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May 2020

Remembrances of a 10-year old boy and his horse Falcon!

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Remembrances of a 10-year old boy and his horse Falcon!

By:  Tim Mooney  


“I want one of those!”


That is how my love of horses began!


It was early 1965 and my family was beginning another adventure in Southeast Asia after living in Bangkok, Thailand for approximately 3 years.  My father had previously worked for the U.S. Embassy, but was now working for USAID – the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  His first overseas assignment with (USAID) was to Vientiane, Laos as the Director of Public Safety for the American mission.


We arrived on an incredibly hot afternoon to our new home at K-6…the American housing compound – six kilometers from the center of downtown Vientiane.  As we entered the compound and pulled into the driveway of our new home, I saw several kids riding horses.  They were riding bareback…riding fast…and having the time of their lives.

As we were getting out of the car I said to my parents, “I want one of those!”  The reply was swift and definitive from my father.  “We will be getting you, your brother and sister bicycles from Sears”.  It became clear after a few days that getting bicycles shipped from America, from Sears, in 1965 was going to be a major undertaking and cost a great deal.  It also became clear that I was not going to let go of the idea of getting a horse.

After relentless badgering of my parents – and after they found out that the horse would only cost $50 and $5 a month to feed and stable – we began the search for my horse.  I found Falcon pretty quickly and he moved into his new home at K-6.  I loved that horse the minute I saw him and I began riding him with friends from school that same day.  Falcon was friendly, frisky and fast…just what I was looking for in a horse.  He was also very fond of my family; in particular, my mother.  When I would bring Falcon home to graze in the yard, my mother would bring him carrots, bananas (from our trees in the yard) and all sorts of other treats.  She would pet him, wash him and oftentimes walk closely beside and behind him.  I always warned her that Falcon could get spooked and possibly kick her…but she was not worried in the least.  Falcon just nuzzled up close whenever she came around.  I think he was also fond of my older brother Pat…but Pat wasn’t terribly fond of Falcon; particularly after he managed to bite down on the backdoor doorknob, walk into the dining room and head directly for my brother’s birthday cake.  The cake was saved but the relationship suffered greatly!  


There were five or six of us that rode together often – usually 5 – 6 times a week (except during the rainy season when torrential downpours happened daily and often).  We would head to the stables right after school and bridle our horses and ride for hours, bareback, wearing not much more than shorts (at the risk of sounding 1,000 years old, I am not sure they had invented sunscreen at that point!).  We would race throughout the countryside of Laos riding 10 – 15 miles a day.  One of our most favorite things to do was to jump rice paddies while racing with and/or from water buffalo.  We would canter and often gallop through the paddies…racing for hours without a care in the world.  Like most 11 – 12 year olds, we were blissfully unaware of any potential dangers.  We would swim with the horses (just about the most fun I have ever had) in muddy waters with all sorts of things that make me shudder to think about even to this day.  There were leeches (we always carried some salt when we were planning on swimming – in the event we had to remove the leeches from ourselves or the horses), snakes and who knows what other kinds of germs and bacteria in the water.  That said, I think the horses were so large that no other animals dared approach them; at least that is what we told ourselves. 


I am amazed to this day that none of us was ever injured or thrown from our horses…particularly when we were racing with the water buffalo.  It seemed that Falcon and the other horses always seemed to keep us out of harm’s way.  I had three wonderful years riding Falcon.  Outside of my family, he was the most important thing in my life. When word came that we were moving back to the United States and Falcon would not be coming with us…I was inconsolable!  On my final ride with Falcon, I was galloping through a familiar pasture on a brilliant afternoon and remember thinking…”I will never be this free again!”  Little did I know that was indeed the truth!  And little did I know that after finding my way to the “magic” that is Sprout earlier this year…I think I still “want one of those”!!

I  was unable to locate any photographs of Falcon but will share them with you as soon as I can get to our family photo bin (wherever that is these days!).  My friends and colleagues from Sprout want to get me “back in the saddle”.  Until that happens – if it ever happens – this will have to do! 


