Horse Moments


Photo: Crissi McDonald


I wrote one sentence for this month’s  blog, and it felt hollow. Two sentences in, and my inner Chicken Little was running around, feathers flying and wings upraised in panicked supplication screaming “The sky is falling and you’re writing a blog?!” It occurred to me that I may be feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in our world.  

How do we cope with these times? With any time that is gargantuan in its chaos? This is a huge question, with a much bigger answer than I am able to find for myself most days. 

There are many answers that offer comfort, answers that once I put my focus on them, alleviate the nail-biting anxiety that the sky will, indeed, fall as soon as I stop watching it. I guess you could call this mindfulness. But to be very honest “mindfulness,” to the degree and seriousness of which it’s talked about lately, ties my knotted brain in even tighter knots. 

Not that mindfulness is bad; most of the time I enjoy its practice. When overwhelm throws its grappling hooks into my heart though, I need answers with more horsepower than focusing on scrubbing dishes, or eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie.

Aren’t we lucky there are horses? I adore watching them carefully lower themselves to the ground and roll in grunting, leg waving pleasure. I like to watch and hear them eat. It calms me to walk into the paddock and groom each of them. Touch their satin muzzles. Stand close and listen to them breathe.

I believe when we have horses in our lives, all of us are in on a secret. For each of us, that secret is different. It’s made up of moments of trust, and moments when we swear they read our minds and hearts. Moments of flying manes and waving flagged tails, summer grass breath, warm furry coats and large kind eyes. Moments that exist outside of what they can do for us, and instead light us up because of their singular and unique existence. 


Last week when my husband and I were at a clinic venue, we walked out to gather our herd of five from a large pasture. They were grazing at the far end. As the yellowing grasses crunched under our feet,  I called to them: “Hooooors-ezz!” My horse Rusty picked his head up, ears forward, eyes shining and galloped straight to me, skidding to a stop and lowering his head. I stood beside him, not wanting to put the halter on and end a moment that was magic in its surprise.  The joy of Rusty’s gallop toward me got me thinking that in those ten seconds, such a brief moment, all felt right with the world. My heart rested even as his leaped to power his gallop. 

Because moments like these are what we have, aren’t they? Heart-bursting moments, scary moments, sad until your nose runs moments, wishing we were in control of it all moments; they are part and parcel of this being human thing. 

I’d been letting world events get me so panicked that the very things that could banish it became invisible. I forgot the secrets I share with our horses. I’d been lost in the fog of what was happening, what could happen, and OMG please don’t let that happen. When I saw the beauty of Rusty’s gallop, it was brighter than any dark fog of worry.  That moment reminded me to start paying attention to other moments;  how it feels when a horse breathes into my ear. The warmth of their coats on a sunny day. Or the sound of a nicker when I bring them something good to eat. Those moments made shadows of my worry.



Does any of this change the world? No, maybe not. Does it change how you interact with the world? It can. What I do know is that in the moments I feel as though my feet are frozen in place, when I pay attention around horses, there is a thawing that happens. I can think again and breathe again and take the next step without bolting for the nearest hiding place.  Paying attention with horses may not make what is happening in our world any better, but it sure does make our internal world brighter. And we have our horses to thank for that.  


“There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” Seneca



74 responses to “Horse Moments”

  1. This is beautiful and so important. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Billie. It feels important, especially in these frightening times.

  2. Yes, thank you, horses

    1. I say that myself, every day.

  3. Beautiful. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Janet!

  4. RIGHT on! I’d been kicking these ideas around and here they are, all neatly fit together and ready to help me make sense of some of the chaos and moments of joy surrounding us. Thank you!

    1. Thank you KB – it took me a little while to put them all together too. 🙂

  5. As Winston Churchill said: ‘There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man’.

    1. That is a timeless truth.

  6. LOVE this! Very well written, and so very, very true! Thanks for the reminders. Linda Mannix Linda Mannix – Coordinator Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering PO Box 2571 Durango, CO 81302

    “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” – Betsy Shirley (Buck Brannaman’s foster mother)

    1. Thank you! And I love that quote. 🙂

  7. wonderful! The photos capture the beauty you are talking about too. I think this is the way to cope. thank you!

    1. It’s one of my favorite ways to cope.

  8. This is beautiful, wonderful truth! Thank you so much <3

    1. Thank you, Gwen!

  9. Great blog! I loved your Chicken Little description. It is so often how I feel after hearing the news/reading the papers.

