By Simone Froley
I remember being so small on her big white back, I remember being awed and a little afraid of the way she’d boss me around when I tried to tell her what to do. I remember the moment Joell said “there, now you understand her. Now you’ve got it!” She was smiling up at me from the other end of the lunge line. I remember not quite realizing what I had done differently…but now I know it must have been the subtle act of opening up to communication with this horse. She taught me my first lesson then, when I was seven. I learned how to listen.
Gigi demanded dialogue. Conversation in the subtle ways of horses…she was constantly asking why and was always testing the manner in which she had been asked.
Gigi was a person. A horse. A horse who was a person, a horse who’s character couldn’t help but be noticed. She made humans work for her respect. We couldn’t ever make the mistake of taking her compliance for granted. This was given to us as a gift only…sometimes too sparingly, and sometimes with such generosity that it was all we could do to not fall to our knees and bless the very ground under her hooves. I was taught that anger and impatience would never get me where I wanted to be.
I remember, one summer, how I had forgotten all this and how I remembered it again. We cantered in circles and circles and circles and, as it drew towards evening, I realized how truly the rider and the horse are equals: two parts that make a whole, which is somehow more than the sum of the two parts…telepathic in synchronicity, each new step taken with silent agreement and joy, graceful in the way that dancers are. Joell and Gigi together helped create the person I am. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses in those lessons.
Maybe I’m making it all up. After all, she was just a horse, and I’m just some girl who could imagine things. But I loved her. In the winter she’d get all fuzzy and white and muddy and grumpy. In the summer she became so muscular and sleek, with little brown freckles. Her tail was always tinged yellow. Gigi hated taking baths and for some reason I took it upon myself to accomplish the nigh impossible task of bathing her. We used a lot of water and a lot of soap and way too much conditioner. We always accomplished the baths in one piece…well, my leather riding boots never did, and Ialways looked like I had been hosed down too, but something in my refusal to be intimidated by her granted me her slightly grudging agreement to become clean. We were on the same team.
Gigi helped me grow up, and in doing that, I believe she will always be a part of me. She never gave up, never gave in, until it was the right time. When I heard that she was so sick the first time and had to go to the hospital in Davis, I felt jarred, the whole thing felt wrong. Gigi never gives up. And she didn’t. I came to the ranch and stood at her stall and sobbed over her and she was all skinny and sick but she patiently stood there and rubbed her face against my shirt and I cried until my shirt was covered in little tiny white hairs and it was all okay again.
I will always remember her. Thank you, Joell, for sharing your horse with me. Thank you for allowing us to have that relationship, for understanding her and using your great knowledge to help me and so many others reach our higher potentials…to grow and become the people we want to be.