The World of Living with Horses

My Horse Story

Every horse tells a story, whether it’s your first horse, your best trail ride ever, or a horse with whom you were truly connected. Stories of the miracles that can happen in our relationship with our horses, like the incredible story we received of Ginger, Cowboy…and a little boy who found his voice.

Someone who has never owned a horse seldom appreciates this, but you know that “owning” a horse really means being a fortunate partner in one of the most important, lifelong relationships we will ever experience.  And sometimes, that relationship reaches out to touch our friends, family, and – as Ginger experienced – even a stranger.

Ariana Coaxed into a Canter

Ariana Coaxed into a Canter

No matter what type of horse you own now or what type of riding you enjoy, you have a horse story…probably many horse stories.

Stephanie von Bidder is a horse trainer from South Carolina, and shares her personal Trainer’s Philosophy with us. Stephanie trains horses and riders at her Daybreak Farm in Aiken, S.C. and writes regular articles on effective horse training including the story of Ariana Turn Brood Mare into Diva and of Maddie, who while warming-up for her first big night class under the lights makes it clear that she’s a mare on a mission…but not Stephanie’s mission!

We’ve already collected some incredibly personal stories on the theme of “My First Horse”.

We share Cara’s deeply personal memories of her horse Clark, 16 years after they were wrenched apart, in her article Dear Clark – On This Day, 16 Years Ago.

Ringo and the Columbia Gorge

Ringo at the Columbia Gorge

Jennifer shares her Musings Along the Columbia River Gorge including a breathtaking photograph of her and Ringo overlooking the Columbia Gorge.

And Cherry, a blind, blanket/leopard Appaloosa who would always trot up to the gate when he heard Keirstyn’s voice. Shannon, from Vail, AZ, shared the story of her first horse, Sparkle, who stole her heart. Of course every horse owner remembers their first horse, even very experienced riders, and regular contributor Caroline Invicta Stevenson is no exception who shares the story of her favorite pony, a pinto called Daisy who was so soft and smelled so sweet.

You may own one or two horses, but a number of our contributors are fortunate enough in their professions to work with many horses every week. Photographer Carol Walker‘s work appears in leading horse magazines and on catalog covers, and one of her passions is saving our vanishing wild horses. Read about Carol’s work and glean some of her tips for photographing horses.

Would you like to share your horse story? We’d love to hear it.

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Don’t Judge a Horse by its Color

When I was 6 years old my mom found a 2-year-old palomino mare that she just had to have. When we pulled up with our steel 4-horse stock trailer to pick her up and discovered that she wasn’t broke to lead, my Dad made a quick decision and backed up the trailer to the barn and we shooed her inside.  All the way home we were trying to come up with a name for her.  Finally it was decided she would be called “Roseanne.”  Our last name was Conner, as was Roseanne Barr’s screen name in the popular sitcom that was on-air at the time. Our Roseanne was also a Bar, only from the Zan Parr Bar bloodlines.


Several of the kids in my 4-H group and their parents commented on Roseanne saying that she was a scrub and they would never buy such an ugly horse. Several months later Roseanne was green broke. During our 4-H practices held weekly, my parents who were the horse leaders, usually had an odd assortment of children and their horses over to our place.  Roseanne proved herself; not as a school horse or a star in the western pleasure ring; she proved that she was too much horse for my Mom. Roseanne wanted to go a lot faster than just a trot and had more sass than all the others.

When I was 9 years old Roseanne started undergoing professional training and was on the fast track to becoming my new show horse.  I had mostly been stuck on Shetland ponies, and I outgrew them quickly.

My Mom was willing to give Roseanne to me because at the time she was the best horse we had. Roseanne and I clicked. We entered into our first quarter horse show in Topeka, Kansas in the spring. Somehow, we got talked into entering a halter class and I remember being excited because I had the only Palomino. As we lined up, I heard some old breeders looking through the fence and talking about the mares in the class. When they saw Roseanne, they remarked that they wouldn’t even use her as a broodmare back at home. We had driven four hours to get to this three-day show and within the first thirty minutes I was ready to go home.

Several months later, my Mom talked with our trainer and decided that Roseanne and I were good enough to show at the Palomino Youth World. I thought that Roseanne and I were ready. Two weeks before the world show the trainer told my Mom that if she didn’t withdraw us from the classes, we’d be kicked out of her barn.

That Sunday after church, we ran into a 4-H mother who we’d competed against for years. They were winners. She agreed to take us on as clients and shortly thereafter Roseanne went to live with Sheri and her daughter. I got up in the morning, started riding and rode until it was so dark I couldn’t see Roseanne’s white mane anymore.  Finally, after a lot of preparation we were headed to Tulsa.


