In the summer of 2019, I began looking for my very own first horse, a thirty year dream in the making.
I had been looking at several Gypsy Vanners casually for months but mostly came across horses that were more expensive than I’d hoped, didn’t quite “look” like the horse I could feel was meant to be my partner, or some that lived so far away I couldn’t fathom how I would get them here (one in particular from Nova Scotia – some dreamy ideas about turning it into the adventure of a lifetime which felt too impractical, expensive, and daunting when it came down to it). Most of the horses that caught my eye were also selling within a few days of their sale posts.
Though I had cared for many horses for decades, I had never had one to call my own. So at first I dabbled lightly at looking, not really sure I knew how to imagine that I could really, so many years later, actually have my own horse. I felt somewhere in my bones that of course this was meant to be, but it had also been so many years accepting reality as it was, that I couldn’t quite see it or feel it.
Some otherworldly force pulled me along as I dabbled and looked.
One day, I came across a horse named Magic. He instantly took my breath away as I flipped through his photos. He lived in Missouri, just nine hours from my home. His post had been up for thirty days, and I thought to myself, “There’s no way this gorgeous boy is still available.” The price is right. He comes with all his tack. He’s not that far away. He looks like the dream in my mind’s eye come to life. It couldn’t hurt to pick up the phone and ask.
I ended up talking to his mom at the time for almost an hour. It was clear through the phone how much she loved him, and that it broke her heart to let him go. She would only let him go to a new home she knew he would be well cared for and deeply loved. She was intrigued that he would be a therapeutic partner, and I think that helped comfort her.
I quickly made plans to come down and meet him, fully knowing he and I would end up together – if only I didn’t let fear get in my way. It was a feeling like my gut knew, but I felt I had to take the proper steps so I didn’t feel like I was making an irrational decision. Every moment after that was like an out of body experience making it happen. Phone calls, arrangements … writing out a deposit for my first horse. It was all so exciting and almost unbelievable.
What hits me now is that this dream began three decades prior when I first discovered horses – that some dreams can take so long to find their way to us in real life.
As a kid we grew up in the country, and I was lucky to have a horse barn across the street from our house. In the summer I would leave with the sunrise and return with the sunset – long happy days doing anything I could with horses – ride, muck, stack hay, hand graze, whatever needed to get done. I would eat lunch out back on an old wooden bridge over a sweetly shaded creek, often alone, happy to simply be out in nature. There were a handful of us who got to play all day and get as sweaty and dirty as we could. We were the barn rats. Every barn has them, the kids who’d rather be there than anywhere else on earth.
The barn was called Greenhurst, a competitive Hunter/Jumper barn in northern Illinois. I tagged along to shows on weekends, but I never got into showing myself, happier to help out and work in different ways than to get pulled together and compete. Happier to be in my dirty barn clothes.
The horses at Greenhurst all had Barn Names and Show Names, a pretty typical setup for show horses. One adorable Arabian pony I loved went by Corky in the barn and Magic Slippers in the show ring, for example. The Show Names bore a signature of each trainer so that when the horse’s name was said on the loud speaker it was obvious which trainer had their hand in which horse. Our trainer’s token signature was Magic – Magic Notion, Magic Slippers, Magic Motion, Magic Splendor – Magic Magic Magic.
Thirty years later I was finding this lifelong dream coming true – a longing I’d had in my bones since I could remember, now coming to be – partly for my own personal journey, but also so I could have a therapeutic horse to help others along the way. It was hard to wrap my head around that this was starting to become a reality.
Today Magic has been with me for two and a half years. After decades caring for and loving other people’s horses I now get to experience the very unique journey of having a horse to call my own – to make mistakes with, to learn from, to navigate what type of relationship is good for us, and to do my very best to find the right work for his temperament and personality. He brings me so much joy, and above all else, he brings so much joy and healing to others.
About six months before I found Magic, a dear friend had brought over a birthday cake with a horse figurine and a cowgirl on it. After the party I must have washed the figurines and kept them, probably as a joke or out of kindness. I’m not really sure. I forgot all about them until my following birthday – my first birthday with Magic in my life. I went to the closet to pull them out and must have stopped in my tracks, laughing. It was the spitting image of the horse that six months later showed up in my life. Kismet, magic, a coincidence .. whatever you want to call it. I have asked for a swimming pool figurine and small horse ranch on my birthday cake for next year.
It took months after Magic came into my life for me to recall the distant memory of my very first barn, all the first horses I loved who were also called Magic … to piece together that something about Magic has been with me all along.