The Long, Dark Horseback Ride of the Soul

My horse Juno and I don’t really share a typical horse/human history. For a start, she’s in her late teens, and she’s spent more years in the wild than she has in the paddock. She’s the first horse I’ve ever owned. Oh, and by the way, I have no idea what I’m doing half the time. It’s not really what you’d call a recipe for success, but somehow Juno and I have muddled along, with a harmony that comes of being kindred introverted spirits. I’ve mentioned before the particular challenges of moving beyond where we’ve been and into the exciting world of saddle training, which for a horse of Juno’s age isn’t necessarily an easy proposition. But I’ve always known that it was possible, and in recent years we’d reached a point where the only thing standing between Juno and a truly spectacular future was me.

Years ago when I first began to admit to myself that I wasn’t qualified to start my horse myself — which admittedly wasn’t until I’d taken my third ride on her, which ended with a spectacular unscheduled dismount — I didn’t really know what to expect. What I discovered was that there are some trainers who, when you say the word “mustang,” will immediately say no without hearing anything else. There are quite a few who won’t even bother to think about starting a horse as old as Juno is. (Horses can live into their thirties or even forties so she’s really kind of middle-aged, but younger horses are without a doubt easier to train, and a lot of equestrians would consider her practically over the hill.) And there are some trainers who, when you tell them the horse you want started is both teenaged and a mustang, will laugh until they’re red in the face and then offer to loan you a gun so you can just kill yourself since you’re apparently intent on dying anyway. (Cowboys are secret drama queens, apparently.) And it usually didn’t matter anyway what many of those rough and tumble trainers of the American west thought, because watching most of them work with horses was enough to convince me that I never wanted them to touch mine.

Luckily for both Juno and I, we wound up in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where I’d taken a job with Parelli Natural Horsemanship and suddenly found myself surrounded by both experienced horsemen and fellow students who were on the same horsemanship track and speaking the same language that I was. And when I asked around about who might be able to start Juno under saddle for me, pretty much everyone I met recommended 3-Star Parelli Professional Terry Wilson. When I ran into Terry and asked him about training my horse, he was a little surprised at her age, but he was game to give it a go. He warned me that Juno might never work out as a saddle horse, but he was willing to try.

In deference to her age and introversion, he started off slow — compared to what he’d do with a young colt, anyway — with plenty of groundwork, filling in the holes I’d inadvertently left in her ground training and helping to get her accustomed to saddles and cinches, which was something I’d always had trouble with.

Wearing a western riding saddle

Ponying out onto the road with a pack saddle on

He was mounting bareback in the middle of their first session; by the end of the first week, they were out on the trails.

Riding out on Terry’s acreage on day 3

I knew that all of Juno’s groundwork, and her inherent good nature, would make things easier than Terry likely expected, but I had no idea how quickly they’d progress. I’ve had the very good fortune, with Terry’s kind cooperation, to be able to watch nearly every session he’s had with my horse. I’ve accompanied them out on trails and learned a remarkable amount just from watching everything that Terry does. It’s been amazing to see how much my horse is really capable of, and how much more I should be doing with her. And of course, the more I watched her progress under Terry’s tutelage, the clearer it became to me that one day, very soon, it was going to be up to me to ride her, to keep her moving forward both literally and metaphorically, to be the leader in our herd of two.

To put it succinctly, I was petrified.

The day of reckoning arrived today — Terry had suggested that after his session with her, I should get on and ride for a bit — and it would be fair to say that I spent most of the day at work vacillating wildly between excited and scared as hell. Not scared of Juno, or of getting hurt — even green as she is, I know her, and feel quite confident in her and in Terry’s work with her — but rather scared that I wouldn’t be able to be the leader she needed. Scared that I wouldn’t know what to do or how to do it. Scared that I’d set Terry back in his progress with her, and that I’d never be the rider she needs me to be.

So I sat and watched Terry work with her, as he ran her through the basics again and made sure she’d be okay with a rider that bounced on her back and flailed at random, which she was… though it was more than a little humbling to realize exactly how necessary that would be before I could get on. Then Terry asked if I was ready to ride, and I said yes, because no wasn’t even an option, no didn’t occur to me, no was not in my lexicon. So I went into the round pen, and I got on.

I wish I could give this story some sort of Disney finale where as I rode, I realized that I could be a leader, that I did know what to do, that I wouldn’t be setting my horse back at all. Rather, the experience was quite the opposite. On the one hand, it was incredibly thrilling after all these years to be sitting on my horse, feeling all in all calm and confident about being there (but slightly panicked about being able to follow Terry’s directions, because my mind was stuck on a bit of an endless loop that went, “Holy s***, I’m riding my horse!”). On the other hand, I discovered that I hadn’t been worried enough. I thought I’d be bad, and I was worse.