Hero Horseman – Ruben Troyer

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Ruben Troyer Biography

     My name is Ruben Troyer. I live in Aldie, VA with my wife and my daughter on our four-acre property and in a ranch style single level house.

     I am a civilian employee of the US Army Caisson Platoon. The Caisson Platoon is the last full time equestrian mounted unit in the Department of Defense. It is their mission to serve as a mounted escort to the departed servicemembers who are buried in the Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. It is my full-time job to train the horses that perform those missions.

     My life has involved horses from my youngest experiences and earliest memories. I was raised in Holmes County Ohio in an Amish community. I have worked with horses in practical ways since my youth. As an Amish boy, I would use horses for transportation as well as for farming and recreation. In my teenage years, I developed the desire to train horses rather than to simply use horses that had already been trained by someone else. Through reading books, attending a few training clinics, and a lot of trial and error, I managed to get most of the horses trained that I set out to train. 

     In later years, I would end up leaving the Amish and leaving horses altogether, never thinking that I would ever again do anything professionally that would involve horses. I joined the Army in 2005 and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard. The Old Guard is responsible for the Memorial Affairs missions for the Army in the Arlington National Cemetery. One of the specialty platoons within the Old Guard is the Caisson Platoon. Due to the extensive 

experience I had with horses earlier in my life, I decided to capitalize on what I already knew, and volunteered to serve in the Caisson Platoon. 

     After the mandatory 10 week course that was required to join the Caisson Platoon, I was assigned to a riding squad that was responsible to perform the the mounted missions that are daily assigned to the Caisson Platoon as well as the maintenance and upkeep of the barn and and the wellfare of the numerous horses we had. Soon, because I had prior experience training horses, I was assigned to help the civilian horse trainer to train the new horses that came to the platoon. I thrived in that position and enjoyed the privilege of being allowed to take horses that are otherwise unmanageable, and train them to perform the Caisson Platoon’s mounted missions in the Arlington National Cemetery.

     Since my Military Occupational Specialty was Infantry, I felt that it was my duty to serve overseas as most of my other infantry brethern had done during the time when we had wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. As such, I decided to re-enlist to extend my service in the Army in order to volunteer to serve with the 82nd Airborne, a unit that was deploying to Iraq soon. After serving in the Baghdad and Salman Pak regions of Iraq for a year, I returned to the states to continue the mandatory training period after deployment.

     Soon after returning from Iraq, I was once again put on orders back to the Old Guard. Again I was tasked with training the horses and the soldiers that were assigned to the Caisson Platoon. 

 During this time with Caisson, I was also helping with a therapeutic riding program that helped wounded warriors recover from trauma incurred from service overseas. I was amazed at how the activities and interaction with the horses stimulated and reignited senses and confidence that many of these soldiers had thought they lost a long time ago. The before and after photos were amazing.

     As comes with every term of enlistment with the US Army, mine was drawing to a close. I had to decide whether to extend my time in the army by re-enlisting or to get out of the Army and return to a civilian job. Since I had decided to get out of the army, the Old Guard offered me terms of employment as a civilian to keep training their horses for them since the other civilian no longer worked for them. I had planned to get out of the army and pursue a different career path but since I couldn’t be certain that my other career plans would come through, I opted to accept the offer. I have been working for Caisson as a civilian for over five years now and I am continuing my service in uniform with the Virginia Army National Guard.


Enjoy the Ride…A Barn Rat’s Tale

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Enjoy the Ride…A Barn Rat’s Tale

By Brooke Waldron

It doesn’t happen often anymore, but if you play the first five chords of Hal Ketchum’s, “Small Town Saturday Night” he’ll appear through the fog of my memories.  Gregarious, strong, and coated in dust and sweat.  The self-proclaimed “first black cowboy in Fairfax County.”

An eclectic mix of horseman, wild-man, father and friend.  He took kids under his wing and made all the upper-class yuppies in McLean and Great Falls uncomfortable.  


