This is a variation of a horse story that many of us tell. A story of youth spent with horses where ideas of insurmountable difficulties like that of a horse that couldn’t be ridden safely never made themselves known.
Who knew that after life spent in this zone, a woman couldn’t leave for a few years and come back to find it just like it was when we left? It’s not a concept that’s easily understood until one lives it. And live it I did. And when I finally got brave enough to tell what felt like an embarrassing story, I was relieved to learn that I was not alone. I was so “not alone” that stuff I said ended up quoted on the internet.
Not being alone is nice, but it still didn’t help the fact that I made my sensitive horse crazy, and she did the same to me. No amount of guru-teaching, desensitizing, respect-seeking, click-and-treating, baby-step-taking, etc could get us over that hurdle. So I gave up and bought an easier horse. And I left the challenging one grazing in the pasture.
That was a solution that kept both of us safe and sane (mostly) though I feel guilty and sad; a bit of a failure, when I look out at this fine creature that I’ve been unable to bond with. However, I think God has other plans for the mare and I, as He keeps sending me exemplary remarkable women who’ve been in my situation and have prevailed, whose inspirational stories go beyond impressive, into the fanciful and/or surreal zone.
Deborah Maragopolous FNP was a natural rider from a young age. Her grandparents bought her ponies, but no tack. Didn’t matter, she spent those years riding bareback all over her desert community in California; eventually folks were paying her to exercise their horses, stallions included. When she was a senior in high school her family moved to town, the ponies were sold and riding days were over.
Fast forward a few years and our former cowgirl is in nursing school, married, and expecting her first child. Tragically (or miraculously) the baby was born intersex. Navigating his health issues and learning what was needed to be his advocate in a world where the treatment protocol was sorely lacking lead Deborah to complete her advanced degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She focused on hormones and the endocrine system in depth and breadth to help her son, and ultimately became a renowned specialist in the field, dubbed The Hormone Queen by her patients and peers. Patients came from all over; folks who conventional treatments had failed. Other doctors sent her their “weird” hormone cases.
When Deborah’s two kids were big enough to ride, she and her husband adopted two older, well trained rescues and boarded them a few minutes from home. But our wild-child stallion-rider longed for a mount with more spirit. The search yielded no prospects, but her husband Steve quickly found what he thought was the mount for him in an ad on the feed store bulletin board. Steve was new to the horse thing, and he also wanted a horse – a buckskin like Paw on Bonanza. He was all ready, too, with an Australian riding coat, hats, boots – the whole works.
Predictably, the beautiful buckskin mare in the ad turned out to be way too much horse for Steve. Twelve years old and deemed “crazy” – no one could (or wanted to) ride her – as indicated by the eight previous owners listed on her registration papers.
Her name was Anna Dusean and Deborah bought her.
Shane and I clicked. I like them hot. She trusted me. I promised her I would do my best to keep her safe and that we were her forever home. Shane was extremely sensitive to energy. I realized if I just thought it she would do it. She was super athletic and willing to do anything I asked.“
But Deborah soon learned that “clicking” and staying safe with her new mount were NOT the same thing. Shane had a lot of baggage from all the previous owners who’d trained her to ?? and tried to get her to comply with that training. In staying true to her childhood heritage, to this point Deborah was not even using a saddle, but she knew she needed help bringing Shane along – keeping her fire and spirit intact, while leaving behind the angst imprinted by the previous eight attempts to settle her down.
I didn’t use a saddle until I hired trainers… I have both an English and Western saddle, don’t much like either, but the Western sure helped on long trail rides. The trainers didn’t help my horse, but I learned about riding both disciplines. The first trainer was one who trained Thoroughbreds and gave me the best advice that less tack is better and fit her with a training snaffle. The second one thought we could channel her speed and athleticism into gymkhana. Got the western saddle, bridle, competed. Made her crazier. The third did a lot of arena work English style, thinking we could figure out how she might have been trained.”
Deborah had promised Shane she would keep her safe, and was determined not to be owner number nine on her papers. But it was not without some wrecks along the way. Three years passed, Deborah’s health practice grew and she began work on producing a special concoction of supplements that had produced near miraculous results in her hormonally challenged patients. Sending folks to the health food store (or the internet) for a dozen+ different bottles was not a good solution – it was proving more difficult than imagined for them to procure the exact products that they were directed to buy.
Deborah put on a chemist / pharmacist hat and set about creating her own formula; a mixture of all the wellness supplements that her patients were taking and getting results from. And create she did. The first experimental batch of Genesis Gold arrived in 2003. Deborah was her own first consumer, and shortly after that came Shane.
They both needed the mindset shift that the new supplement facilitated, and the “crazy” buckskin mare turned the corner from crazy to settled in that year.
I had her fifteen years, and our relationship blossomed over time. Genesis Gold helped make me more comfortable handling a very willing but fast horse with a history of abuse and mishandling. I had learned to communicate via intention from the beginning. It’s the way I always rode horses and communicated with dogs, cats and babies… and Shane was one of the most sensitive animals I ever met. The problem was she would get confused between your hands, legs, and mind. So she went with your intention… I learned never to get on her back if I was anxious. She needed me to be stable… thank goodness for Genesis Gold… I’m naturally a fast, emotional, passionate person. She hated the anxious energy. She loved to be ridden, stood at the hitching post and couldn’t wait to go out. I’m kinda fearless, and not formally trained so didn’t know better; I rode her places experienced horse women would never go.”
Curiously, the answer for this horse woman turned medical practitioner was NOT more horse psychology theory or training. Not dominance or body language. Not carrot sticks or clickers. She already knew everything she needed to know about riding. Get up there and don’t fall off. Don’t distress your mount by things you do. Be in charge in such a way that arguing isn’t needed. Have fun.
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