The Square Peg 12 Days of Christmas, days 1-7

I assure you that this mass post of days 1-7 is not a “Scrooge Move” attesting to my legendary lack of Holiday enthusiasm. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy  we simply couldn’t wrap our heads around Christmas cheer.

But the constant rains of the last three weeks bring home the reality that our beloved horses are in need of some winter and waterproof blankets.  A number of our blankets have simply given up trying to be waterproof or have fallen apart under the demands of covering bored and restless horses who miss their summer pasture.

So if you should wish to bestow some Holiday warmth on the critters at Square Peg, here is a list of the horses that need blankets.

Beetle’s preferred look
Beetle - 10y.o. Argentine/Tb gelding, 15hh
A clean Beetle

Beetle – otherwise known as “dirty little Beetle” we have never met a horse that liked rolling in the mud as much and dislikes a bath as much as Beetle.  It’s such a pity that nature chose to color this horse white as he seems to prefer mud brown. Beetle wears a 73″ to 76″ Blanket.  And the kids agree that he looks best in Green or Blue.



Bert - 24y.o. DWB gelding, 16.2hhBert – our big guy.  He’s going to need a warmer blanket than Beetle as he’s getting on in years.  He’s also a master at taking his blanket off and so we found that a blanket with an adjustable neck works best and keeps him that much warmer.  We think he’d like this one  size 78″(in purple).



Confer and Bob – the “Bromance” of the year.



Confer and Bob– the baby and the Pony.  They go together like peas and carrots and just hate to be apart.  So we think that they should have matching blankets – only different sizes.  Something like this should work in size 75″ for Confer and size 69″ for Bob. PS:  Sigourney says that chestnuts look best in green….


Stan and Mach – the destroyers.  Best to try a brand of blanket called “Tough 1” and see if it can meet the demands of these who can rip, trample, stomp and otherwise shred a blanket of lesser quality.  We hope that the adjustable neck on these blankets will help to keep them on.  Both of these guys wear a 78″ blankets.

DSC_0680Gigi – the princess looks prettiest in pink…. Size 78″

Blankets can be shipped directly to the ranch at

Square Peg Ranch   c/o Canyon Creek Equestrian Center   11631 San Mateo Road  Half Moon Bay, Ca 94019

Or you can always make a donation to Square Peg Foundation, a 501(c)3 which is tax deductible as allowable by law and we will purchase the blankets directly from State Line Tack


The soon to be warm and dry horses thank you so much!


Old Friends – New Friends

The NTRA announced that this year’s education seminar at Keenland would be even bigger and better than the inaugural event last year. This year, the seminar would include the chance to tour and have a Kentucky style barbecue at Old Friends Farm.

Old Friends is unique. Old Friends gives sanctuary to famous and not so famous racehorses and then dedicates itself to educating the public about the contributions and the needs of ex race horses. And they do it really, really well.

I needed a break – I needed to re-connect with people and a place that honored and revered the Thoroughbred horse – that valued their lives and their ability. I needed to learn more about best practices for biosecurity for our barn, about new vaccines and worming strategies and feed and care. I needed encouragement and advice about fundraising. As we know, time and funds are finite and precious at a small non profit. But I had learned so much at last year’s event and I longed to tour and meet the amazing people and critters at Old Friends. So off I went on the red-eye, flew all night and stumbled into the hallowed ground of the Keenland sales pavilion, a little rumpled, but fueled by excitement, curiosity and some high octane coffee.

As with last year, I got so much more than I bargained for.

Most importantly, I made new friends.

Like Barbara Fossum, who was my personal chauffer and tour guide. Her passion for racing and her love for the horses brightened the very air around her. I hope the NTRA knows how lucky they are to have such a dedicated and knowledgeable ambassador for the sport.

Steuart Pittman and I bonded over a mutual friend and a love of thoroughbreds as athletes. Steuart renewed my faith that professionals still crave to ride a swift and nimble horse.