Everything I’d ever known about riding — which I can’t say was much — I suddenly forgot. Fine motor control was a thing of the past, as was language comprehension. When I asked her to walk forward, Juno kept diving nose-first toward the fence and sidepassing, which was awfully fancy, but would’ve been even more impressive if I’d been aware of asking for it. When I posted the trot she thought it meant I was about to go flying out of the saddle, and obligingly slowed down to save me from myself. Whenever I asked her for something, it was more of a timid suggestion than a confidently worded direction. When Terry asked me for simple maneuvers it felt like he was demanding rocket science.

After I’d managed to somewhat laboriously grasp a few basic concepts, I asked her for a bit of trot so we could end on something I could actually accomplish, and then I unsaddled her (and started training her to stand with her nose at the tie rail, even when she’s not tied, because by God if there’s one thing I can accomplish it’s training my horse to stand still and not move). I got her a dish of grain and held it for her while she calmly chowed down, undoubtedly secure in the knowledge that of the two of us, she’s by far the cleverer one. Terry left me to put her away, and headed up to the house (probably to pour a stiff drink, poor guy).

I watched Juno eat and relished the way that she’d occasionally turn her head into my hand for a rub, with a confidence and self-assurance that even a few months ago she didn’t possess. I reminded myself that nobody starts this journey knowing everything — or even necessarily anything — that they need to know. I gave myself credit for being proactive, trying to get more time in the saddle before bringing Juno home and even working on enrolling in some formal lessons in addition to all the DVD studying I could do at home.

And then I buried my face in my horse’s neck and had a complete emotional meltdown.

Horses are good for things like that, though. Juno just stood and curled her neck around me a little (I suspect she was giving me a “wtf?” look behind my back, or maybe just subtly inspecting my pockets for cookies) and waited for me to stop weeping like a little girl, which I’m only slightly ashamed to say took quite a long while. I apologized to her profusely and repeatedly for not having worked harder to be the partner and leader she needs me to be, and I promised to do better if she’d just try really hard to keep me out of the hospital while I tried to catch up. I pretended for awhile that she understands English, which clearly she doesn’t (otherwise, you’d think she’d respond a bit faster when I say things like, “Hey Juno, it’s dinner time!”).

I know it’s not necessarily anything to be ashamed about, having a moment of complete mental break and just absolutely losing it. I know it was about more than one lousy ride, and that I’d piled work stress onto personal stress with a shaky foundation of overall uncertainty about life, but as I drove back to town, still sniffling, it was hard to even begin to gather the scattered shreds of my dignity, much less think about putting myself through the same wringer again tomorrow. It isn’t the riding that’s a hardship, it’s more that when you’re in the saddle, you have to face yourself.

The moment I walked in the door, my friend and temporary house-guest Gina wanted to know how the ride went.

I told her, in all honesty, that it had been simultaneously awesome and horrific.

“Good,” she said. “That means you’re learning.”

I’ve been keeping an album of photos from Terry’s sessions with Juno on Facebook; if you have any interest in seeing a great many pictures of the process, along with occasionally-helpful commentary from me, check out the first album and the second album on Facebook. You don’t need a Facebook account to access these public albums! And if you’re on Facebook and would like to friend me, please feel free!

Edit: Wow, this blog sure has gotten a lot of attention! My thanks to the WordPress gods for Freshly Pressing this entry, and to my colleagues at Parelli for finding it interesting enough to post the link on our official Facebook page. If you’d like to continue following the saga of Juno and I, please check out my follow-up entry, Trusting the Process, wherein we go on a trail ride and nobody dies.


137 thoughts on “The Long, Dark Horseback Ride of the Soul

  1. Brilliant post Mackensie. Made my eyes leak a little in recognition of your fears as being similar to mine. It’s both a shock and a comfort to realise there are others out there like me….who despite their hard work and courage fall apart just like me. Can’t thank you enough for ‘going public’ lol.
    I am looking forward to reading your future posts on how you overcome your fear and learn to be a great leader for your horse because I know you will! xxx

    • Thanks Cilla! I’m glad it resonated, and I’m even more glad to see so many people commenting saying they have the same insecurities and fears. It’s strangely comforting to know you’re not the only one who feels utterly lost. :D

    • What a great story! You have really inspired me. I have embarked on my own journey with a five year old, green broke Mustang and have repeatedly thought to myself ” What in the world are you thinking??? ” I know relatively nothing and at times feel like somewhat of an imposter in the horse world. But owning my own horse has been a lifelong dream and I’m determined to get through this without causing any permanent harm to either myself or my horse :) Thanks for the laughs and the courage to keep going!