His name was Jim Moss.


He got to the barn at 9am, 7 days a week (and during my time) without fail – the mix tape of country classics would start cranking.  The day had begun!


Horses would run down a hill from being turned out over-night and he’d throw a scoop of feed in every bucket as they waited impatiently along the fence line.  As a kid, I lived to watch the magic happen –  he’d swing open the gate, let out a rebel yell and all 30 horses would simultaneously run into their stalls.  To this day, I’m mystified by the organized chaos of it all – a feat that only Jim could have (or would have) pulled off!


Back in the hay day of my youth, summers weren’t scheduled.  There weren’t waivers or emergency preparedness plans.  We didn’t have a laundry list of activities to check off, or Pinterest crafts to create, or Tik Tok videos to film.  We had our horses and our friends, and Shadybook Stables… our playground.


We’d jump out of our cars in the morning (a Playmate cooler in one hand and jiggling change we found around the house in the other) hearing the booming welcome of a nickname only Jim could pick.


“Hey Brookie baby!”…”Half Pint!”…”Blondie!”…”Muscles!”…”Shorty!” 

…and others that I’ve now replaced with proper names of adulthood.  


Since Jim was a one-man-band, horse care was pretty much up to whoever would pitch-in and everyone felt an obligation to help – cleaning stalls, watering, grooming, you name it.  There was an equal amount of expectation from him and respect from us – a badge of honor we wore with pride. 

If you weren’t there to help… you weren’t invited to be there.

After chores were done it was free rein…literally.  Double bareback in halters and lead ropes, we were off to the water hole.  Kids and ponies – free from authority, we galloped the trails that I’m sure have been overtaken with homes or abandoned because of liability.  We’d ride down rocky paths, through pine forests, swim with our horses, and take off up “dead-man’s hill”, allowing our wet-noodle bodies to slide down our pony’s rumps like wild Indians.  


We’d hoot and holler, sing and joke – having a grand ol’ time and mostly staying out of trouble. Surprisingly enough, I can’t remember falling off except for the one time I was launched into barbed wire when my horse stopped at a log (I still have the scar on my hand to prove it).   One day, someone had the bright idea that we should disguise ourselves as we rode through the woods.  We pulled leaves and vines and stuffed them in our shirts, shorts and helmets thinking we were the queens of the forest…only to show up the next day covered in poison ivy!  

….lesson learned.

Sometime in the afternoon, Jim would pile us up in the back of his truck like sardines (seat belts weren’t a consideration) and we’d ride with our hair blowing in the breeze to the 7-11, where we’d stock up on Funions and Slurpees (or any other junk our parents wouldn’t usually allow us to have).  With that, we’d have the energy we needed for the circus-like antics of the afternoon – leapfrog mounting, barrel racing, jump-off’s.  We rarely had formal lessons and spent most of our time learning from each other – holding mane and our breaths, believing in our ponies and vowing to show others their prowess.


The dares would escalate through the day and as the summer progressed.  Late night trail rides, riding backwards bareback from the creek and jumping over people…things that we’d never allow now because it’s hard to believe we lived through them.

By the time our parents picked us up, we were stinky and smiling – barn rats personified.

 Year-after-year through the fall, winter and spring we’d meet up and ride everyday, but we all lived for the carefree abandon of summer.

My last summer at Shady Brook was my senior year and by that time, most people had moved on to more competitive barns – an endeavor that I didn’t really have the opportunity or the desire to take.

I ventured onto college horseless and heartbroken.  I remember sitting in the dining hall, in tears over missing my horses and my life in the barn.  I joined the equestrian team at the University of Delaware and moved to an apartment by the college farm as soon as I could – taking any opportunity to be around horses because I never knew life without them.  

I rode english, western, foaled out University mares (Haflingers I might add – I think that might be why they are my favorite breed).  I halter broke Oldenburg weanlings (I have a couple funny stories from that) and worked for a breeding and training farm as a peon on the weekends. 