    Then I go to the barn . . . . When I look over the large green pastures and see the small herds grazing contentedly with their buddies, I am so grateful. I just can’t believe how lucky I am to have my horse and to share my experience with others who feel the same way!

    1. Just your description has me breathing deeply. Thanks!

  10. Beautiful and true. Thank you for sharing these feelings and thoughts. I couldn’t agree more. May you and your loved ones ans your horses be blessed!

    1. May you and yours be blessed as well! Thank you.

  11. Wise and beautiful. Thanks for the reminder

    1. Thank you for letting me know. 🙂

  12. Our horses do have a wonderful way of bringing us down to the essence of being. I agree, that when there is so much in the world today that is fundamentally distressing, it’s hard not to feel a sense of unease and maybe even panic. I thank my animals for reminding me of what is good in the world, and for helping me to breathe.

    1. Yes to all of this! Thank you for writing and confirming the powerful truth of how valuable animals are, just for themselves.

  13. Thanks for writing this-it’s very contemporary and so in tune with our world today.  I look forward to reading more.

    1. Wow – thanks Suzy!

  14. Thank you for putting into words what we all experience if we are blessed enough to have horses in our lives. Well, at least those that take the time to embrace the relationships they offer us:)

    1. Yes – exactly. I feel sorry for those folks who may not find this with their horse (or dog or cat, etc).

  15. Beautiful truth

  16. Without our horses, life would indeed be a much more unpleasant place. Stillness, connection, staying in the present, and yes “satin muzzles” help tremendously. <3

    1. Between horse and chocolate, I think we can find our way through many things.

  17. Horses allow us to hit the snooze button on the world in a very healthy and fulfilling way. Everyday I am thankful for my ponies and the life they provide for me.

  18. Every night when we bring our horses in I breathe their scent as each one gets a good-night scratch. From my 30 year old geriatric mare to my hyper-sensitive 14 year old gelding, I feel blessed each and every day to share their space and breathe the same air as these beautiful beings. They still take my breath away when I witness their joyful abandon as they race around the pasture. Thank you Crissi for sharing your thoughts – you articulate your love for horses so effortlessly. ( I am so very excited to be auditing your clinic in Dayton MN in Sept :))

    1. They are indeed otherworldly gifts, these horses. Right now they (and our dogs and cat) are all helping me be ok just where I am. They are such masters of this. We will look forward to meeting you in MN!

  19. Thank you so much for this Crissi! I just lost my beautiful mare Mohna. I have felt broken into a million pieces. Now we have hurricane Irma to face in the next 48 hours. In the midst of all this chaos – I went to visit an old friend I haven’t seen in a few months. As I was closing the gate my back was to her. When I turned around she was making her way to me. I stood motionless and watched her leave her herd and walk softly but purposely towards me. She laid her hed on my chest and she helped my heart heal. The healing that horses offer us is so powerful ❤️❤️

    1. You just brought tears to my eyes. What a gift that was given to you! I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your sweet mare – it’s such a big place they fill in our hearts. I am keeping you and Tina and all souls in Florida in my thoughts, and am hoping for a less violent storm when it makes landfall in FL. Please be safe and know you are all being helped in many ways, seen and unseen. Xo

  20. I needed this today of all days. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Cybele – I hope this new day is brighter for you.

  21. Thanks so much for this Chrissi! A good reminder.

    1. Thank you! I find I write about what I need to remind myself of too.

  22. Your timing is impeccable. Not only are world events crushing, but personal, life-changing demands weigh heavy this week. I, too, found myself going to the barn for that calm, reassuring moment that comes from cleaning paddocks, nuzzling noses and breathing in the smell of hay. It’s magic and it works and it’s a treasure. : )

    1. I’m glad to hear that your own herd is providing you with a respite and some comfort from what is going on in your world. You’re right: who horses are is a treasure. Here’s to our worlds being more at peace.

  23. I wish everyone realized what a gift, horses are.

  24. Horses are my anchor in life’s storms.Their manes have soaked up my tears, and their beauty has taken my breath away. They are my peace and sometimes my trials \but they are always what grounds me and gives each day purpose when everything seems to be chaos.