Bright-eyed and quick witted Penelope Miller and I recognized a fellow foxhunter from across the sparkling coffee urn. Her intelligence and wit will help bring racing into the digital age. I hope she comes to experience the thrill of west coast Red Rock hunting soon.

Last but not least is my kindred spirit – Susanna Thomas of the Secretariat Center. Susana with her stubborn boots planted firmly in the bluegrass and her smile pointed toward the barn and her sharp and curious mind floating somewhere above, always thinking, always turning a new idea around. Her generosity, her spirit her staff and her energy are now firmly connected to Square Peg all the way across this vast country.

There were more of course.  People dedicated to the aftercare of the Thoroughbred horse.  Trainers, grants makers, lawyers, owners, veterinarians and scientists.  I’m inspired and energized and proud to be part of a community that is making progress and changing perceptions.

I’ll follow this post when I have a minute with stories of the tour of Old Friends.  Because the farm and the amazing horses and people that make it home deserve their very own post.


So rescuing horses, running a barn, teaching lessons and fundraising are all time-consuming and hard work. But wearing these hats also has some perks. Last night was one of those amazing perks.

We were invited by a dear friend to attend the Celebrity Speaker Series at DeAnza College. The speaker for the evening was Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones to Schools. He co-founder and Executive Director of nonprofit Central Asia Institute

Greg is not a polished speaker. He’s gone on record time and again to make it clear that he’s not comfortable drawing attention to himself. But his intelligence and his sincerity come through so clearly and you find yourself loving him even more for his nervous tone and fidgeting.

If you are one of the few people in America that have yet to read Three Cups of Tea, just do it. Even if you have no interest in education, in the complicated social structure and landscape of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you don’t care at all about why it’s important to empower communities and to focus on educating girls in order to create lasting change, it’s still a great adventure story.

But the title of this blog post is “Inspired” so let me cut to the chase and tell you what got my creative juices flowing on this cold and drizzly November day:

First, Greg’s organization is not about rolling into a community and building a school. The communities must MATCH the funds donated with land grants, labor and resources. That means that the community is EMPOWERED to educate their children. What an idea! As opposed to marching into a town and telling them what democracy is going to do for them. It’s simple human nature to value what you have put some equity into.

Morning Traffic At Square Peg Ranch

Maybe it’s a giant leap to take, but I feel the same way about our move to our new facility and why we just don’t hire a stall cleaner. When the families of students help us to build and fix and organize and paint and develop our barns and when the kids themselves help us to clean and feed the horses, they become invested in the health of the animals and in the health of the organization. The lessons we teach when we all rush around digging trenches before a rainstorm are more lasting when the students and their families are doing real and doing necessary work as a community.

There were a ton of quotable moments in his talk. One stood out in particular

“We need to live in hope. We cannot live in fear. Fighting terrorism is based on fear, promoting peace is based in hope. And the real enemy we face is ignorance.”

Okay, so maybe in America, the term “hope” has been kicked around a bit. But think of the hope that Mr. Mortenson speaks of when he talks about “promoting peace, one heart and mind at a time.” Now that’s a recipe for change!

Turning "I wish" into "I can."

Again, the giant leap of the work we do at Square Pegs. The clear reality is that our organization cannot house all of the injured racehorses and unwanted saddle horses that come banging on our door. But if we can teach the next generation to value each life as sacred, to teach them to care and take responsibility and to acknowledge that each of us has aspects that make us different, but that is what makes us special. Maybe then we are creating lasting change.

Education is power. Ignorance is the real enemy we face. Thank you Greg Mortenson; I am truly inspired.

Horse (People) Heaven

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association sent me an email last month about an educational seminar event at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington Kentucky.  The line up of speakers and the topics sounded really interesting.  I played with the idea of going and even shared the forum agenda our vet.

