The latest blogs have been pretty heavy and serious, but doing this work, there are so many rewarding and outstandingly happy moments as well that I decided we need some of those moments recorded and shared as well.

Just like one of the earlier blogs described, “Can’t have the good without the bad” and vise versa, can’t have the dark without the light, should not have self- compassion without compassion, and so on. So here are some moments captured with smiles, giggles, and the cozy warm feeling in hearts.

Our first USAFA Horse Boy training was held February 18th and 19th, 2018.

Leading up to it, there was a lot of excitement in my life. When I came back from the amazing “Train the Trainer” program at New Trails in Elgin, Jeanne Springer, co- founder and director of the Remount Foundation agreed that Horse Boy would be a great fit to extend our program and tool box to help Wounded Warriors and their families.

Everybody who knows the Air Force Academy grounds realizes quickly that it has its own healing power hidden just in the environment piece and of course. Many are interested in getting a piece of it and getting their foot in the door.

PATH has been trying to join the program for quite a while, but we felt that Horse Boy was a much better fit for the needs our families and warriors have.

As you can imagine, I was very excited to help implement what I believed to be such a helpful well rounded method, that I started right away. We selected horses, and I got to work. Jeanne was my ‘wingman’ in all of this, and I certainly could not have done any of it without her.

The first night we met... and yes, we had to meet at night because we have day jobs. We wanted to start long lining. We got Paladin ready, a little 19 year-old paint, with worried eyes and a huge heart. We clipped on Jeanne’s long lines and got to work.

After about two minutes, the long lines slipped off her shoulders, I tried to reach and catch them, giggling in the process and losing sight of the rest of the lines that started to hang and touch the ground, Paladin stopping looking at us like “what are you even trying to do?” and Jeanne and I tangled like fish in a net laughing and not knowing how we would ever make this work.

Good thing it was dark and nobody would ‘judge’ us…besides Paladin who knew how crazy we were before, so no news. It took us some time to figure things out, but we did, and we made it work- so, do not give up!

If you have never done it before, it takes some time; go into it with a sense of humor and a good wingman.

I trained three to four horses a night, being really anxious to have them ready for this trainer from California who has an outstanding reputation to be one of the best. I worked hard, but having dude horses and limited access to them often posted extra challenges.

The day of Joell Dunlop’s arrival came near. The other trainer had to back out last minute, so I was up to train as well. No pressure- it would all work out eventually…ten participants signed up and there was no way I would disappoint them.

Picking up Joell from the Denver airport was like meeting a long- lost friend. We had so much in common and the same passion for our work that it was easy to connect- the Horse Boy tribe is special and closer than family.

Of course, we would start work right away and check in with horses- what better way to do this than a trail ride into the mountains. Joell is from California, and we just had a snowstorm pass in Colorado the day before. It was beautifully blanketed in a white layer of snow, and I was glad to see the thermometer climbed from the single digits to a comfortable 18 degree Fahrenheit.

Not thinking, I forgot that maybe for a sunshine state girl that might not be as cozy as for someone who just endured and rode in 5 degrees without an indoor. But she was a real trouper, not complaining once.

A little curveball (as so many got pitched to me on this journey), when one of the horses I trained came out lame because he got in a fight outside in the field with one of the other boys and had a swollen back leg.

The rental stable was nice enough to point to Clever, which I had never ridden before. Joell was already saddled and ready to go waiting for me in the arena. Me trying to make a good impression, rushing and getting Clever ready. The saddle seemed huge on him, and I was not able to tighten the cinch. I could slide two hands in- but Joell was waiting, and how rude to let a guest and trainer wait- I guess I better stay really balanced.

I hopped on and stayed really really still and balanced… We rode under clear skies, the snow softly whispering under our horses’ hoofs. When I suddenly noticed Joell’s horse slipping frequently and walking awkwardly- poor thing had ice balls solidly pact into his hoofs.

We hopped off the horses, looking like cavemen for tools that nature provided to remove the uncomfortable, high heel like ice balls from their feet. We hacked away for what seemed hours and finally got them out laughing at this strange new situation for a California girl…Welcome to Colorado.

By the way turned out- the saddle was so big and loose because they pointed to the wrong horse and I did not ride Clever after all but a much smaller less trained little guy with a much too big saddle ;-)

It is amazing how humans bond, but I think especially in the Horse Boy community, there are very unique special bonds that form, experiences we go through that connect us in ways we never imagined. Don’t forget to be grateful for those special moments in life- don’t forget to have fun and appreciate the special people in your life!