A Young Woman’s Tribute to the Horse She Grew Up With

By Simone Froley

J529x770-03321.jpgI 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.
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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 J270x360-03961.jpgtail 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 IJ1092x1709-18482.jpgalways 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.

DSC_1571.jpgGigi 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.

Beautiful, Rowdy Prisoners

…..Peace and kindness are contagious but must be cultivated.

This week, I pushed a student past her limit and she hit an anxiety wall.

It wasn’t the end of the world.  This student is unusually forgiving.  Mom was pleased  I’d had the temerity to push her daughter past her comfort zone.  The daughter was able to laugh about the incident and all was forgiven.

But the whole thing stayed with me:  What was my intent in pushing this anxious child?

C. Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School with instructor Rachel Bisaillon on Cecil

When training a horse if your intent is pure, the horse will forgive your mistakes. But if you come to the horse in fear or ego, there is no joy for either of you, even if the move is perfect.

Earning a child’s trust comports moral responsibility – this increases exponentially when the child has special needs. Only when you earn trust can you challenge the student to push boundaries and explore new skills and interests. At the end of the day – the motivation must come from inside the student for that skill to have  lasting effect or real meaning.

So – what is the value of an education foisted on a child?

Enter; moral ambiguity.

On one hand – education drives our society forward.  Education battles ignorance.  The pen is mightier than the sword and the information super networks have made our planet a community like never before. But our education systems are not designed to teach the values that make life worth living;  joy, curiosity, community andFullSizeRender 172 compassion.

Even that’s not true.  I attended a high school’s science fair last week and the kids were smarter,  better integrated, more tolerant and just plain nicer than my generation. Education has made  great strides in innovation, embracing different learning styles, and encouraging curiosity.

IMG_8041_2While riding my horse in the sunshine, his powerful back swinging freely creating oxytocin in my overworked and sore body, I started to untangle the role Square Peg plays in this giant education question. I had a feeling as l rode, it started to gel when I wrapped my arms around his muscular neck thanking him for a brilliant ride. I took my saddle off his warm back and this statement flowed out: Peace and kindness are contagious but must be cultivated.

Square Peg’s overarching purpose is to cultivate peace and kindness any way we can.

photo by Robyn Peters

If it’s taking a dreamy child for a ride in the kayak to tell stories while floating in the pond – or in making the time to listen to a worried parent fresh from the latest IEP or in teaching a young man working with a jumpy young horse that his kindness and patience are strengths – not weaknesses.  It’s putting a guinea pig into a baby sling and placing it on the heart of a child while she rides a horse fully 20 times her size. This is how we cultivate kindness and peace radiate them into the world.

Registering our intention as an organization means we can forgive ourselves and others for mistakes.

The Sufi poet Hafiz wrote: 

Oh how we love our beautiful rowdy prisoners….

Strong Women Aren’t Always Human

Gigi:ThairWhen a horse at the ranch dies, It’s my job to help  kids come to grips with the circle of life.  I carefully consider the age and emotional state of each person when I break the news to them. It’s a tricky dance navigating each family’s culture regarding death.

This time was different. This time, I did what must be done quietly and privately. I acknowledged  Gigi and I had been soulmates for close to 17 years. This time, I attended to my pain and loss with the tenderness I afford others in these situations.

What flowed back was the kindness and innocence that Gigi loved – I am grateful for the care I’m giving myself.

Around 1999 (Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer) asked me to give him $1 for a skinny and awkward horse. She looked like both front legs came out of the same hole.  Her exercise rider said she was crazy.  Plus, you couldn’t tie her – she’d panic and destroy anything to get free. Add to that, her leg was injured and swollen. 

I said yes.

Thoroughbreds are handled by humans from the day they are born.  Therefore, most Thoroughbreds are happy to please humans and see them as fellow members of their herd. This filly – not so much.  She had no name, no tattoo, the exercise rider told me she was bred by some guy who left his horses mostly wild until they were four years old.

She grew big and strong and brilliant but still fearful.  I called her Gigi.

