I believe that anyone who has a successful equine career or a lifelong dedication to horses in any way has encountered one special person who has nurtured their love and guided them along the way. Whether that person is a parent, trainer, or a mentor. As for myself, I have been surrounded by horses for as long as I can remember. When I was twenty-one years old a series of events led me to my person if you will.
The only horse related frame of reference I had while growing up was a biological mother. She had a passion for horses ever since she was also a little girl, but as she aged, she had succumbed to her poor life choices and was no longer in a clear state of mind. If I wanted to continue to grow as an equestrian, woman and mother I was going to need other perspectives and guidance, so I set out on a journey.
We lived in a small town so I checked all the flyers outside of the post office, local market, and gas station for houses to rent. People wait years to move into a tight-knit community due to availability, and here I was looking to find something in a single day! After a day of searching and asking around, I was at a loss and felt defeated. I walked into one of the restaurants to grab a bite to eat that evening, and a lady I knew was sitting out front. I asked her if she knew of anything to rent. She pointed me in the direction of a woman who had a main house and a guest house on a large piece of property accompanied by many horses and a few dogs. Heaven, right? The following day we visited the property and decided to move in as soon as possible. The owner of the property is an older, highly educated woman with a devotion to both horses and people. She owns and operates an equine facilitated therapy facility in Southern Arizona, and we were lucky to call that home for the following years.
A heart horse is a horse that you don’t sell on, they are worth more than anyone can pay for, and when someone asks you, you know exactly why you make the sacrifices you make to keep them around for their entire life. So for the sake of this story, I’m going to refer to this woman who took us under her wing, so to speak, as my heart person.
I am a firm believer that things fall apart so greater things can fall together, doors close so others can open, and everything happens for a reason.
In exchange for us living there, I was to maintain her barn and (at the time) thirteen therapy horses; which included morning and evening feedings, mucking stalls, turning out to pasture/ bringing in, and keeping inventory with the feed, shavings and salt blocks we had in stock. To the average person, I’m sure that sounds like a whole bunch of boring nonsense, but to a young woman who yearned to learn more about horses and life itself, it was a blessing.
She guided me in more ways than one over the years. When I had questions about one of her horses or mine, she was there with a soft but factual answer. When I was nervous with a needle in my hand to give summer vaccines, she walked me through it step by step, and I must say her horse, Serra June did fantastic for a first timer like myself. She taught me how to wrap a horse’s leg properly, take their temperature, the importance of specific and individualized feeding, and monitor their breathing when one seemed a little off. She also taught me how to walk away from negativity, care for my soul and come to terms with the fact that you can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves.
She taught me about equine facilitated therapy, let me assist in her workshops as a horse handler, and when she felt it was necessary, I participated in one. That was a day I will never forget, and always cherish. Up until that point I had only been familiar with the western disciplines of riding and starting colts, and here she was showing me a whole new world from a different perspective. Exactly what I had been looking for.
I remember her telling me one day that she was diagnosed with cancer and she wouldn’t be on the property as much so she could receive the proper care she needed in a larger, neighboring city. Over the following months, we kept in touch while I continued working. The doctor’s course of action had seemed to work and her cancer had gone into remission, she returned home and we celebrated. Every so often she would go back for scans and we would rejoice that nothing was found.
One afternoon there was a crisis with one of her horses, she called me, panicked, and I quickly arrived. It was my time to return the support she had been giving me. I stayed with that horse for a couple of hours while she made phone calls to the veterinarian, family, and friends who also adored this horse, Serra June. I stood by her side when the time came to put that horse down. I believe that was a horse she had for the entirety of its life, thirty years. With tears swelling in both of our eyes, I couldn’t manage to get any words out all I could offer was an all-encompassing hug that seemed to last for more than a minute. Unfortunately, when you own seasoned horses and give them their forever home, you know the rainbow bridge is inevitable. During our years of living there, a few geriatric horses were laid to rest, and the scenario always ended with tears and a heartwarming hug. I was as dedicated to my job, the horses, and her.
When I announced to her my long-term boyfriend and I had set a date to wed, she shared in the excitement with us. When I had to put one of my mares down, she stood by my side that day and helped me through the grieving process. Whatever I was going through, she was always there with a listening ear and an open heart.
We moved off her property in 2015 and by 2016 I had to quit because the commute was too long. I literally cried when I told her I’d no longer be able to continue working for her. I was going to miss seeing her, her horses and our conversations in passing. I still call her when I have questions regarding my horses. We keep in touch no matter where we are, and if one of us needs the other, we make it a point to be there! We text every Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a few times in between. She updates me on her life and I update her on ours. Everybody you meet crosses your path for a reason, and I know she was brought to me to be my heart person.
If there is someone you consider to be your heart person and has impacted your life in a way you’ll never forget, I’d love to hear from you! And I’m sure they would too.
**Emily Griffin is a mama to two stunning daughters, a wife to her hunky husband, and an Arizona native. She resides in a very small town in Southeastern, Arizona. Her days consists of homeschooling, horses, and balancing the fine line between motherhood and insanity. She definitely appreciate the outdoors, the smell of wet dirt, and the lovely sunsets the Arizona deserts have to offer. Her life is chaotic between the girls, one kitty, two dogs, and four horses but She wouldn’t have it any other way!