Our vet pointed out that some of the speakers on the agenda were some of the brightest minds in their fields. We both mused about how nice it would be to go and be with people who are really smart and really engaged in making life better for equine athletes.  Both of us knew how hard it is to go away from our horses, our clients and all the work that needs doing after leaving town for a few days. Not to mention the expense.  It seemed a self-indulgent notion.

But then I got thinking.  I knew that several funders of Thoroughbred related charities would be in attendance and I knew that a couple of days away from the ranch is where I do my best thinking and organizing of efforts, priorities and energies.  In the meantime, I shot a text message out to Colleen Hartford, who I knew was  running at least one and possibly two horses in the Breeder’s Cup races at Churchill Downs on Oct. 31 and November 1.

“I’m at Keeneland with both horses running in stakes this weekend.  You would love it here.  It’s beautiful.”

Co-incidence?  I dunno.  So I called her and asked if I could share her hotel room and get a ride from the airport.

“The airport is literally across the street from the track and of course you can stay with me.  Get your butt out here!”

The seminar would cost Square Pegs just the cost of the plane ticket and a couple of cheap meals.  It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

I flew in barely making my connection in Minneapolis to find the Blue Grass Airport freshly decorated for the World Equestrian Games that ended the week before.  Everything, and I do mean everything was about horses.  Sculpture, the pictures on the walls, the patterns on the employees ties, the ads – I mean everything was horse-related.  I walked outside, eager to touch my boots on the legendary Blue Grass that I’d only heard of and never seen.

The sun was beginning to set and my feet just kept moving.  I dragged my little suitcase down the road (where are the sidewalks in this town?) to take in the miles of perfect four-board fencing that surround Keeneland Race Course and her next door neighbor, Calumet Farm. Really, THE Calumet Farm.  I felt like I was in a dream.  Miles of rolling grass hills dotted with silky broodmares and immaculate barns. I kept walking up Gate 1 of Keeneland and was offered rides twice by passers-by who crooned in sweet Southern drawl “You want a ride ma’am?”

“No thanks, I’m just walking and then meeting someone.”  I continued to drag my little suitcase down the streets breathing the air that has fueled the lungs of so many running champions. Colleen found me walking on the street and picked me up laughing and pointing out that there were no other pedestrians in sight.  We drove to the stake barn and I greeted both Sweet August Moon and California Flag with carrots and pats.  Both horses looked happy and strong.

For dinner, we found a sports bar and asked our server if we could tune the TV to the baseball playoff game.  Colleen pointed out that we were in a sports oriented college town that was a lot closer to Philadelphia than to San Francisco.  True to form, especially after imbibing in the local bourbon, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. Luckily, I received indulgent smiles from the locals.  Thank goodness for Southern gentility.


Exercising at Keeneland main track

The following day had me up before the dawn to watch both horses work on the main track.  Again the locals were friendly and the exercise riders were first class.  There’s a dignity to racing there that is something I’ve never experienced in California and it felt good to be a part of it.  I got so carried away watching the horses track that I ran out of time to change clothes for the seminar.  I didn’t figure it was any big deal.  Clean jeans and a sweater is about as dressed up as a bunch of horsemen would be expected to be – right?  Not in Kentucky it seems. Tweed jackets and ties for the fellas and matched sweater sets and pearls for the gals – some things never go out of fashion I guess. I stuck out like a grubby northern California thumb.The Keeneland Sales Pavillion,  was as lovely as I had expected from seeing photos and videos of the famous sales.  I could see how multi million dollar babies had been purchased on that stage. A nice man escorted me to a clubhouse room set up for the seminar portion I’d signed up for, the “aftercare” session.  I settled myself (and my dirty boots) in the back of the packed room.