Gigi circa 2000
Gigi circa 2000

I showed her through first level dressage.  The judges consistently wrote “very tactful rider.” They could tell I was sitting on dynamite. Gigi jumped boldly, if flat and fast.  She was famous for turning bounces into giant spread fences. She brought out the best and the worst in me as a rider.

As much as Gigi could humble arrogance,  Gigi was better at recognizing true innocence. Faced with a child or a kitten or even an adult without an agenda – Gigi’s face softened, she’d stretch her elegant neck toward them and lick them with her pink tongue.

Image003When I started using her in lessons, people who knew her complained bitterly. They said she was unsafe, unpredictable, strong and willful.  With me – yes.  With any professional who climbed upon her broad back – absolutely.  With children – never.

By 2004, when we started Square Peg, she was a cornerstone of the program.

IMG_2562For eleven years she packed kids.

Last year we knew something was wrong.  After a light ride, Gigi was sweaty and tired. She angrily bit one of our best kids while brushing. Her coat turned rough and then she started losing weight.  We checked teeth, we pulled blood.  We supplemented her food.  She was only 20 for goodness sakes.

A fantastic private thoroughbred charity called us last year and said “how can we help Square Pegs?”  I knew right away what to say.

“Our matriarch is sick and we can’t figure out what’s going on.  I’d like to send her to the UCDavis and see if we can help her.”

After the Finish Line gave us the go-ahead and our vet made all the connections to have her examined by the University’s best. After a week of ultrasounds, blood tests, biopsy procedures and more we came home baffled. Gigi slipped another notch or twelve in that time. The tests for Cushing’s Disease came back inconclusive but it’s all we had to go on.

Our friends at Auburn Labs supported her with over $1,000 worth of their APF Pro product that had proven results for horses with Cushing’s Disease.

In Cushing’s the adrenal glands won’t shut down. Gigi was under constant chemical stress.  It destroyed her eyesight, her joints, her metabolism, her lungs.

For the last five months we attended to her every whim.  We grazed her in the most lush spots. We cleaned her water bucket daily so she could try to quench her insatiable thirst.

Yesterday, my friend, my teacher, my treasured co-worker was finally able to lie down again.  The stress hormones no longer pushed through her veins.

A friend left flowers and a note in front of her stall with words that spoke volumes: “Strong women aren’t always Human.”

Gigi was a bold diva – a princess with a  gallant heart.  She reminded me of one of my favorite film heroes – Maude from Harold and Maude.  When Harold demands “You can’t die – I LOVE you!”  Maude smiles and answers  “That’s wonderful! Now go and love some more.”

Goodbye my darling Gigi.  I promise to go and love some more.

I Will Always Be a Follower

by Rachel Bisaillon

Some of the kids’ names in this post have been changed to remain confidential.

camp12Silly This month, marks three years at Kastl Rock Ranch. This occasion has me reflecting on how Square Peg has grown and evolved. What it really comes down to is the ability to increase our HorseBoy™ teachings and focus on using humor, nature, and relinquishing control helping create a recipe for success at Square Peg. 

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Through the eucalyptus trees, small ripples in the pond, and mountainous terrain of our 110 acre farmI hand over control and leadership to Axel. Some weeks we are gorillas, some weeks dogs, some weeks horses— it’s up to him. We hike the farthest boundary fences of the farm, up the steepest hills and through miles of forest. Every week is an adventure, with Axel leading the way. We run through the underground culvert, a sensory palace. We scramble through the trees and climb fences. Some moments are teachable, some moments are humorous all experiences are learning moments for me.


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The first time Jimmy arrived at Square Peg, we thought he would never come back. He screamed, pulled hair, pinched, and refused to acknowledge Panzur. He stood at the car banging the hood and screaming for his iPod. We managed to get him in the golf cart which we drove around the arena with Panzur following and eating carrots out of the back. The second time Jimmy came, he threw a carrot at Panzuracknowledgement! Progress! By the fifth time, Jimmy was riding by himself, with the iPod, watching the Spirit movie. We back-rode for a few sessions and built a relationship of trust. He is now trotting on Panz independently.