From the time I was 8, I committed myself to pursuing a life with horses and had my sights set – tunnel vision style – on becoming an equine vet because it was the only option that I thought existed. I landed the opportunity to work for Virginia Equine Imaging in the summers and winters and learned so much as an apprentice at Dr. Allen’s amazing practice.  One important lesson being…I wasn’t cut out to be a vet. 

First of all, I got woozy at some of the gnarly injuries that horses managed to collect and secondly, I had a hard time building relationships with horses that I only saw for a few moments.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my senior year that this realization hit me and it wasn’t easy to stomach.

I clutched at straws, trying to come up with a viable “plan B” which didn’t seem to exist for a scrappy rider who didn’t have a major show record or solid connections in the horse world. I decided horses would have to take a back-seat so I could land a “real job.”

I tried on a few options.

Pharmaceutical sales?  



Nothing seemed to fit.

Desperate and deflated, I headed to Shadybrook on spring break.  

A floundering young adult now, the classic country music, the dust of the arena and the mixed smell of manure and hay reminded me of who I was – a barn rat. 

Jim (I suspect he saw my desperation) threw me into teaching an impromptu lesson to his next generation and I left with an idea. 

I was going to become a teacher!  

(If you are involved with Sprout, you probably know my journey from teacher to possabilitarian…and if not, that’s another story for another day.)

I applied to Marymount University after admissions closed.  I miraculously got in and ended up loving the idea and profession of igniting the minds and the hearts of others. It felt right.  


The year I graduated from my masters program was the year Jim passed away.  I had a chance to visit him before he died and I told him some of the things we did with our horses when he wasn’t looking.  


We chuckled and sighed…and not too long after, he galloped off to heaven with his wife and son by his side.


Jim was a legend.  A misfit, unencumbered character in an uptight town – and he gave so many a chance to be the same… to be themselves – unbridled and free.


His family hosted a memorial and people came from far and wide to give a testimony on his impact on their lives.  One-by-one, hundreds of his “kids” shared the tales of adventure and abandon – opportunities Jim provided by letting us take the reins on our lives (whether we were ready or not).


It took two full days for the memories to pour out – a mark that few rarely make on this world.  The people who loved him and learned from him have horses forever imprinted on their hearts – and many are still in the barn every day, with horses personally or professionally (a feat not many trainers can claim)…and to me, that’s more important than any award on a wall.  A living legacy that continues to unfold to this day.


Jim wasn’t a world-class rider or trainer – he had no ribbons, prizes or traditional accolades to his name. He didn’t run a disciplined program full of standards and processes.  He didn’t buy the most expensive horses, heck, I don’t think I ever saw him clean a saddle!  But the guy knew how to believe in a person enough to turn them loose – to let them take chances, make mistakes and enjoy the ride.  


As I muddle through my professional career, I’ve found that it’s easy to get caught up in keeping up.  And I think Jim would remind me to let that go and embrace who I am – a barn rat who loves people and horses 

… and the idea of people loving horses. 

So, Jim, I’m going to enjoy the ride.


From Ponies to Physical Therapist…Dr. Sue’s Story!

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By Susan Schmieg

My trek to becoming a physical therapist at Sprout started when I first fell in love with riding horses.  I feel riding and watching horses move taught me to be able to pinpoint the problem areas in my patients and after learning how to treat patients I can see and feel how the movements of horses impact the mind and body of humans.  It is the correct movement of horse that is the real therapy and the therapist can challenge the patient by redirecting the forces of the movement.

I do not remember a time when I was not infatuated with horses.  The first pony I rode was a handsome pinto named Ajax. I was three years old when I was introduced to riding through my uncle’s friends Dell and Dieter from Germany.  I rode many horses and ponies with Dell and I never remember her telling me that I rode well but she would say to me that I was very brave and strong.  Dell believed that balance was the key to good riding and started the youngest riders in a Western saddle.  She would then progress riders to a “balanced seat” over fences; which was not like our hunt seat position that I learned with a later instructor, and a “deep seat” for dressage.  Dieter and Dell returned to Germany when I was 8 years old. That was a very sad time for me because the farm was sold and all the horses and ponies were sold to different families.

