Hoofprints On Your Heart

Page 1

by Karen Watson


On Your Heart February/March 2021 - Page 4


s owners we are committed to all our horses, but there can sometimes be one that we develop such a strong bond with that it transcends the usual horse/human relationship. These are known in the industry as ‘heart horses’. Just the fact that the word heart is included says that this bond can be tumultuous and intense but also satisfying on a much deeper level, something that we may not have expected nor experienced before with a horse.

Most horse owners appreciate the qualities of their horse and feel a connection with it. They enjoy providing it with the best they can afford, whether this be the most up-to-date saddlery, rugs, feed, transport vehicles and the like or simply good quality, basic equipment that suits the activities they wish to pursue. Either way, most people would say that owning a horse is a satisfying pastime and that the experiences they have are very enjoyable, whether this is competing, trail riding, social riding or even just having them as a ‘paddock ornament’ to be cherished and treated to pats, brushed and perhaps asked for the occasional groundwork. Compared to other horses, a heart horse is defined as a different kind of special, as this is the one that will truly capture your heart. And this can happen regardless of whether it is a brumby, off-the-track Thoroughbred, a Shetland pony or a Grand Prix dressage horse. Whether they become a heart horse also depends on factors such as the environment they share with us, the depths we’re willing to go to explore the potential of the relationship and the level of accountability within it.

Horse owners say of their heart horse that they are like no other they have owned, been partnered with and dreamed about. They are able to love it unconditionally and feel like there is a mutual understanding, respect, admiration and trust. A heart horse, they say, challenges you and changes you, seeming like they are giving you lessons in compassion, consistency, fairness, emotional control, patience, bravery, loyalty and self-analysis. It also seems like something magical has happened and that the horse has become part of you. You feel like the luckiest person in the world to have them in your life.

discipline and so on. The least we can do to repay these beautiful souls for just being themselves and teaching us so is to give ALL of them the very best we can.”

A Captive Heart

So if a heart horse means one that truly captures your heart, does that mean we don’t love our other horses? No it doesn’t because we all know that there are different kinds of love and they are all important. In human terms, we may love our friends, neighbours and workmates but those aren’t the same as the relationship one has with a life partner. That relationship is often forged through adversity financial struggles and differences of opinion so it’s not always easy or smooth but it grows stronger with time. It’s similar to the relationships we have with our horses. We probably love our broodmares in a

On the other hand, some disagree completely with the term and concept of a heart horse, as they feel as if all horses are worthy of that title. One of our readers, Kathryn Dite, shared her thoughts;

‘To me, it’s a bit like choosing a favourite child. I believe that every horse that comes into our care deserves to have a special relationship with their owner/trainer/ rider. That is, they should all have the opportunity to be a clean slate, to be heard, understood and appreciated. If we have a blatant favourite, a one-and-only, loveof-our-life heart horse, what happens when it passes away? Doesn’t that make things a little unfair for any other equines that come into our lives? When we buy a horse, the choices are all ours. It will live here, do this

We are capable of caring for and loving more than one horse, even if one is our ‘heart’ horse and that ‘bit’ special. Sharon Bettany with Larry and Reggie. “Reggie has now gone unfortunately, but I still love him like crazy.

We asked horse owners from around the country to let us know if they had experienced the phenomenon of a ‘heart horse’, and the response was overwhelming. Their stories showed that special connections between horses and humans do happen and will be remembered long after that horse has passed on. A selection of these are included in this feature, and we thank everyone for sharing their ‘heart horse’ story with us. February/March 2021 - Page 5

Overcoming Obstacles

Maxine and Bliss

Maxine’s Palouse filly Bliss was involved in a paddock accident when she was three weeks old in which she sustained a severe rope burn injury; “It took months of treatments and TLC to heal then she injured that same spot three more times. All the time spent watching and treating her over two years has given us a strong bond and her wellbeing is always on my mind. She seems more human than pony now and my family sometimes get fed up with my obsession!”

Love At First Sight -

Kellie’s Freisian gelding, Alchy, was orphaned at two weeks old and hand raised. His breeder, Katrina, held onto him until Kellie had finished university and they have been together ever since; “He’s now ten years old and there is nothing I wouldn’t trust him with. He’s done 40km bush rides, been sashed at Royals, achieved Level Two dressage, jumped and even roped a wooden cow recently as we start to learn about Stockmen’s Challenges / Extreme Cowboys. He never fails to make my day and I’m so proud and grateful to be his person!”


Kristen and

Eleven years ago, Kristen was diagnosed with melanoma, has struggled with it ever since and is very lucky to be alive. During that time, she was too unwell to continue riding and any energy she did have went towards her 13 year old daughter and her riding. That was until her mum intervened; “Fifteen months ago, my mum (she always knows best) decided that I needed ‘something’ in the paddock to call my own, a horse that could either just love cuddles, pats and brushes in the paddock or one I could take on the world with. In November, she found Stormy and the love I feel from him is so refreshing for my heart. We have only known each other for a few months but he is definitely my heart horse.” Daring To Dream


Although it might sound contradictory, it is also possible to have more than one heart horse if the intensity of the relationship is there and the criteria of ‘capturing your heart’is met. It’s a bit like the human romantic experience of falling in love, as you might have more than one partner during your life who fits into this intense category.

