High Stakes Gamble

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“The horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves: strong, powerful, beautiful.”  Pam Brown

Our herd is an integral part of our family.  Each horse brings something unique and special into our lives.  Each has taught, and continues to teach, great lessons in life and love.  There are five in our herd.  Four Thoroughbreds and a million dollar Quarter Horse mare.  In no particular order, outside of seniority, I want to do them the honor of introducing you to each one of them.  I am excited to share this next chapter in our story with you, utilizing the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method, as we step into our calling as healers.  As I prepare to take my final exam and work to tie up any loose ends before graduating, I can feel the anticipation beginning to well up within me knowing I’m stepping into this work with some of my best four legged friends!

High Stakes Gamble is his Jockey Club name.  He raced in New Jersey on the turf and though he won his maiden race, it was determined he didn’t have enough fire in his belly to go very far (I have witnessed plenty of fire over the years!  Lol!).  The breeders were quite disappointed in this well bred High Yield colt.  I happened to be in the right place at the right time in connection with the right people.  He was soon on a shipper’s rig, Colorado bound in the middle of a cold January winter in 2007.

We call him, “Kade“.   His coat is the color of a copper penny, shining metallic in the sunlight.  He has a big wide white blaze that runs down the front of his beautiful head and and a couple white bobby socks much like his great grandfather, Secretariat.  The lessons this horse has taught me over the years are many.  I learned to read the subtlest of body language in him.  He has taught me to watch paint dry as, at times, I’ve waited the better part of 30 minutes for him to process something we were working on!  He is, to date, the toughest horse I’ve restarted off the track and I’ve restarted more than I can count!  I spent countless hours on the ground working with him building his confidence and his trust in me as his partner.  Undemanding time took on a new meaning for me when he came into my life spending countless hours sitting with him out in the pasture as he grazed nearby.

Over the years as I nurtured our relationship, he became my go to partner.  If cattle needed gathered, I teamed up with him.  If my daughter needed ponied (a lead line attached to her horse as she was riding alongside me), he was the guy for the job.  If I wanted to go relax with a friend on a trail ride, he packed me on his strong back.  If my heart was hurting, he shouldered my pain.  And as I went through my divorce, if I needed to saddle up, put headphones in my ears to drown out all the what if’s and ride alone for miles, he was the one to carry me.

A few years ago, my copper penny fell to his knees numerous times as we drove cattle the 10 miles to their winter pasture.  It was discovered that an old injury to his neck, likely from the track, had manifested and he could no longer feel his front legs.  Through a lot of tears and a dirty wrestling match within myself, accepting this shift in our partnership, I chose to retire him from any riding activity.  Damn did it hurt!  I’d come to rely on him in every way and honestly I wasn’t sure any of my other horses were capable of stepping up to the plate.  I cried a lake’s worth of tears over the loss reminding myself as I wiped away the tears, “At least he’s not dead!”

Thanks in part to the shift in our environment and the shift within me (called ‘The Big D!’), his true nature has begun to shine as the cloud that had been comfortably settled over my heart has lifted.  I was blessed with the opportunity to take him to a set of intensive practicums with me this past summer where he was able to begin experiencing the work we will be doing with clients.  He was kind and gracious in the work that day and my heart was bursting as happy tears leaked out, falling down my cheeks.  I loaded him in the trailer that afternoon to head home full of joy.  I stroked his neck and thanked him for the work he’d done.  He paused and I gazed deep into his chocolate kiss eyes.  It was as if he cradled my heart and said, “I told ya kid, we’re gonna be okay.”

Kade” is my heart horse.  He has tenderly held space when my heart has been in turmoil and scattered on the ground in a million broken pieces.  The epitome of what a gentleman looks like he’s polite, tender and full of grace.  It’s hard for me to express in words what this fellow means to me.  If he were a human he’d be that big ol’ teddy bear of a guy that is strong in stature and tender hearted by nature.  That gentle giant of a man who only wants the best in the this world for those he loves.  He would be that studious jock you sat with in class.  You know, the good looking guy that was smart, polite to the teachers and athletic on the field.  He’d be the fellow holding the doors for you, insisting you order first, offering you his coat when you found yourself chilled in the night air…that guy.  He’d be the one who was perfectly content to sit back and watch your light shine as you brightened the darkness in this world with your smile.

