – and showing Sue how to pick ticks, since western Washington does not have any ticks – and grooming her and helping her settle in.
Three days later, while hanging Christmas lights, Sue fell off her roof and broke her back.
Sue has made almost a full recovery, but at the time, she was confined to a lounge chair for weeks, and had months of restricted movement and physical therapy. During this time, she re-evaluated her life, and decided that she needed to re-home Daisy and Taj. And so it was that I suddenly had not one, but two horses of my own.
It was August, 2012, only a few weeks before I left my home and my dogs and my husband in Seattle to head to California, when Sue came out to the barn where I was boarding Taj and Daisy and she reached into the back of her truck and pulled out a large, white poster board. She said, “I brought something for you.” And she turned it over, and there was my Vision Board of horses.
I now live and work at Skyhorse Ranch, and have added a third horse to my family. I still don’t know where my home is, nor exactly how my career with horses will look, but right now it all looks pretty damn good. I guess I need to give the Vision Board some credit, but a lot of credit also goes to my friends and my horses. Magic is real.