IMG_9120Jay is terrified of dogs. Jay started with us the summer of 2015 and refused to be within five feet of any dog. We carried him, would lock the dogs away, and used the golf-cart to scuttle away from them. We never made a big deal about it, except for showing him these dogs wouldn’t hurt him
they were gentle dogs. We wondered if this would be a forever hatred. Last week, while rocking back and forth on the gate, just above Patti’s floppy ears. He started calling to her, then (surprisingly) launched himself off the gate, ran over, grabbed her wrinkles in fistfuls and got nose to nose with her. “Patttttiiiiiiii, Pattttttttttttiiiiiiiiiii,” he sang. He sat on the ground and snuggled her, while talking about what breed of dog Patti is, where she came from, and how sweet she was.

IMG_2354Why these three stories? One of the  aspects of Horse Boy Method is  “Follow the Child.” We’re taught that teaching and learning are about one person having knowledge and bestowing it upon others. It’s the same dynamic from teacher to pupil, from older to younger siblings, doctor to patient, and so on. Letting go long enough to “Follow the Child” takes practice, patience and a whole lot of ego management. But when we do – the whole world changes. It’s only when we are curious and open to learning that we tune in to our physical bodies and the world around us that we actually learn.


Special needs children spend most of their lives in a position of powerlessness:

“Don’t touch that”

“Don’t bother that lady”

“You must eat this, wear this, pay attention to this.”


IMG_1328When we create an environment where these kids explore, experience and lead us— communication starts to flow from a place of trust. By letting the child lead we we honor his humanity and the wisdom of childhood. Consequently, we learn and we rediscover joy and curiosity.  

 

 

Take a few hours to followlive in the shoes of Axel, Jimmy, and Jay for a bit. Be okay with handing over your teacher hat and just playing follower. See where they take you, what they tell you, and how they teach you. It’s a gift.  

 

Values

“Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” Gandhi

Early this week, I traveled to Texas to check in with our beloved HorseBoy tribe and to study under the wisdom and patience of international equitation masters Sofia Valenca and Goncalo Linhas. I enjoyed the connection of a community united by love and the quest for knowledge.

While flying home, I thought long and hard about where Square Peg is growing and why. My thoughts were jumbled and I needed to decide where to put my limited resources and energy.

I must start with how best to serve our staff.  Because clients will never be more satisfied than your staff.   Next big question is how can we serve all the families that want and need and deserve services?  How do I prioritize the projects that need the most attention to achieve what is needed for program growth, client needs, donor appreciation, public education, and general organizational health?  I looked these big questions over and over, and I got overwhelmed.

I took a bunch of deep breaths.  Then I took a hundred more. I went to the barn and snuggled the horses and watched them snuggle my staff. Each animal face was open and inviting – quirky and sweet.I took time to receive the affection they  freely offered. 

I decided to go to the heart of the matter. I wrote in my journal: What Makes Square Peg special? Lots of programs have fancy curriculums, beautiful buildings, impressive boards and sponsors.  They have goal sheets, charts and graphs and money to spend. And their families leave feeling flat, confused or unheard.

Next I wrote: “Why does anyone support Square Peg?” Truth is, this hybrid of horse rescue and serving autism families sounds pretty far-fetched. Yet it works. Why?

I walked circles around the house, petted the dogs and brewed more coffee. I sat down again.To my surprise my pen started moving seemingly on it’s own.  I wrote: people support us for our values of love, acceptance, laughter and compassionate treatment of the animals. “ I took another deep breath, put pen to paper again and found that I needed to write the exact same statement twice “people support us for our values of love, acceptance, laughter and compassionate treatment of the animals. “

Values.

It’s what makes a difference. At the end of the day – skills are skills – but values change the way we see ourselves and how we see the world.

Priorities started to line up effortlessly. Next,I answered the question of “Why Does Anyone Support Square Peg”  easily;

People will support square peg because of our values of dignity and inclusion and celebrating the child. Mindfully, we will change ABA, education and even how OTTB’s are perceived. The horses aren’t capable of lying and reflect our commitment to our values. When they feel safe, appreciated and loved they are perfect partners –  and all thrive and all are encouraged to live useful, joyful and engaged lives.”

Here’s to values – as reflected by our horses. 

Thank you Universe. Thank you horses.