I cannot wait to share “Kade” with all those who choose to partner with us as they begin clearing the rubble and debris from their lives and untether their hearts.  All the support and love he’s offered me over the years is brimming over waiting to be yours too ❤

“You are beautiful, powerful, brilliant & brave”

Thank Yous & Gratitude

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I wanted to share a portion of a letter I sent to the pastors of my parent’s church a few years ago.  Knowing there are so many navigating their own personal hell each minute of each day, I wanted to share this letter in hopes it offers perspective and maybe a little light.  I believe it is important to thank people for what they do for us, big or small.  If I recognize that someone has done something for me, I do my best to always express my gratitude toward them whether it’s ringing up my groceries or opening the garage door, a thank you is always in order.

My letter:

“I wanted to thank you for praying for me. Prayer is powerful. As I have navigated this personal hell called, “Finding My Freedom”, I recognize that I would not be where I am this very moment without the prayers of family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers. My kids and I have been and continue to be covered by an umbrella of protection, offered by these prayer warriors. Those times when, more often than not, I cannot seem to find the words to form any resemblance of a prayer, I take comfort knowing I am bathed in the precious petitions of the Holy Spirit and those who don’t even know us. Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much.

I remember dutifully following my parents and sister through your church doors much like I did as a kid when we went to church each Sunday. Though now as an adult, I was entering your sanctuary battered, broken, scared for my life and utterly lost. Seventeen years of abuse had left me almost totally drained of the life I once had in me. I was 99.9% devoid of my spirit, my hope, my passion ….. I was a shell of the person I was meant to be and I knew it. I was surviving, not living. Quietly, God took the .1% that was left and He cupped it in His mighty hands and ever so tenderly He blew His life giving breath on it. As He did so, courage was born from that microscopic ember. What happened next changed my life forever. He lit that ember on fire! And I ran! Actually, I bolted! I left my home without a thing, material or otherwise. The kids and I had the clothes on our backs and though we had nothing material, we had everything…we were alive and we had each other. That day will forever be seared in my conscience as if it happened yesterday. It’s not that the Lord wanted to see my marriage end or my family torn to bits however I think that it was more that He finally allowed me to feel the release to leave that had likely been there all along.

Fast forward two years and I can tell you there were days I found myself frustrated battling the same issues I had to battle from the get-go not to mention I have been buried financially by a man who vowed to destroy me. Then there were days I found myself overwhelmed with a sense of awe and gratitude for where we’d come from, the kids and I that is….how far these kids and I have journeyed. I have learned countless lessons. The kind of tough lessons that would fill the pages of a ‘How-To-Divorce-A-Crazy-Abuser’ book. From watching my best gal pals turn their once supportive backs on me to discovering what it means to be truly hated and despised. I’ve stared the devil himself down learning what evil actually looks like in human form. I’ve learned lessons in the difference between the justice I grew up believing in and the reality of what justice looks like in our court system, skewed as it may be. The list of dos and don’ts is lengthy at best! Then there are those lessons I hold close to my heart. The real lessons…

I’ve learned that He knows me. Duh! Right? He created me! I get it, however I don’t think I’d really gotten ‘it’. Not only does He know me, He loves me! Insert another, “Duh!” right here 😉 I just never truly understood these truths. I don’t think I quite grasp them even now. God put the right people on my path. He allowed so many to fall aside in order to make room for those He knew I would need. These amazing saints have loved the kids and I, fed us, kept a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. They have shared in our angst and tears and they’ve rejoiced in our small victories. They’ve cheered me on when I needed encouragement and they’ve helped to swing my sword when I’ve struggled to slay the dragons that, sometimes daily, tried to consume me.

God sends me the most beautiful watercolors in the form of sunsets and sunrises. He winks at me through the twinkling of the night sky. He wraps His arms around me, hugging me through the arms of two of the toughest kids ever. He tenderly strokes my skin with the warming rays of the morning time sun. He holds church with me as I sit astride a well bred colt I’m starting under saddle and takes great pleasure in offering me the opportunity to partake in a time of communion as I close my eyes and breathe in the scent of snow soaking into the forest floor mixed with the perfume of damp horse hair rising off the neck of a fresh fox hunter I’m keeping legged up.