The morning  speakers, primarily veterinarians, discussed various aspects of health care for rescued and retired race horses.  My note taking pen, normally a very quiet instrument in my hand, was flying across the notebook.  Mid note taking flurry, I looked up to see an old friend walk into the room.  Mike Ziegler and I started out in racing in parallel jobs.  He was the special events manager for Bay Meadows while I held the same position at Golden Gate Fields.  Mike is now the Executive Director of the Safety and Integrity Alliance for the NTRA and I muck stalls and teach kids.  We hugged and promised to check in with each other later. I think we both spent some time musing at the fact that, almost 20 years later, we meet in Kentucky, he wearing a lovely suit and me, still tracking dirt across clean floors.  Ah life!

Back to the seminar. I learned that:

  • The best way to put weight on underweight horses is pretty simple; alfalfa hay and corn oil.  This is significant coming from one of the head vets at Purina Mills.  I leaned that you need to know the DE (digestible energy) per Mcal/lb of your feed.
  • Strangles can live in a water bucket for 30 days!  And that dipping the end of the hose into the infected water bucket and then into another water bucket can effectively spread the disease via the hose nozzle. Who knew? If you want to prevent infectious disease at your farm or event – do not allow common water tub sources!  The speaker was the vet that managed the infectious disease aspect of the World Equestrian Games.  I’m so curious how that worked out in the endurance phase.  Does anyone know?
  • If you tell someone from Kentucky that you pay $18 per bale for decent hay, they will (quite politely) choke on their sandwich.  I didn’t learn what they paid for a bale of hay as most of them have enough acreage that they grown their own special blend that their grandfather developed.
  • West Nile Virus is here to stay.  Vaccinate for it.
  • “Operation Gelding” hosted by the Unwanted Horse Coalition and funded by the AAEP will donate $50 per horse towards the costs of hosting a “gelding clinic” in your area. It’s not currently opened up for funding to individuals, you need to host a clinic.
  • Some rescues are branding their horses and notifying the local auctions to get in touch with them if any horses of their brand show up at auction.
  • All rescues should have a database on their website so that ANYONE can look up a horse by his registered name and tattoo number in the case that the horse ends up at an auction or racing or at a breeding farm – if your organization has a published “no breeding” clause (we do).

And so much more.  Stuff that will make us a better organization, better equipped to help horses more effectively and to set an example for other organizations that will keep our horses safer and healthier.  The experience was rejuvenating.

That evening, Colleen thought it would be cute to see the movie Secretariat while we were both in Lexington, the great horse’s birthplace.  With the magic (not) of the iPhone maps, we got a grand tour of some Lexington neighborhoods while looking for the movie theater.  The brick houses are adorable and the lawns and hedges are beautifully maintained.  We finally found that the movie theater was only half a mile from our hotel.  Oh well, the tour of Lexington was not only cute, but typical of the kind of wild goose chases that Colleen and I have been on in the 20 years of our friendship.  We laughed a lot.

really, it's Cigar
Cigar at home in the Kentucky Horse Park

My last day in Lexington we spent traipsing out to the Kentucky Horse Park.  We just wanted to see what it was all about.  Of course, the Games had just ended and the flurry of activity was in putting away all the temporary barns and grandstands and signs erected  specifically  for the games.  Nobody could direct us and so we found ourselves driving down private drives (very pretty) and wandering into barns.  In one small barn we found some staff shoeing an older foundered horse.  We stepped out of the shoer’s way to find ourselves bumping up against a stall gate containing a brown horse.  That brown horse was the legendary Cigar.  We asked the staff if we might just “hang out with him for a bit” and they said we could.  He is lovely and healthy and curious.  We tried to take pictures but his stall gate made the photos look strange and didn’t do tribute to the amazing champion that lived behind it.  I’ve met some celebrities in my life and I’m always just a bit disappointed when and icon takes a real human shape.  Not so with Cigar, his presence was awesome.

A long plane ride home with delays for weather along the way gave me lots of time to digest the experience and to think about how I might apply my new understandings to a better quality of life for our horses.  When the band strikes up that first Saturday in May under the twin spires of Churchill Downs with “My Old Kentucky Home” I’ll know just a bit more of what that means to so many.