A Journey, Together

Joell & Darius

In the holiday season of 2003 Joell and I started a journey together.

DandJ2011From our second or third date in 2001, we were hardly apart, but for our various jobs. Joell was teaching riding and doing sales for equestrian products. I was doing tech sales and failing at my new consulting business.

We both wanted more out of life. We wanted to make a difference; something with meaning.

I found plenty of meaning in my work in tech, where our products were used by brilliant people doing extraordinary things. I’m fascinated by technology, and the big hook for me is giving people tools that enable important work that changes lives and society. I had that meaning in work, especially at Sage/Stride and Silicon Graphics, and I wanted more.

On Christmas Day 2003, Joell and I decided we would both commit full-time to build this thing we created called Square Peg Foundation. Friends thought we were crazy, though several provided invaluable counsel and support. We were energized and headed down this new path, together.

In the early years, I managed the office and went out to help with the barn a couple days a week. For both of us it was commonly a seven day week. J1024x768-09507

We knew what we didn’t want to be – a program where families came for 60 minutes, rode the horses and left. We wanted to build a true community – where the shared work of caring for the horses who needed a second chance was empowering for everyone.  We wanted to give struggling families the confidence and the support to do extraordinary things.

We learned every day about the running of a non profit, but there were so many things we didn’t know. We knew we were committed to being fiscally transparent and true to our mission. We pressed on and kept learning.

standing upEvery evening,  Joell would bring home stories from the barn. Our long conversations connected me to the Square Peg work, to the families and the horses.  As we dreamed, we were making a significant difference. Parents raved about how their kids grew in confidence and how the experience was carrying over into their lives outside the ranch.

But a few years in, we almost lost everything. Some early donors and the last bit of our personal savings pulled Square Pegs through. I had to find paying work and Joell had to run both the office and the programs and teach the lessons and care for the animals.

This time was hard for me. Mostly I worked alone isolated in our little house in the woods. For Joell it was a sanctuary, but for me started to feel like a prison.

At the end of the day, Joell would bring home those barn stories. We talked about the new kid’s first break-through on horseback, saying new words and stringing together phrases. I listened to her heartbreaking stories of parents who time and again would tearfully told her that this was the one place where they could take their child and not worry that he would be judged and rejected. We discussed the meaning of self. We saw the difference that modeling compassion and cultivating joy could make. The keystone was the importance of how kids see themselves, how they see the world, and how they see themselves in the world.

I was Joell’s sounding-board and trusted support, and she brought to me the heart of the work, and together we refinedRCP_8810-5 our principles of Square Pegs, our practices, and the way we communicated what we do and who we are.

Those difficult years were a crucible for us. We came out of it clear about what Square Pegs is, and what it is not. Rather than our troubles driving Joell and I apart, our relationship deepened.

Ten crazy years later, we moved to our current location. Joell developed her dream team, and now that we live here at the ranch I’m involved again in the daily programs, meeting with parents and donors and planning new projects, and loving it.

StuartNafey-square peg-8954Today I see myself differently from 15 years ago, or even five. My work is more focused and I understand more clearly my own motivations and contributions. I’ve regained my curiosity. I’m diving deep into technical topics, running my own servers and learning Python and Swift. I am working with great clients, and on writing projects that I love — I’m writing a book, and already thinking hard about the next one.  I read voraciously, and I’m thinking deeply about meaning, compassion and learning and how they connect through Square Pegs and technology and business. I’m learning to surf and I’m healthier than I have been in years.

All this is a direct result of this complex and trying journey of building Square Peg Foundation together. More than ever, I have a clarity about myself. How I see myself in the world has grown, developed and I see exciting and endless possibilities on my path.

What we’d dreamed on Christmas day 2003 that Square Peg Ranch does for the kids, it has done for me.

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The Crusade for Empowerment

By Deborah Lynn Rod

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the role Square Peg played in my life. Doesn’t the end of the year spur a wave of contemplation in all of us?


In 2012, I had the opportunity to work as an intern for Square Peg. I maintained this position for about two years. I admit that when I first came to Square Peg, I had little interest in working with the kids. I was all about the horses. Sure, I had some previous experience working with children at the Jewish Community Center summer camps and adults with disabilities at S.F. State University, but I never expected to get so deep in this crusade for empowerment.