Soul Mates For Life

Kellie and Alchy

A Horse For Healing -

different way to our top competition horse, the ‘roughie’ that we haven’t really gotten to know yet or the retiree that is living their days out in our paddock.

Chelsea and Gladdys

On the recommendation of a friend, Chelsea contacted Jennie, the owner of Gladdys (Gladdys Van De Breemeersen), to enquire about leasing her; “We met at the farm where Gladdys was spelling and she walked straight up to me in the paddock and put her head on my chest for a cuddle. Despite having heard a few stories about her, some good and some not, something just told me to go for it. I have found her to be very trusting if I keep calm and she gives me so much confidence, and allows me to grow as a rider every day. In a short time, we have won three showjumping classes and placed in six. When you say heart horse, I know Gladdys is mine as, even though she doesn’t belong to me, we have a bond that is so very rare. She reminds me of the dragon in Game of Thrones, in that if you do wrong by her, she will burn you! But if you love and respect her, she will give you wings and so much love.”

One way of describing the innermost feeling you may have with a heart horse is that it feels like your soul compliments that of the horse, and that their presence ‘makes your heart whole’, very much like the human concept of a soul mate. It seems like life is complete when you’re together and you can’t wait until the next time you can see each other. They are the ones that are always on your mind, sometimes almost to the point of obsession, even though you might have many positive interactions with other horses along the way. And when you’re in tears and hunched up in a corner somewhere, you know they’re there for you.

Looking at the human psychological principle of a soul mate, it seems as though there are many life-lesson factors in common with growing the human/ heart horse relationship. These include feeling like “it’s something

inside”, meaning an emotion that can’t be put into words; “you just get each other” and that you “fall in love with their flaws”. In psychological terms, it’s a case of feeling like “you two against the world” , which perfectly

A heart horse can also seem like it is looking right through you, exposing your vulnerabilities and challenging you to become a better person. captures what we experience with our heart horses, along with feelings of security, mental connectedness and not being able to imagine life without them. When we learn these things with our heart horse, they can only improve our ability to manage our human relationships.

Taking Up The Challenge Heart horses are often not the most expensive, well trained or competition experienced and can therefore present lots of challenges. Some are quite feisty and there can be broken gear, kicks, bites, broken bones and falls as many of our Reader’s Stories attest to! They seem to know your ‘buttons’and do push the boundaries with these! On the other hand, when it comes down to

A Trusting Partnership - Dimittee

Dimittee bought Indiana, now a nine year old Standardbred mare, sight unseen in 2016. She was only about five months off the track as a four year old and, when she arrived, Dimittee says she knew she was going to be her heart horse pretty quickly. Their bond has grown stronger over the years and now they do everything with so much trust in each other; “Indiana loves having a job to do. She is very forward thinking and gives me a challenge here and there. She makes sure I’m paying attention to her and just being around her makes me feel happy. I feel that she really likes giving me the best that she possibly can and she tells me when she isn’t at her best. I love her a lot and still can’t believe I have my dream heart horse.” Off The Track Success - Cheyenne

and China

Cheyenne has had a long history with her heart horse, Great Wall of China (aka China). He is the first off-thetrack horse she has ever had or trained herself. When he was retired, after winning many country cups, she competed on him up to 1.10m in showjumping and in showing, barrel racing, polocrosse and Pony Club; “He’s my ‘do it all’ boy and I love him so dearly. He’d always have his moments and would sometimes throw me but he’s the horse that made me the rider I am. He created my passion for off-the-track racehorses and I would never be where I am now and have done the things I have if it weren’t for him. He’s now happily retired on 120 acres and has absolutely found his forever home.”


The Power Of Patience

and Indiana

Stress Release -

Diane and Kassi

Diane always dreamed of breeding her own horse, so she sent her Thoroughbred mare, Ruby, to Magic Moment, a Friesian Warmblood, the result being her heart horse, Kassi, “I’ve been through quite a few stressful periods in my life and, at one point, was living in a tent in a friend’s backyard but no way could I have given Kassi up. She was always there for me, putting her head over my shoulder and grooming my back while I cried into her. I’m constantly amazed at how well she can read my body language and emotions. And when I look her in the eye, it’s like I see and feel a part of myself in her.”