Farewell to Willa

Today is the first day without Willa in the barn.  The rendering truck, buzzing with the rancid smell of corpse has left and in it is 1,000 pounds of what used to be our lovely old black mare.

I’ve got a lock of her tail in my pocket.  I’ll probably wrap it in ribbon and gift it to a child who has fond memories of learning to ride on Willa.

She was probably 30 years old. I’d retired her several times, or tried to at least.  Once to my friends’ rolling pastures not far from here.  While there, she blithely pushed through electric fences to tour the neighborhood.  I tried to retire her to a neighbor’s lovely green pasture only to find her impaled on an uncapped t-post.  Both the vet and I felt that the hope of her recovering from that wound at her age were slim and we were both wrong.  The vet would often ask to see her when visiting so that he could marvel at the tiny scar – all that was left of a deep, gaping wound.

When we moved to our new location, I thought for sure that I needed to find a retirement pasture for her.  My staff rebelled and reminded me that pasture retirement hadn’t worked for her in the past.  They wanted to keep her with us “until the end.”  I gave in and once again, we put her back in the riding program lightly and she thrived on the attention and showed her particular spunk and spark to another generation of new riders.

Willa teaching 2008

“Willa was the horse who always knew which kids got under my skin – she bucked them off” I still laugh thinking that what my barn manager said was true.  She was the horse who dealt out “attitude adjustments” with an uncanny skill.

A few months ago, we decided that Willa was fully retired and that her only job was to eat carrots and play in the turnout with the other school horses.  Volunteers were always eager to brush her glossy black coat and take her for walks.  We suspected that she was almost entirely blind.  She developed a habit of ducking under her paddock fence in the middle of the night.  We would show up in the morning to find her walking up and down the shed-row, helping herself to all of the food and treats to be found.  She would greet you with a curious face as if to say “can you put me back in my stall? I’m very thirsty after all this eating.”  All you could do was laugh as you cleaned up the mess she’d made during the night.

Willa sported a racing tattoo and we knew that she played competitive polo for many years. She had taken a tumble on the polo field and had injured her neck badly.  She was easy to spot with her characteristic drooping head.  Indeed, her original barn name was Willow and was shortened to Willa soon after. One could surmise from her build that she had had a few babies.  I suspect that she served everyone who came across her with humility and grace.  She was not one to demand attention and she had no bad habits.  We loved her for her kindness, for her spunk, for her willingness to let us put just about anyone on her back. From what we know and what we can tell, she lived a long life of service to humans.

Today, I have to live with the fact that once again, I was required to play God and to make a decision to end suffering.  The heaviness I feel right now is not doubt, nor is it regret.  I did what I had to do and I had the excellent assistance and advice of our dear veterinarian, Dr. Ashton Cloninger who checked on her every day of the last 12 days of her long life.  No, the heaviness I feel today is the knowledge that I must tell 100+ kids that Willa is no longer with us.  Many of them had some of their earliest and best rides upon her strong back.  All of them have fed her carrots and laughed at the curious faces she would make to entreat you to feed her another.   I will console the kids and explain the beauty of the circle of life.  I will wipe their tears away.  I will gratefully accept the beautiful artwork and cards they will make, and when it is all said and done, I will be so lonely for my old friend.

Meet Stella

Stella arrived yesterday at Square Peg Ranch in a gold colored trailer.

The barn was buzzing with activity. Dr. Kari DeLeeuw was treating Super Bob the Wonder Pony with acupuncture, there was a lesson going on and two hardy volunteers were tacking up to take a couple horses out for some exercise. Greg was awaiting the farrier with his list in hand of horses needing services.

In rolls Georgie and Jenny Hartman, stalwart hauling volunteers for the nearly famous Joe Shelton of Thoroughbred Friends. Joe had left me a phone message telling me that he’s sending a lame but cute paint gelding that was a lesson horse and also a very hungry black mare who he thought was “a sweetie.”