For several years after that Roseanne and I became well known on the palomino circuit.  We may not have been the best, but she always gave her all. We placed high point youth or reserve high point youth at almost every show. In 1998 we were nationally ranked top in the nation at the year end standings. Roseanne and I became local stars and even had a news reporter come out to our farm to meet us.

By the following year, I had moved up into a more challenging age group and my parents decided that a cow pony couldn’t compete in a hunter-hack like a thoroughbred. Roseanne was officially retired to broodmare status. I got a big Palomino gelding and I fought with him for a year. He was not the same push button horse I was used to. I’d also started high school and horses were becoming less cool than they had been when I was in grade school. In 2000, Roseanne gifted us with a beautiful filly. With the birth of this filly, I dove into genetics research. I’d only heard other people talk about “Cremellos” and I wanted to learn more about this unusual color.


Several years later Roseanne passed away in a freak accident. Now my family is left only with her memories. I still have all of the ribbons we won from the Youth World Show. We placed in the top ten in every class we entered. Roseanne taught me a lot. I think the most important thing she taught me was not to judge a book by its cover. Throughout her life there were a lot of people who doubted her ability as well as mine. She gave me a passion that no one will ever take away and she gave me the confidence to persevere. Roseanne proved to everyone that it doesn’t take a perfect horse to win, it takes a perfect team.

The man we bought her from still has a framed picture of us that he shows to people. Best of all, I have the bragging rights saying that she was and will forever be, the best cow horse to ever look through a bridle.

By Mandy Conner

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Interview with Alex Limkin of Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding

Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding is located in Santa Fe and serves northern and central New Mexico. They are a member center of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.). We offer recreational therapy with horses for people facing physical & emotional challenges. To learn more go to

How did you learn about Listening Horse?

I read a flyer posted in the window where I had been getting treatment. The brochure lay around for a few months in a pile of papers before I called.

Is there one particular horse you’ve bonded with?

Promise, but only because I spent the most time with her. I think I was just lucky with her.

Alex & Promise helping on a trail ride

Did you have concerns or worries about joining a program incorporating large animals?

I was a little concerned because I had some injuries that were still healing. When I was in the old guard I had been thrown off a horse at a gallop. I knew there were risks involved with working with horses but the program turned out to be about more than just riding a horse.

Name one lesson you took away from the program that benefited you the most.

Animals and nature can help manage my condition, and life is worth living. Before I got in touch with Listening Horse, I had already been spending a lot of time in the wilderness by myself. I was indifferent to life and aggravated by people and the wilderness was the only place I knew that made sense to me. But even though the wilderness was where I was going, I felt that I was just on the outside looking in, that the sacredness of the outdoors was just something for me to look at but not experience. Gus and Promise helped change that for me. I spent a lot of time with Promise. I learned that I could reestablish my connection to nature with her. When I was with her, I felt like I was a part of nature, that I still had a place in the world and that I was reconnecting myself to life instead of just fleeing. I felt like I was restoring myself and finding meaning. I wanted to get a horse that I could be with all the time, but it wasn’t practical living in the city. Awareness of the power of animals and nature as calming agents also led me to Abigail. I would tell you she is a dog but that doesn’t feel right, just like I don’t think of Promise as a “horse.” Promise is Promise. Abigail is Abigail. They are beings.

How would you like to see this program made available to more veterans in need of its benefits?

I think that the doctors and therapists involved with our troops should be educated in the power of animals and nature to salvage us. I think we have a tendency to try to solve our problems with new drugs and new machines. When we are injured, when we have been shattered by the “human” world, it makes sense that we treat ourselves not with more human technology, but with our most ancient connections, animals. Sometimes our ability to even perceive this connection is severed or severely impaired. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this connection has been challenged until something catastrophic happens. Sometimes it is too late to come back. Listening Horse helps veterans connect to this latent care for life that exists in all of us, even those that have been irreversibly brutalized or shocked. I spend 3 or 4 days a week in the WDS with Abigail. That immersion helps me to manage the functions of life: shopping, driving, cooking, cleaning, etc. I don’t think I would have fully learned and then implemented these coping mechanisms without this program and the people and animals in it. I think many more veterans could benefit from Listening Horse, but I don’t think veterans are aware of the program and how it can help them because the information isn’t getting distributed outside of the VA. I hope this changes.