At Square Peg, I flourished. My world became bigger. I found my niche. I couldn’t stop raving about Square Peg to all my friends, families, and anyone who had at least 30 minutes of listening to spare. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I was darn good at working with kids with autism. I’ve concluded that my skill in working with children with autism was cultivated less from an academic fascination with the neurobiology of the autistic brain; it was more because I like to roll around in dirt and horse shit as much as the next 6-year-old.IMG_2210

Square Peg provided a vessel for me to help others but Square Peg helped me too. I was diagnosed with ADHD/ADD at age ten (coincidentally, the same time I started riding horses). Since then, I was on five or six different medications for over ten years. I was explaining my medication history to someone when it hit me that I had been on powerful stimulants for 10 years; a decade of crucial emotional, physical, and mental development. I didn’t know who I was without the meds. Although, friends told me that I was more “fun” when I would choose to skip my meds, giving some insight into what the real Deborah was.

9467684831_c1efd51139_zBut fun it was not. It was a hellish withdrawal for me. I gained  30 pounds, stopped going to class (I was a straight -A student prior to this). I could hardly get out of bed. It was hard to talk to people because I couldn’t keep track of the words and ideas in my head long enough to form a coherent statement. It was all word vomit. My world was getting smaller. In the midst of my “breakdown,” I resigned from Square Peg with a cold and formal email.

Before I left Square Peg, I informed Joell of my decision to quit my meds. She gave me advice that I never forgot. Joell told me “Be kind to yourself.”

I thought, “yeah yeah, easy enough.” I was wrong. For a year, I struggled to find consistencies in my fundamental interests. What motivated me unmedicated? I found intrinsic motivation with my new Africana Studies major and Special Education minor. I credit Square Peg for introducing me to the practice of adaptive teaching and the healing power of community and the great outdoors. I had a lot to contribute to the discussions in all my classes based off things I learned at the ranch. Things were looking up for ol’ Deb Deb. The biggest game changer for me, however, was traveling.

This summer, I visited eight countries in two months. Everywhere I went, I struck up conversations with people about how they perceive autism in their respective countries and what services were available to people with autism. I met a high school teacher in Paris who was moved to tears by my drunken ramblings about the success stories at Square Peg and how hope is the fuel that drives us forward to keep effectively working with kids who are labeled as “problematic” or “difficult.”

Even though I was no longer at Square Peg, the foundation was still making my world bigger.

My quarter-life-crisis has come and gone just in time for 2016 to start. I plan on returning to Square Peg several times a week again and moving forward with the organization as much as possible. Square Peg opens doors to a world of adventure and love; a world I hope to expose as many families to as possible in my current and future endeavors with the autism community. I may have left Square Peg, but Square Peg never left me.

Deborah and Lauren April 2013 and the maiden voyage of the pond kayak

Dignity and Respect – the Antidote

Hold your loved ones close this chilly holiday and remember that the gift of Dignity costs you nothing and can mean the world.

I have a love-hate relationship with labels. Labels such as “special needs” or “autism spectrum disorder” can open doors, spark compassion, and create community. But they can also change how you view a person. Knowing how someone is labeled can provide a false sense that you know what makes him tick, know her strengths, understand his limitations. Labels have an insidious way of blinding you to the individual. And it doesn’t just affect people outside the family. In order to be effective advocates within the school system, parents have to spend a lot of time focused on their child’s diagnosis and areas of need within the educational environment. As a result, our vision can become clouded and we can lose sight of our child’s often considerable strengths.

Square Peg is the antidote. It is a place where over the years I have seen my child’s courage and competence blossom. Where I have hadEveEars the opportunity to see my child through the eyes of people who believe in him and value what he offers them. Where I have had the opportunity to examine my own assumptions and expectations and felt renewed clarity and optimism as a result.

I am immensely grateful to the folks at Square Peg, who don’t seem to be burdened by preconceived notions of what a person is capable of, for their treatment of everyone with dignity and respect, and for seeing the potential in each individual… and doing all that without fanfare or drama. And here’s the unique and very cool thing – this approach is in Square Peg’s DNA. It is not something they do, it is who they are.