Don’t get me wrong, all my days are not filled with rainbows and puppies breath (which stinks in my opinion)! There are days when I feel utterly hopeless. However, I remind myself He will not fail me. I don’t, with my limited understanding, get why things go the way they do and I meet the injustices I’m faced, with the mouth of a hardened sailor! But when I quiet myself I hear that ever present small, still voice say, “Be still and know that I AM GOD.”

It is said that He works all things for good. I struggle to comprehend this some days though I cannot deny it. I train horses for a living and God shows me so much through them. As He ministers to me through these amazing teachers there is a recurring theme. Though I may feel very much like these horses some days, tired, sweaty and downright naughty; He offers me a place of rest. A place to regroup and think. A place to catch my breath, process new lessons and ready myself for the next lesson I know is coming. Much like I allow my horses time to figure out the puzzle before them, supporting them and encouraging them in the right direction, I never put the puzzle pieces together for them. My Lord doesn’t solve the puzzle for me, however He gently tugs at my heart and quietly directs me toward that narrow path that will lead to so much more.

I love music and I love singing! There is something in a melody that can strike a chord in my soul and I get lost in the song. Meredith Andrews sings, “Not For A Moment (After All). The lyrics repeat, “After all, You are constant. After all, You are only good. After all, You are sovereign. Not for a moment, will You forsake me.” Rebecca (my baby girl) and I belt this one out in the bathroom as we get her ready for bed at night. The words are words to be taken to heart for sure…..words that have breathed life into me when I was unsure of my direction down the path that lay before me.

Praise Him…praise H-I-M!

So thank you, thank you for praying for me and thank you for listening as I share a small piece of me.

Signed, Jessica 

“You are beautiful, powerful, brilliant & brave”

Unconditional Love & Confidentiality

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There is a slow purging that follows divorce that I hadn’t thought about until now.  Little bits of me from that past relationship that I’ve let go of.  Some things are easier to let go of than others and some by choice and others not so much.

I always had bird dogs.  I wanted a Jack Russell Terrier for as long as I can remember and wound up being adopted by a Brittany Spaniel (the cutest little red headed, freckle faced fellow, “Opie”), a Chesapeake Bay Retriever (125 lbs of intimidating, curly coated, awesomeness, “Jake”), a German Short Hair Pointer (a gangly goof of a dog, “Hunter”) and my Weimaraner (the snuggliest grey ghost ever, “Doc”).

He came to me sheepishly asking for my assistance.  You see he’d bought this adorable little puppy without thinking about whether or not his landlord would allow a dog.  Well, the landlord did not do dogs and so he wanted me to keep her for a while, you know, until he found somewhere else to live.  I had a newborn baby boy at the time and thought what was an extra “baby”?  And so the Jack Russell Terrorist he named, “Harley” came to live with me.  For over a year she went everywhere with my son and I.  She was my co-pilot and guardian of the pick up, she slept against my back at night or under the covers at my feet when the coyotes started to carry on ….. she was always with me!

The day he came to take her back I begged him to let me keep her.  I’d been trying to wear him down for weeks prior.  I offered to buy her for double what he’d paid.  Anything, just let her stay.  He said, “No, she’s mine.”  And she was.  I cried as they drove off and missed the hell out of her …. for eight years.  There came a day when I overheard him telling someone that his new wife said the dog had to go!  I jumped into the middle of that conversation and said, “I’ll take her.  I’ll pick her up, you can meet me with her at the shop, whatever we need to do but she’s mine and I’ll take her.”  And so, I may have waited 8 years for her to come back to me, but it was worth it.