Shortly thereafter, my parents found out that a classmate of mine was taking lessons at a program called Junior Equitation School at Full Cry Farm in Vienna.  It was beautiful, big fields with hills and arenas and many barns.  I had multiple instructors and rode wonderful horses during my many happy years at Full Cry.  I learned to stay in “jump position” or “2 point” over a full course of fences including up AND downhill; I worked in the barns and learned to assist with beginner lessons.  I even learned to drive a tractor before I could drive a car.  Through people who would “ride in” or trailer to their lessons I began to ride outside of Full Cry.  I learned to ride open jumpers and to go cross country.  Eventually, I started to event horses with a family who had a small riding school in Herndon.  To pay for my training I taught beginner lessons and when I was 16 my trainer gave me a most special “summer assignment”.  I was to work with a little boy who had disabilities causing him to need a wheelchair.  I had never met a child who needed a wheelchair and was surprised to hear that his family and his doctor wanted him to learn to ride.

His doctor was trained in Europe where they used horses and ponies as therapy for a variety of health problems and since my rider’s sister rode at my barn the family thought this was where he also needed to be.  I don’t remember if I was ever given his diagnosis; but the first time I met him; he was not even able to sit erect in his wheelchair.  The plan was for him to have physical therapy 3 times a week and me 2 times a week the first week and then have me 3 times a week and therapy twice the next week, alternating through the summer.  I was told that his physical therapy goals were to sit independently on a bench for greater than 1 minute and to stand using a walker.

I knew nothing about therapy and treating disabilities; however, I did know how some one should hold their posture on a horse.  So, I squeezed and tickled and poked this little boy until he could sit while the pony walked patiently around the arena performing the magic of equine movement.  I taught my rider to halt without losing his balance and soon he learned to squeeze with his legs to make the pony walk forward.  During this time in therapy not only did he learn to sit independently on a bench and a rocker board, but he also began to take steps with a rolling walker.  He was getting stronger almost every week he rode and at the end of summer we had a small horse show for all the students and he was in the walk lead line class with 9 able bodied riders and got a third place ribbon.  His doctor was an advocate for using horses in therapy and had a brochure sent to me about therapeutic riding and on the last page in small print it said each program needs a physiotherapist on staff to perform evaluations of each rider.  I wanted to be a professional rider/trainer but my parents were demanding that I go to college.  I told them that I now wanted to be a physical therapist and use horses to treat my patients.

My parents insisted that I volunteer at a hospital to learn what physical therapists really do and I became a Red Cross volunteer.  I was assigned to the rehabilitation department at a small local hospital during the summer after my Junior year in high school.   The director who was my immediate supervisor was awesome.  Her name was Betty Phillips and she had served in the Marines.  Over the course of the summer she taught me how to take blood pressures and use a stethoscope to take someone’s pulse listening to heart sounds, how to set a patient up for traction and how to direct a patient through a series of exercises.  She let me do things that I now know as a PT that we don’t allow students/volunteers perform.  I learned many techniques from Betty but the most important thing I learned was to be “patient with my patients” because they were trying as hard as they possibly could at that given moment and there are many factors that impact a person’s healing.  I left that hospital rotation and Betty left shortly after to start the Physical Therapy Assistant program at Northern Virginia Community College.  