- Ros And Cobby

Ros says that while she has gone down a difficult path health-wise with her gelding, she would do it all again if she needed to; “I was given Cobby four years ago. He has a club hoof then had a tendon injury, meaning that we had to do thirteen months of rehabilitation. This included in-hand walking, vet checks every month, farrier visits, physiotherapy and massage. I also did clicker training with him, including teaching him to put his hoof on a limestone wall so I could massage the tendon area. Very slowly, we built up his walk then trot. Now we enjoy going out on bush rides and to the beach and just spending a lot of time together, his favourite being the days where I will spend 30 minutes just brushing him. I look forward to every day that I see him, those little nickers when he sees me just warm my heart. I have his heart and I’m sure he has mine.”

Heart Horse continued...

The Challenge Of Covid

Lena And Cav

Despite having owned Cavanagh Tashar (aka Cav) for only 10 months, Lena says that he is truly her heart horse, having already helped her through a very hard time due to Covid-19; “Cav knows when I’ve had a bad day and need affection or what to do to make me smile. Recently, during the Mid-Level 4 Metro Melbourne lockdown I was struggling with my mental health and he seemed to know what I needed to deal with it and that helped immensely. Things like he trotted over once while I was cleaning his water trough then I stood up and he nuzzled into me like he understood what I was going through. I look forward to his nicker that I get no matter how many times I go to the paddock in a single day.” Rehabilitation and Recovery -

Michelle and Hermosa

When she was about to retire as a jockey, Michelle bought her Thoroughbred mare Hermosa at the Magic Millions yearling sales in Adelaide. She showed plenty of potential in her first preparation then was sent for a spell. That’s when things took a turn for the worse; “She completely opened up a hind leg and her hock, to the point where you could see the bones. Vets in Adelaide initially told me I would have to put her down, so I took her to Ballarat Equine Hospital where she had surgery. Almost immediately after this, she started walking the stable even though most horses don’t weight bear that soon. Then there was nine months of rehabilitation before she was able to be ridden and she even went back to winning races! Her nickname is the Grey Shark, which not only means that she doesn’t like other horses in her personal space in the paddock, but also that we have had to change riding clubs due to her behaving the same way under saddle, despite her improving at each outing. To me she is just what her name means, beautiful girl in Spanish, and the journey she¹s taken me on has been amazing.” A Fiery Redhead - Linda

And Quilla

Linda says that when she first went to look at Quilla, her chestnut Paint-bred mare, she was drawn to her curiosity and confidence. But as she was soon to find out, this confidence bordered on opinionated! Early on, the partnership had a series of unfortunate events including the side of Linda’s new Hi Lux being smashed in, a saddle tree broken, bruised ribs and fractured bones in her feet. But now, after six and a half years, they have formed a strong bond; “Quilla is such a generous and connected partner that has made me think outside the box and taught me a lot about myself, including how to manage my own energy and emotions and to be very clear about my intentions. I’ve been mindful of creating a willing horse by asking her, not making her. She constantly makes me laugh and I feel such joy in our partnership.”

it, they will give you their all and are definitely worth persisting with, as it is often more about the journey, not the victories. But some of those unusual personality quirks heart horses have are also why their humans love them so much.

Not everyone can relate to the heart horse idea. Many have not experienced this feeling yet and perhaps may never do so. Those who have been lucky enough to already find a heart horse say sometimes it’s ‘love at first sight’ but other times, it sneaks up on you and your heart is captured by its quirkiness or “just something about it”. But whatever it is, you truly feel like this horse changes your life for the better, in a different way than any other.

Growth and Learning With a heart horse, sometimes the process of learning and growing together is what matters the most and that is usually done on a deeper level. Many people who own them say that they have taught them a lot about themselves, these being in addition to the lessons already mentioned. They include concepts such as not giving up, that working hard pays off and how to stay calm even in the worst of situations.

Follow Your Heart Sometimes what turns out to be a heart horse is purchased intentionally, being selected with the utmost care out of hundreds of others. But there are also many heart horses that were accidents, like the one you were asked to ride while you were in between horses, a short-term prospect you just couldn’t bring yourself to sell or a horse someone gave you because they had nowhere else to go. And sometimes they appear, it seems, out of nowhere when we least expect it. So, keep your heart open ... your special horse may be just around the corner.


riding, training and horse care MAGAZINE

Welcome to this Hoofbeats feature Hoofbeats magazine is an Australian riding, training, horse care magazine that covers a wide range of topics relevant to riders of all levels. The Green Horse section - horses and the land - features property care, pasture and environmental issues, as well as practical hands-on suggestions. The diverse range of article we produce can be seen on our website under the Back copy link (Inside Hoofbeats). Back copies can be ordered though our website, by calling 08 93970506 or emailing: enquiries@hoofbeats.com.au To ensure you don’t miss any of our future article-filled issues there is the option to subscribe for either the print magazine ( $43 -12 months) or the Hoofbeats App ($29.99 -12 months).

For more information on the magazine or to take out a subscription, visit our website . Feel free to share this article with your friends as our aim with the magazine is to help create a quality partnership that encompasses the health and wellbeing of both horse and rider.

www.hoofbeats.com.a u Available in print (Australia and New Zealand), and worldwide as an App.