We all sense this – the kids, the parents, the dogs, goats, and the horses – and because of it, wonderful things happen.

Your support keeps the wonderful things happening. Here’s how you can help.

Your support is what keeps these wonderful things happening - https://www.squarepegfoundation.org/2014/12/the-big-ask-give-the-priceless-gift-of-laughter-and-opportunity/
Your support is what keeps these wonderful things happening – https://www.squarepegfoundation.org/2014/12/the-big-ask-give-the-priceless-gift-of-laughter-and-opportunity/

On the Eve of Christmas Eve, Here’s a Story – About a Horse Called Eve.

On the Eve of Christmas Eve, we thought we’d share a story – about a horse called Eve.

by Kemma Peters

Kemma, Eve and Christian Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School
Kemma, Eve and Christian Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School

Last May, I was given the opportunity to help train a horse to maybe someday be a lesson horse. At the time it seemed all fun and games. I soon realized, this was going to become my life.

Eve is a little bay mare with a spunky attitude and a lot of fire. She is also smarter than I could ever imagine. She was, however, lazy and not even fit enough to trot a lap around the arena without falling on her face or stopping to pant.

Everyone has dreams. Sometimes those dreams even become reality. When I started riding her, it felt as though my life had found a purpose. She was my project. As I bribed this little brown mare with carrots and cookies, we became a team. Gradually, she began to respect me and trust me.

Perseverance and patience. That was all it took.

She taught me that I need to persevere. She showed me that, even though it may not always seem so, hard work does pay off. She has taught me patience better than any parent or teacher or friend ever could. And out of this patience, we have developed a trust. I trust this horse more than words can say.

There were times when I wanted to give up, where it felt all hope was lost and I was getting nowhere. Then, we would have a perfect ride and I would remember why I cared so much from the beginning. Sometimes, the frustration would make me angry, or even upset sometimes, but I kept going because I knew there was some reason I adored her so much.

We will never go to the Olympics, or the Grand Prix, or Rolex, or any other big name show there is. But I’m okay with that. It would be beyond incredible, but it just won’t happen. All she needs to do is carry a child and help them to enjoy themselves and life. She will be great at that.

And I know someday, another little girl or boy will love her as much as me.

Kemma has taught Eve jambette (among other things)
Kemma has taught Eve jambette (among other things)

 

One Big Horsey Family

IMG_5096 by Laurel Mitton

When eighth grade ended, I was not looking forward to summer. All my friends  lived at least an hour’s drive away and I had no way of talking to them. I was prepared for a dreary summer rereading the same books over and over. My summer, in short, might as well not exist.

Then my mom told me about Square Peg. I’ve lived with and on horses since before I was born but out of our MiraSmileoriginal herd of seven, we had only one retired Quarter Horse left. A barn with 20 horses sounded like heaven. Even so, I was still nervous. I hadn’t ever worked in a real barn and I didn’t know how to handle thoroughbreds. I didn’t know what would happen next.

As we drove up the driveway, I saw a line of seven or eight horses poking their heads over the fence of their stalls. A friendly girl met me in the shed row and introduced herself as Tessa. She showed me around and her bubbly personality made me feel at home immediately. Soon Rachel gave me some chores and Tessa helped teach me the routine. A few weeks later Rachel told me to go tack up Bert for my first lesson.

Since then I’ve been riding once a week and coming as many as three times a week to what I consider my second home. By the time my mom picks me up I’m covered in horse dirt, but I couldn’t be any happier to have found such a wonderful community of not just co-volunteers but friends. Everyone at Square Peg, from instructors to riders, treats not only me but each other as family. One big horsey family.

At Square Peg I’ve learned everything from how to balance six rollies, four feed tubs, and three girls on one golf cart to how to wrap polos to how to play Red Rover on horseback to how a good trot can make anyone’s day. I’m grateful to Square Peg for giving me enough confidence in my riding to jump bareback, a happy refuge from everyday stress, and, most importantly, a community of friends I hope will never disappear.

HorseyFamily