After high school I went to Mary Washington College (now University) in Fredericksburg, Virginia where I continued to ride and work in the riding program.  During my first summer home I learned about a therapeutic riding program in Great Falls and began to volunteer there.  The director had completed her therapeutic riding instructor training in England after her initial college degree.  She eventually wanted to be an occupational therapist and thought my plan to be a physical therapist would mesh well for the program.  I volunteered frequently through college and eventually we both were accepted into schools to complete our professional degrees.  Once out of school we reconnected starting Lift Me UP and working at Mt. Vernon Hospital.  The next year we both got married. She and her husband moved to Germany and my husband and I moved to California.  I worked with several therapeutic riding programs in California but always felt that the therapeutic benefits were secondary to teaching riding skills.  There was a small group of therapists that had a program in San Jose who used horses to increase the impact of their clinical practices and actually had a treatment room at the barn where they could treat on the horse or off.  I continued to see patients in a variety of settings including on horses and after our two children were born my husband accepted a job back here in northern Virginia.  

Once back in Virginia I resumed working with Lift Me Up but returned to full time clinical work when we needed to plan to send our children to college.  I continued to ride with friends because no one can ever give up being with horses once smitten. As I continued on my journey as a therapist, I was given the opportunity to be more than a clinical instructor and initiated an education protocol for all staff including nursing staff at the hospital I worked in.  I realized quickly that there were many areas that I needed to have first hand knowledge about for the new grads.  I decided to return to Virginia Commonwealth University to get my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.  I really felt old and out of step when I was told that they had changed the name of the muscles on the outside of the lower leg.  I received my degree in 2011 right after I accepted a position at Inova Loudoun Hospital.  Shortly after that my boss came to me and asked if it was true that I knew a little about riding therapy.  She and the director had met someone who had a small program in Aldie and they wanted my opinion about the benefits and possibility of a hospital outpatient clinic working with such a program.  I was so excited and that program was Sprout.  We made a visit and I outlined a plan for the clinic; however, the legal department felt it was not a billable treatment and it would increase liability that they did not want to take on.  The clinic decided not to go forward but I had already committed to Sprout in my head and decided to join the staff at Sprout.  I retired from Inova in 2016 but continue with Sprout and a few other special projects.


Grandma’s Sweet Potatoe Pie

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By Lacy Warner

 I didn’t grow up in the country or on a farm. I didn’t even come from a horsey family. In fact, I was always told that, apart from the occasional carousel ride, I was afraid of horses as a youngster. Around age 3 my aunt had taken me to a pumpkin patch where they gave pony rides and they had one painted blue which I just had to ride – I just could not leave until I rode that pony.  She recalls they couldn’t get me off of it! Ever since then anywhere we saw pony rides I needed to have one and not just one!  I demanded to ride every single pony in each pony ride.

At age six my mom signed me up for horse back riding lessons. For the next 7
years or so I took weekly riding lessons, hung around the barn as much as possible, attended a horse summer camp every available week of summer break and read every horse book I could get my hands on! Like most young girls I always had this dream of one day having my own.

I grew up as an only child and the only grandchild, raised by a single mom and was often looked after by my grandparents. Having a horse in suburbia was not an option, not to mention out of the question financially until my grandfather passed away shortly after I turned 13. He left my grandmother with means to be able to buy me a horse! My dreams were finally coming true!

Buying a first horse was a big decision! I knew exactly what I wanted: a young, inexperienced bay mare I could train myself (because I thought I knew everything). We saw an ad in the newspaper for a bunch of horses for sale at a local lesson barn. Assuming they were selling off lesson horses we called only to find out the ad was for ex race horses, of which they thought a few might be suitable for me.

The first horse we tried was named “Sweet Potatoe”, a young, inexperienced bay mare that had recently come off the racetrack.  The seller rode the horse, then my trainer rode her. She was ok for both of them. The whole time I was watching I just knew this was MY horse! She was THE ONE!

It was my turn to ride. Sweet Potatoe would not stand still for mounting. Even with two people holding her they still had to pop me up like a jockey on to the saddle while she trotted a tiny circle around all of us. Somehow I managed a bit of riding on her until I asked her to canter. She quickly burst into racehorse mode and I fell off.  No sooner had I hit the ground I jumped up to announce, “I love her. This is the horse  I want!”