    1. Well said. And me too.

  25. Thank you Crissi! As always you eloquently share your heart and observations. Peace and perspective are all around us when we choose to listen and see. “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.” Job 12: 7-8

    1. Thank you, Sabrina. That’s a wonderful passage to read first thing in the morning.

  26. a little story of my own moment with my horse and pony, sometime ago late in the evening I was sitting at home listening to the rain hammering down, I decided that i’d go and check on my boys and maybe bring them in out of the rain, I parked the car in the car park which cannot be seen from my boys paddock and walked toward the paddock thinking as I went if they were stood by the gate I would bring them in, I didn’t speak or call their names but as I approached I could see them both galloping up the paddock toward the gate, I have no idea how they knew I was there, no other horses moved or even looked up, just my two, sixth sense maybe?

    1. A beautiful testament to the magic of horses. I am quite sure they have a sense of which we are not aware of, except through moments like these.

  27. This is all true – nothing like touching that big beautiful kind heart to make you feel “OK”. Unfortunately I know so many people who “have” horses who never experience this quality. They exist only to boost their egos, win ribbons, and take home a check at the end of the day. When the ribbons and the checks dry up, they are sent down the road to unknown places – I always hope they find a better place to be where someone can take that hard working, forgiving heart and give back to them for all the upappreciated gifts that their previous owners have taken for granted. I have one of those – I am grateful every day that someone didn’t want him anymore!!

    1. We have several like that too. My horse who is mentioned in the blog, Rusty, was very guarded and did not at all like people. Couldn’t be caught, or shod and was physically very banged up. Two years later, he catches me, and his eyes and ears are bright and alert. This is why, every time he offers me the gift of being glad to see me, I cry. He’s come a long way in two years, and like you, I’m glad someone else didn’t want him because he found us. Thanks Barb!

      1. Up until I met this horse, I had never encountered anything so shut down! He was offered to me soon after I lost a horse I had for 20 years. I was not I the market for another horse but in order to get away from the pressure I agreed to give him 30 days. Like Rusty he was pretty banged up – he had an early successful Quarter Horse Hunter show career – then someone tried to make a jumper out of him – he had lumps on his legs in places I didn’t know you could get lumps. There were a few things during that 30 days that endeared him to me and I thought under the aloof brown fur there might be a horse that would come around and be OK. Once I agreed to take him I had a better farrier work on his feet, I did chiropractic work on him and had his teeth done. I was told that he came into the barn with a fractured jaw that was healed. At this point that didn’t matter – I found out later that he actually had had a fractured TMJ that was not taken care of – so his teeth don’t line up – his jaw is sits to the right – but the Rockin S Raised Snaffle was the savior – it’s the only bit he is comfortable with! He has been patient with my rehabbing after two knee replacements and now I’m dealing with some arthritis in my neck – so what I can do horseback is limited for now but he’s ok with that – amazing how they can step right up and return the rehab favor!

        1. Amazing. It heartens me to hear of so many folks like yourself who help horses feel better. They are definitely great at returning the favor!

  28. My life is forever richer for all the joys and moments the horses bring… from their smells, to their soft coats to their nickers across the field. Thank you for a lovely piece.

    1. You’re welcome, And, me too.

  29. Aren’t horses so magical?! I mean… when I see one my heart stands still! They are SO beautiful, majestic, wild, free! Ok… I am stopping now. Sorry.
    LOVE the post.


      1. I looked at your website and saw the lessons. What state do you live in?

        1. 😃 Colorado.

          1. I live on the Atlantic. Not going to work out. 😞 😿

            1. You can check my husband and I’s clinic schedule – we get back that way every once in awhile.

              1. Ok, how much are they anyway?

                1. The cost varies according to the host and the costs. You can email them or call and get the particulars. 😊

                  1. Ok. I will think about it! Thanks!

              2. I checked your husbands schedule, and it looks like I just missed one, because I live like… um… five minutes away from Maryland.

                1. We are going back there at some point – not sure when.

                  1. Ok, please let me know when.

  30. Crissi – this brought tears to my eyes this morning while I was reading this – happy tears, of course. Your writing is absolutely gorgeous and while I was reading this I thought back to all the same types of moments I have experienced with horses. They have been some of the most joyful in my life, where I have truly felt alive. One of the big mysteries in the horse world is what makes certain people horse-addicted. Why do we spend so much time and money on these animals? Why is it that if we ever try to leave them, we find out way back to them? I’d say the answer is a mix of all the things you have described, and is unique to each of us. Thank you for this!

    1. Thank you, Katie! I so appreciate your kind words, and am happy you enjoyed this. 🙂

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