The gelding unloaded and indeed has very sore feet. Dr. DeLeeuw grabbed her hoof testers and went right to work advising and appraising how we might make this adorable gelding more comfortable. The kids have named him LeRoy and he has settled in like a champ. More on LeRoy this week.

Then she emerged from the trailer.  Those eyes. With her pitiful, gaunt haunches poking through cracked and scarred skin, her tail eaten by other starving horses, her legs caked with filth. Her withers protruded from her shoulders like a shark’s dorsal fin, her hooves strangely, are recently trimmed. She looked around, curious, confused and, as Joe put it “hungry.”

I was holding LeRoy for the vet and so I instructed the kids to put her in the empty stall where there was already 12 pounds of feed waiting for her. I turned my attention back to the sore gelding and tried to block her out of my mind. “She’s eating.” I reminded myself “And that’s the best thing we can do for her right now.” I sighed and turned my attention back to the vet and to the sweet people who needed to use the bathroom after a long drive. Later I gave them a tour of the farm, introduced them to the horses, the goats and the dogs. They hugged me when they left and I found myself making an excuse to go to my office.

Once in my office, I tried to make myself busy. I returned a call and several emails. I didn’t want to go outside and see that mare. I wasn’t ready. The kids soon found me and had questions about the new horses. They had brushed the gelding and discussed who might ride him first after he gets new shoes. “Whadda we gonna do about that poor skinny mare?” They wanted to know. “Did you see the scars on her legs and the whip marks on her side?” “How old do you think she is?”

Important questions that need to be answered. I took a deep breath and we all went to the barn together. There she was, head down in her feeder munching away. But not with the satisfying munching of a healthy horse, it was a desperate munching, always looking side to side to see who or what might take her away from food at any moment. The scars on her back and hips showed that she had fought for food a lot.

I went in her stall and she looked at me briefly and went back to eating. She didn’t seem to mind me touching her sides or running my hands down her legs to feel the scars from the lasso. Her legs looked pretty clean, and a step back to see the whole picture showed me a somewhat nicely built, fairly young mare. I pushed away the urge to look in her mouth to see her teeth or to look for a tattoo that might give us some clue as to who she is, how old she is and what her story may be. No, today is just about eating and resting. Tomorrow we will take her temperature, look for a racing tattoo and complete an intake sheet to chart her progress at the ranch.

I had the girls turn her out in the arena. I knew that Joe had been feeding this mare for the last ten days or so and I explained to the girls that the initial period of worrying about founder and colic had already been taken care of by Joe. When a horse has been severely starved, the first days of feeding have to be careful and measured out over time. A starving horse will eat like crazy and his gut often times is not ready for the rich food and the results can be disastrous or worse. But this mare, as long as we took her out for short walks several times a day, could eat to her heart’s content, the hay pellets that we feed at the ranch. I should tell you now that this mare was rescued from a string of horses used in a rodeo event called “horse tripping.” I won’t post videos of the event here. If you are curious, you can search the internet and find it yourself. I can’t view another clip of the “sport.” It seems that the stock contractor had also run onto hard times and there was not enough money to feed the animals that he used.

While the kids turned her out and took photos and brushed her, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched the mare search the perimeter of the arena for something to eat. She trotted around (amazingly sound) and nickered a few times. I know in my heart that the world has many problems, but something knocked by breath out to see this animal who was bred by someone with dreams of a great race horse who had been thrown away, abused, chased, tripped and starved and was ultimately headed for death by slaughter if starvation hadn’t claimed her first. She had no voice in her fate, no vote. If it weren’t for Joe Shelton rescuing 31 of these animals, she would be a carcass right now. Senseless cruelty.

And then she saw the girls with the halter at the gate and she went to them trusting that they would be kind. That kind of trust, in the face of what this mare had been through took all the air out of my body.

Horses have so much to teach us.

Stella’s road back to health will be long. But if she is strong enough to trust us, we have to do all we can.