Alex & Sugar riding by Rio Grande

Alex & Sugar riding by the Rio Grande

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An Icy Welcome for Cinnaburst

This last summer I had to face a tough decision – what to do with my beloved quarter horse, Cinnaburst. I contemplated selling her, but that simply brought me to tears. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to school and pay full board…I needed a way out. Around July my answer finally came. A 13 year old boy whom I had babysat in the past called me and asked me what I had planned to do with Cinnaburst when I went to college. I had no answer for him…I wasn’t quite sure myself. His mom, grandmother and I put together a plan that I would allow him to use the horse in 4-H if he paid the boarding fee at his grandma’s barn. That’s where it all went downhill.

I soon realized that my horse was changing.I had worked with her since she was three months old and I had never seen her act this way, always hot and always entirely too excited. I was lost and not sure what to do. I didn’t want to point fingers so I just kept my mouth shut and rode and took care of my horse when I was there.

Around January the boy’s grandmother called me and told me the boy was no longer going to continue to use my horse in 4-H and she needed to either be paid for board or the horse needed to be moved. I was fine with that, but it was the middle of the winter and I was having trouble finding a barn that had enough hay to feed one more mouth for the rest of the winter.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend told me about a place his friend had – a barn right up the road from where my horse was staying. I was nervous about it but decided to give it a try. The exact day I was going to talk to the lady about moving my horse I got a phone call. It was the boys grandma explaining to me that if I did not pay her by the next day at least $100 she would be calling the district magistrate and we would be going to court. I stayed calm on the phone and told her that I would be there to get the horse as soon as possible and promptly hung up on her.

I have never driven as fast in my life as I did that day. I had a purpose and I had reason – I needed to get my horse out NOW. I got to my boyfriend’s friend’s barn and talked to her, explained my story, and begged her to shelter Cinnaburst for just a few nights. She completely agreed and told me to bring her up, but there was one problem – she didn’t have a trailer. I told her it wouldn’t be a problem becasue I would find a way, and left.

When I got to the barn where Cinnaburst was it was snowing outside, just on the peak of darkness and bitter cold. I threw on a beat-up old sweatshirt, my Ugg boots and a pair of jeans and walked through the door. Everyone in the barn was on edge…me, Cinnaburst, the boy and also his grandma.

I quickly brushed Cinnaburst from head to toe, making sure she would be comfortable and well groomed for her arrival at her new barn…her better barn. We gathered up my belongings and I started towards the door, Cinnaburst in hand. When his the grandmother stepped in front of me I tried to walk around but she stood her ground, when I asked why she said these words, “You can’t ride that horse in the dark, it’s dangerous! You’re crazy! She will be fine until tomorrow.” And with that the last words I said were, “Watch me.”

When I got down the icy driveway I figured I needed to get on and start riding, because it would be the only way to make it in any kind of time. I threw my leg up over the saddle and we started off, slowly walking up the old dirt road to our salvation…the dirt road to Carla’s house.

I soon realized that this was probably the dumbest thing I had ever thought of. I should not be riding my horse in the pitch black, through the woods on an icy dirt road. I was scared and so was she. I kept talking aloud to her “We are going to Carla’s honey!” “Are you excited we are movin’ out?” If I stopped talking for a moment she would come to an immediate halt and we would not move another inch. I had to keep going and I had to make her understand that she had to keep going as well.

After about two miles we met the first of our problems – dogs. What kind of dogs were they? I don’t really know, but they sounded like the meanest form of wolf/mastiff/hyena dogs ever created. I quickly dismounted and walked beside Cinnaburst. We walked quietly past the house as she quivered behind me, only moving because I was keeping her safe. But soon the barking quieted and I threw my leg back up over her and kept on riding.

I almost didn’t even see Carla’s driveway when we arrived. Four miles of icy darkness had blinded me and Cinnaburst and I was about ready to give up. When I turned into her driveway I knew that we had made it, that my horse was safe and that we would be OK. I walked her into the barn, took her saddle off and brushed her down. She nickered at me as I gave her a treat and put her head on my shoulder. I have ever been more proud of an animal in my life. She could have done anything to me in the cold that night and no one would have found us until morning, but she kept me safe, and I kept her safe. We have a bond – a strong one – and I will love that horse forever.

To this day she is still at Carla’s, doing very well and enjoying her time there. She has calmed down a lot and has turned back into the horse I knew and loved before I let her go to the grandma from hell.