(and for those of you that know me now this may come as no surprise when I say everyone thought I was C R A Z Y!  In fact, I still hear that quite often). 

Even though I knew she was the horse for me they made me try others. I told them there was no need to waste anyone’s time!! I wanted Sweet Potatoe!! Begrudgingly I “rode” two other horses (geldings) for literally about 30 seconds each to appease the powers that be. I wanted Sweet Potatoe and I was not interested in seeing any more horses!

We leased her for a few months before buying her. To this day I am not quite sure why no one talked my mom out of it. I had no business having this young, spooky, untrained ex racehorse. But she was mine!  I decided immediately that her show name would be “Grandma’s Sweet Potatoe Pie” to honor my beloved grandmother.

For a few years I tried to show, trail ride and just enjoy my horse. I had absolutely no breaks on this horse, ever! She was incredibly spooky and rarely behaved at a show IF she got on the trailer at all to even attend the show. To top it all off she was nearly impossible to catch! There were many many many days I would be in the field, following her around for what seemed like forever balling my eyes out because I just wanted to ride but could not catch my horse.  I just wanted to trail ride with my friends, attend horse shows without refusing jumps or not being able to stop my horse and be able to load her on the trailer and take her places.

When I was 15 we moved her to a new boarding barn. She and I were having the same troubles as in the past but finally they were recognized. This crazy lady was always in the arena with her horse, not riding him but using this orange stick to do whatever it was she was doing with him. Finally after seeing me attempt to ride my horse on several occasions she approached me and my mom and blatantly told us that we needed help before this horse killed me (and boy, was she correct)!

She tried to show me a few of these natural horsemanship techniques she used with her orange stick. I practiced them often but really just wanted to ride! 

Later that year a Parelli Natural Horsemanship clinic was being hosted at our barn so we signed up! I was the youngest person in the clinic, the only english rider and, by far, had the worst problem horse! Of the 2 or 3 day clinic the instructor had to work with my horse all but about 2 hours of it because I could not handle her!  I was enlightened, inspired and encouraged to continue on with what we had learned. I saw what was possible! With a lot of hard work, patience and support my horse might be able to stand at the mounting block for mounting! She might be able to canter instead of gallop everywhere! I might be able to get her on a trailer to go on adventures! The possibilities seemed endless!

At age 15 or 16 when everyone was looking at colleges and deciding what might become of their lives I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to have a horse farm and teach kids to ride! Horses all day every day! So many people told me “You can’t make a living off of horses” or “You need to go to school and have a ‘real’ job to support your horse
hobby.”  The more I heard those things the more motivated I became to prove them wrong!!


I was never really interested in school or a social life per se so I devoted all of my time to this new information I had learned at the clinic. We bought books, dvds, hosted more clinics, travelled to more clinics and eventually attended school at both Parelli University campuses in Colorado and Florida.  



Sweet Potatoe, as frustrating as she could be at times, kept me humble, kept me (mostly) out of trouble. She was my confidant, my shoulder to cry on. My biggest successes included her! Horse shows! Team penning! Obstacle courses! Parelli Natural Horsemanship Achievements! The list goes on! I worked every day to make us BOTH better! She taught me so so much! It became less about riding and more about our relationship. She was no longer my horse, she was my best friend.

Over the years we did so many things together from herding cattle in Colorado to galloping through the countryside to bareback and bridleless evening strolls around the farm.

She taught me that every horse gives us an opportunity to learn. She helped me build a “barn family” of people with like interests, people that also truly cared about their horses as best friends and needed their equestrian escape from reality! Sweet Potatoe taught me that every horse comes into your life for some special reason. But not every horse will be as special as Sweet Potatoe. She passed in a tragic pasture accident 14 years after she became mine. I have yet to find another horse quite like her. I now have several horses that fulfill her role in my life.

It’s difficult to put into words the impact your best friend had on you! I miss her every day but I am so grateful for all of the people I met because of her and for all of the lessons and opportunities she taught or gave to me which I can now pass along to others!