And now I have to ask you for money. Because she will need feed, dental, farrier and veterinary care. We have no guarantees of what she will be able to be as a school or a saddle horse – but she needs our help.

Some of you have already joined in. Last night, before I even asked, we received $100 towards her feed from Mary Burns and Chris Wilson. If you are a shopper, there are three days left on our on-line auction – lots of great deals on neat items.  Or you can donate here.

I promise to keep you updated on her progress.


Guest Blogger – Casey Martinez

Riding horses is my passion. Horses provide a feeling of freedom and power that is rare in the modern world. I have been riding since I was five years old, and I take pride in my devotion and love for the horses. Every week I drive to Half Moon Bay to volunteer at the Square Peg Foundation, help with cleaning and lessons, and spend time riding. I believe there is only one thing better than working with horses; helping others experience horses. I am fortunate enough to share this feeling with a young girl every week. Rebecca suffers from cerebral palsy, making her unable to walk without help. Horses allow her to be a normal kid. I pony Rebecca every week; I ride alongside her, controlling her horse with the lead rope.

This experience not only allows me to help Rebecca but it helps me become a better person. Ponying has taught me patience. I must deal with the different personalities of the horses, as well as Rebecca’s fears. I introduce her to unfamiliar things slowly to keep her feeling safe. Rebecca has also taught me to be appreciative. She has shown me things that I take for granted, from my legs to my sense of humor. Rebecca has taught me to love another person, despite disabilities or handicaps, and to use that love to help overcome difficulties.

Ponying Rebecca has presented me with feelings of accomplishment and pride. I give her the chance to take control of movement, a simple act that she struggles with every day. My experience with horses and my calm, approachable behavior creates a comfortable learning environment where she can get the help she needs. While my job may seem simple, it is really much more. I have learned to be a companion and a friend. My cheerful personality and sense of humor creates a place where Rebecca can feel accepted and safe. I believe it is important to make her feel loved, and I take every chance to make her laugh. Nothing makes me happier than to know that I am providing her with a moment of support and pure happiness that everyone deserves.

Rebecca has given me the chance to share my love for horses and to help her become a part of this lifestyle. I help her fit in to a world where it is difficult to be different. By helping her, I allow her cheerful and optimistic view on life to teach me qualities that will help me succeed. I have learned patience, appreciation, and love. Rebecca’s undying charm and determination have left their mark on me. I recognize the power that I have and my potential to help others.

You can see Casey and her friend Rebecca riding and lauging together here:

Join Us – Square Peg Needs Your Help

I have a confession to make.  Many of you have seen photos of me teaching the kids vaulting tricks, including standing on a moving horse.  My confession; I’ve taught hundreds of kids to do it, but I haven’t done it.  Ever.  Because I was always too scared as a kid to let go and I never trusted the horse or the person holding the longe rope to take care of me.  Every time a student trusts me and the horse enough to try, I’m left breathless.

You see, at Square Pegs, it’s not about what we can teach you.  It’s about believing you can do the impossible and then actually doing it.  We believe that nobody has ever taught a student anything.  Learning comes from within the student.  As a teacher, that’s a really humbling thought.

I could write on and on about all the compassion that we show for the animals here and how that inspires the students.  I could tell you how we all work at the same important, dirty and difficult tasks that it takes to run a ranch with 20+ horses.  The real truth is that the concept of EveryOne Fits is all about the way the animals see us and how that changes us.

Because the horses and other animals don’t care about the label on your shoes, or that you talk with a funny accent, walk with a limp or that you repeat yourself when you are excited.  The barn dog doesn’t care that you spent last night in a homeless shelter, but she does know that you are feeling fearful. The crazy goats will make you smile even if you flunked your spelling test yesterday.

The animals teach us a few absolutes too; that compassion always conquers fear or that some days were just meant for letting the sun shine on your face and for breathing clean air.