Oh…a helpful hint I might add? Horses and flashlights don’t mix, it definitely just scares them to death!

by Emily Taydus

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Grand Finale, a Davenport Arabian, My “Main Man” in Life




In the mid 1980′s my parents decided to take part in preservation breeding for the Davenport Arabian. Dad purchased a few mares and a stallion for Mom and they eventually bought a farm of their own. Soon after, the breeder with whom they worked gave them a petite grey stallion — Haluf.

My parents bred Haluf to Allah Rebekah. On April 1, 1989, Grand Finale was born. A happy day quickly turned into a nightmare when my parents realized that the mare had hemorrhaged and had to be put down immediately. We lived in a small town in Wisconsin, at least 90 minutes from a surgical center. My parents put Finale in the back of the family station wagon on my sister’s lap and drove to Madison. The colt would have an extended stay, multiple blood transfusions and much needed care.


For my 9th birthday present, my parents sent Finale to a local three-day event trainer. After only three months under saddle I started taking lessons on him. We began showing the following summer and eventually got hooked on eventing. Dressage was definitely his forte followed closely by cross-country, where he made it clear he could compete with the big boys.

By the time I was 15 we had successfully competed in preliminary-level events. A year later we qualified for a one star. Days before submitting our entry, Finale tweaked a check ligament in the pasture and after being patient with rehab, got back on track. Unfortunately, during competition he refused at the down bank and I knew he wasn’t feeling like himself, so we withdrew from the course. After much thought I decided to retire him.

Over the years, Finale continued to be my main man. I leased and rode plenty of other horses, but Finale was my favorite. When I went to Michigan for college, he did, too. Together we created a successful lesson program, which paid for his board during my college years. He was excellent with children and had a special skill with those who were overcoming a fear of horses.

For Finale’s 20th birthday we decided to see if he would take to driving. He did, like a natural. I had brought him to a local tack store to fit a harness and order a cart. Since I had gone through the trouble of making the trip, the owner offered to hook him up to a “drag” and give me my first driving lesson. She felt so confident in him that she hooked him up to her own wooden “easy entry.” Within 10 minutes, I was driving by myself with no one at his head.


Now 23 years young, Finale has moved from Wisconsin to North Carolina with me to begin a new chapter. My husband and I are expecting our first child and I just know that Finale is going to be the most handsome little lead-line mount and partner for our daughter.

I feel so lucky to have a horse that everyone dear to me considers to be part of the family. He means just as much to the rest of the family as he does to me, even though sometimes they don’t want to challenge my own love for him. I don’t know what I would have done without him in my life. Every good memory I have has to do with Finale and we have plenty of time to make even more.

By Anne Mieke Ratering

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For The Love of Horses: Leaving Miss Daisy

By Caroline Invicta Stevenson

My passion for horses took over when I was about 5 and old enough to feel and respond to a childlike passion. I was told we were moving – moving without my beloved Daisy, who we didn’t even own and who was shared by many other children like me at the pony rides.

I was devastated, heartbroken and unmanageable. I cried, stomped all to no avail. We just couldn’t leave Daisy, but we did. My nanny and mother tried to console me on the long car ride from California to Texas; I just cried more. I couldn’t live without Daisy, but I did.

We arrived at our new home, “Seven Oaks,” which turned out to be a real ranch where you could keep horses. I figured this out because when we got there, I found a donkey out in a barn with corrals. Wow, a real donkey to ride. Wrong. I tried and tried but Smokey would not go. I had a better ride on the drugstore pony.


Finally, I thought I would bribe him with a carrot on a string attached to a stick, which I dangled in front of his nose. Smokey actually started to move in a slow clip cloppy way.

Smokey’s favorite trick was to cut through the tool shed and scrape me off on the side of the walk through door. Time and again I would try to steer him away from the shed and that door with the carrot, but trying to hold the stick and hold onto a very smart donkey while riding bareback got the best of me. So I decided to spend the rest of my time and energy dressing Smokey.

My favorite fashion statement was mismatched knee-high socks and aprons. I think he rather enjoyed this change of pace as I fed him many carrots that I bit into small pieces and hid in his apron pockets.

My stepfather’s sister was married to a real Texas Ranger. Uncle Dick came by “Seven Oaks” to meet his new niece who, he was told, was “horse crazy.” He listened to my sad tale of leaving Miss Daisy and when I showed him Smokey in his knee-highs and apron, I believe he saw the need for rescue. He asked whether I’d like to meet a Prince.

I spent the next few years in an inseparable bond with dear Prince. I ate, slept, read to him and, yes, rode him every way and where I could. I loved him and told myself there was a little girl who loved Daisy just as much in my absence.

 NEXT: A Prince to the rescue.


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