Ah-Ha, Part II

One new and exciting element to the Best Horse Practices Summit was the Monday evening storytelling session.

West Taylor at the Best Horse Practices Summit

Hosted by Tom Yoder, producer of the popular Raven Narratives, the evening session featured six storytellers and involved the theme, an Ah-Ha Moment: West Taylor, TJ Zark, Katrin Silva, Maddy Butcher, Stephanie Abronson, and Feather Tippits,

For many attendees, it was a surprising Summit highlight.

Listen to all the stories here.

Here is Part II of a two-part story, told by Summit director Maddy Butcher.

Read Part I

The horse and the burro ran up behind us. When they caught up to me and Jolene, we all started running. Down this steep rocky trail.

I came off. But I landed on my back and dang if my mecate rein did not pull free from my leggings. Jolene dragged me for a half a mile… actually, Raechel said it was more like fifty feet, if that. But it was scary and it was painful.

I got free and Jolene came to a stop. Raechel gathered her up and had me sit under the shade of a scrub oak. We agreed that maybe stepping back up on the mule was not the best idea.


It was a long, hot way home. And I held myself together pretty well, I thought. Got the animals settled. Said goodbye to Raechel. Got into the house. That’s when my self-preservation wore off. I was running a bath to get all the dirt and pebbles out of my cuts and I could not stop shaking and crying.

So, yeah, this was an Oh Shit moment as well as an Ah-Ha moment.

I realized that even though I thought I was going slow and being thorough there big holes in our training. I was hesitant to jump back in the saddle. Cuz it hurt, you know? And it was scary.

Over the year or so, we did more ground work. And we rode some. I went wwaayy slower. I started to notice micro moments in everything I was doing.

For instance, saddling. I think most of us consider putting a saddle on a horse as basically one fluid task. But I broke it down into several steps. I got better at giving Jolene a chance to relax mid-task. But we were both still nervous.

This summer, we got some help from West Taylor over in Utah. When I was there working with him, he mentioned that a family friend just loved my mule. After a day and night of deliberation, I decided to leave her there and let this trusted friend of his ride her for a while.

A few weeks ago I called this gal to get an update on how things were going.

  • Jolene was doing great.
  • They’d had several long trail rides.
  • She just loved her.

She kept talking about Jolene’s idiosyncrasies and charm, about what was working and what wasn’t working. And about the bond they were developing. About how Jolene was coming up to the fence, waiting for her. I’m driving in my truck, holding onto my phone, listening to her, and trying not to cry. It was another Ah-Ha moment:

I might not be the best fit for every animal. I might not be their forever owner. Someone else might be that perfect partner. It’s a crazy idea that I’m coming to understand and appreciate.

Listen to all the stories here.

Showing 2 comments
  • Cindy Normandeau

    I have had the same Ah Ha moment and have come to peace with the fact that I am sometimes the middle person to the horse’s best forever home. That is a good thing too!!!

  • Virginia Walker

    I learned that lesson a long time ago at a girls summer camp. I was the life guard, but could ride as much as I wanted. when I wasn’t working, I really liked this one horse. Yes I rode him, we did some good things, but came away with the feeling that this horse and I did not really belong together. I was in my early 20’s. This has stayed with me, especially since in my early 30’s I was looking for a horse and was riding one that was for sale. I didn’t want that one, not papered, not flashy enough. I did take him to a one day event and I did place first, but to me still not the horse. Not big enough or flashy. I did buy one and boy did that turn out rotten. I should have bought the non-papered one. It would have been a lot more fun.

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