I don’t need to tell you that our world is changing faster than ever before.  That our children will inherit a vastly different planet.  The time has come to take a harsh look at how we teach and how our children are taught and what they are learning and what they aren’t.  Rote memory and overfilled classrooms will never teach them to accept themselves and to appreciate their own curiosity.

These animals will.

Our animals are rescues, throwaways, retirees.  Our students deal with autism, homelessness, drug addiction, loneliness and normal teenage angst.  Here’s a quick idea of what Square Peg Horses have taught them:

Seeing the world set out full of disappointment and failure
A blinded truth
I was once blind
But was given a gift
To see through the eyes of a horse

A strength grows over all that is dark
Able to comprehend a person and see only what should be seen
Courageous and triumphant over the world’s complications
Believing I can do anything
Now that I’ve seen through the eyes of a believer
My life saving gift from a little grey horse.

from Through the Eyes of a Believer by Natalia Feliz

If someone needs a helping hand, the
animals will be there.
If someone feels restricted and isolated,
an animal will encourage them

written by Amy Bell

A horse’s friendship is like a dream
Brushing his hair
Feeling comfortable
Next to me
Riding on his back
Is like floating in the sky
Why do horses have to die?
Will they go to heaven
Just like us?

submitted anonomously by a Square Peg student

So, with the efforts of the horse, the staff, some fantastic volunteers, we strive to inspire people:

to own their education

to own their experience

and ultimately to own their actions.

Because this makes us better people.

Because this is what it means to  turn “I wish” into “I can.”

I humbly ask you to join us in this work by your support as we change our world one horse, one student at a time.

Click here to make a donation.

Thank you.

Guest Blogger – Leigh Jacobsen


Leigh lets us know how she feels about Jack, a very special 20 year-old Thoroughbred Gelding at Square Pegs.

I’m not sure of the date, or even how many months ago it was.. but that’s not what’s important. It was a while ago, and it was on a Saturday. I pulled into the parking lot behind the Square Peg barn and a gorgeous, thin, long legged thoroughbred was getting a sponge bath. Of course, being the curious teen that I was, I went to ask Joell who this newcomer was. I was told his name was Tee, with the new name of Jack Jack, who was an ex- show jumper and had recently lost his left eye to chronic uvitis (or something along those lines). Intrigued by the fact that he had only one eye, I went over to help with his bath and check out his “anti-eye.”

At first, I was a bit creeped out by the fact that there was a huge hole in the side of his head and was a bit nervous about the fact that he couldn’t see me. When Joell came up to me and told me I got to ride him, I had some pretty mixed feelings. I was scared, nervous, excited, worried, happy, and a couple others… but then I got on and there was no going back – I was hooked.

This one eyed, short tailed, vigorous horse had wiggled his way deep into my heart after just one short hour. Week after week he wiggled deeper and deeper into my heart and became more and more important to me. Knowing I’m gonna have a one eyed friend waiting to see me on Saturday keeps me going strong, and helps me through tough times.

He’s become more than the horse I ride every weekend, more than the cute brown one in the second stall on the left, so much more than that. He’s become my best friend, my venting system, my therapist, and the love of my life. Although it may be hard to believe, somehow we understand each other on a level I never expected.

I’ve loved horses in the past, but with Jack, it’s a whole different thing. He has one eye, loves to bolt, and always has sooooooo much energy, but something about the way he looks at me with that one beautiful brown eye is so reassuring. I trust him 100%, now matter how big of a goober he is.

Jack has changed my life in a way different than anything else in the past has. I’m not sure what I would do if I lost him or if I had never met him in the first place. He is so special to me, its hard to put into words. I think the closest way to describe my relationship with Jack is my second half. Even though he can’t talk, he seems to find a way to finish all my sentences, comfort me when I’m upset, and make me laugh ’til I cry. I feel blessed to have ever met such a gorgeous animal, who is just as big of a dork as I am.

I love Jack with all my heart and I know he will always be there for me.