It was as if we’d never been apart!  She was back in the pick up with me traveling all over the place and she was sleeping up against my back each night except when the coyotes would carry on.  She’d been back home with me maybe six months when tragedy struck.  After she and I dropped the kids off at preschool and drove home, we went out to feed horses.  I scratched on my big red horse, “Kade” and “Harley” sat camouflaged in the shade under his belly.  As I turned toward the loafing shed to load hay, “Kade” turned to follow me and when he did, he stepped on “Harley’s” right hind foot crushing all the metatarsals (the tiny bones) in the foot.  I can still hear her screaming in pain … she shot out through the fence like a bullet from a gun, leaving a trail of blood behind her.  I cleared the gate like an Olympian clearing a hurdle and scooped her up squeezing her tight as I ran for the house.  I was soaked in blood and she was going into shock.  I wrapped her in a towel and cradled her in my lap as she moaned and we made the 45 minute drive into town to the vet.  I was sure this was our own tragic version of Romeo and Juliet.  I braced myself for the news that she couldn’t be helped, that I’d been so careless and ignorant with my four legged friend, that the best the vet could do was put her out of her misery …

I can remember getting real firm and real pissed when the vet tried to get me to relinquish ownership of “Harley” after I refused to agree to orthopedic surgery.  I couldn’t even fathom tiny screws putting those toes back together.  I’d seen the x-rays, the bones were decimated, crushed, splintered!  I firmly said, “This is MY dog!  She is MINE and I am hers and I WILL NOT put her through that kind of surgery without any idea of the outcome.  Furthermore, I WILL NOT sign her over to some stranger so they can pay for that damn surgery.  Just euthanize her!  I want her out of pain!”  That’s when they reluctantly offered to amputate the leg.  What!?!  Why the hell wasn’t that an option before (couldn’t be that a costly surgery looked better on the books than an amputation)!?!  I called a couple of friends I’d gone to school with that were vets and both said to go for it.  “It’s a spare tire, Jess, she’ll be fine.”   And so that’s what I did.

I regretted my decision for about six months afterwards.  “Harley” had lost the terrorist part of her personality.  She was depressed and really struggling with finding her new normal.  I nursed her along, worked with her, encouraged her, loved the hell out of her … and carried a Boeing 747’s cargo hold worth of guilt!  I questioned and doubted my decision.  Was this decision self centered and not about what was best for her?  Ugh … it was tortuous!  It was also during this time that I bolted out of my marriage.

“Harley” shared my pillow with me.  Usually we were back to back however I’d been sleeping with an arm around her, pulled up tight up against my belly after her surgery.  I woke up one morning to her precious little head pressed up against mine and as she opened her eyes we had a moment.  I can remember saying, in my mind, “I’m sorry.  If this is not working for you, I will help you cross over.  I am truly sorry.”  She licked my nose and it was then that I saw her spark come back as if to say, “Totally, kidding!  I’m good!  Just needed to feel sorry for myself!”  I needed her and I know she knew it.  And so, just like that, she was back to being herself with only a few limitations.  I picked her up to load her into the pick up or bed where she once would have jumped.  And swimming doesn’t work well when you’re missing a rudder!

She hasn’t ridden in the pick up with me for about two years now.  It’s been too hard on her old body.  Slowly I’ve watched time turn her gray and begin to ravage her body taking most of her eye sight, most of her hearing and now her other hind leg is giving out.  She’s bit me a few times over the course of the past week when I’ve picked her up to help her up the stairs or across the linoleum to the carpet where she has more traction.  I know it’s out of reaction to pain, her foggy little eyes begging for forgiveness.  She bit her beloved man person the other morning when he scooped her up into his arms to kiss and love on her and I knew, it’s time.

It’s hitting me like a ton of bricks.  As I type this she is laying next to me, sprawled out all weird and whining periodically in her sleep.  I’m not ready to say goodbye and she’s not either (anyone that knows Jacks, know, they are tenacious and stoic as hell, lacking any sort of quit) but her body is spent.  I made her the same promise I have always made all of the souls that find their way into my heart, you will not suffer, I will do right by you & you will die with dignity whether I’m ready or not.

As I find the courage to say, “See you soon little one …” I realize that I’m also letting a piece of my past go with her.  One more link to the person I once was, the life I once lived and people I once (thought) I knew, will die with her.  When we consider our pasts, those we once knew, we think of people.  Rarely do we consider our four legged companions who quietly observe all of our ups, downs and in-between.  They too hold keys to our past though without the judgement of humans, rather with unconditional love and confidentiality.

“See you soon little one … thank you for riding shotgun with me all these years.” ❤

 

“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”