    • Thanks Allison! I hope you’ll update us all on how the clinic goes! I’m a bit gobsmacked to be an inspiration (I’m totally blushing right now :D) but I hope you’re inspired to do things more quickly than I have! Juno didn’t really need like six years of groundwork before we got to this part… ;D

  3. Hey Mack,

    wow, I so love what you wrote here, you are brilliant! Thanks for sharing. I was completely and totally there with you while reading this in jolly old England. There. In the moment. Totally. Means you are super gifted at writing. And of course I love what you do with your horse and how you communicate what you are going through. Juno is blessed to have you. Remember, horses like people that are real, that don’t wear masks and these days, this is kind of rare. I am proud of you. The fear will go. You have great leadership qualities and they will filter into this aspect of your life – riding a beautiful mustang.

    • Thank you Ingela! <3 <3 <3 I'm hoping the more rides I get in, even if they're short ones, the more my confidence will grow and the more I'll be able to feel confident about being a leader for her. And of course I'm watching DVDs like crazy when I can find the time. :D I keep trying to remind myself that the Ingelas and Honzas and Terrys of the world weren't born knowing all of this, either. ;D

      • Ingela it is so interesting that you said that. I was just talking with a friend of mine about Mustangs and she commented about how they are even more sensitive to the energy of people than other horses, that they do not fall for any fake thoughts or actions. Mack, I respect and admire horses so much, but I have never been brave enough to learn to ride them. You ae doing just fine and going at a pace that is comfortable and ‘feels’ right will be much smoother for you and your best firend Juno. If you only knew, Juno is most likely rooting for you to succeed and doing her best to learn all she can to help! :) The Best to you both! Glad you were on the FP page so I got to share in this example of a deep energetic connection between a person and animal. Congrats! AmberLena

  4. Hi Mackenzie,

    I just wanted to let you know you aren’t alone. Roxie and I are still working on the basics, mostly at the walk. I feel like I’m letting her down, letting the person who started her down, and generally being an epic failure in the saddle. Unfortunately, Roxie is hardly the type of horse that lets you have a good cry. I have of hope that it will get better as long as I stick to the program and get lots of help via lessons. Since I’m almost always out of my comfort zone on my own horse, I must be learning something…and that is my silver lining. :) LoL You two are great partners!

    • Aw, I’m both happy and sad to know that you struggle with the same stuff (I’d prefer it if you didn’t feel the same way I do, but it’s nice to know it isn’t just me :D). Sometimes when I’m really feeling unworthy I find it helps to wonder where she’d be right now if I hadn’t bumbled my way into her life. Probably not as far along as she is, and possibly still standing out in the sun at the rescue, waiting for someone to come along. All things considered, I’m better than nothing. ;D

  5. Hi Mackenzie

    I LOVED this blog post, thanks so much for sharing. I read, laughed and cried – as I related so much to your feelings of riding Juno for the first time. I applaud you for sharing your feelings with all of this and appreciate your honesty and sincerity. I too have a green-bean of which the gentleman who started him did an amazing job. And then, I was totally so consciously incompetent on our first few rides – LOL! everything that I knew about riding went whoooooooosh out the window. LOVED this post – it was perfect.

    Ontario – Canada

    • Haha, thanks Heather, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I think what’s true of horses is true of humans though: we both do better with a job to do. Terry and I are planning a nice long trail ride over the weekend, and I think Juno and I both will have an easier time with it if we can both concentrate on going somewhere and doing something, rather than wandering aimlessly in the round pen. :D

  6. love this Mackenzie, made me laugh and cry! Now I know what to expect from myself when I finally get myself onto Lily’s back which should have happened by now but I have found I’m really really good at finding excuses not to do it!! You have recognised your concsious incompetence so they only way now is forward. Well done for giving Juno the owner she deserves, someone who puts her needs first. :)

    • Hey Mandy you have just nailed me to a T. I am happy doing the groundwork on my own and have ridden at a clinic once but not since. Glad I’m not alone :)

      • Hah, you guys are both awesome. Over the years when I’ve despaired over ever finding somebody I trusted and being able to afford to have Juno started, I think I came to grips with the idea too that maybe we’d never ride. People look at you like you’re insane, but they get over it. If you have a horse with a physical problem or you have a mini or something like that, you’re not going to ride it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it. I do think it’s important for horses that are able to ride (or drive) to be trained to have a job, if for no other reason than if anything ever happened to me, it would help a lot for Juno to be able to find a good home instead of ending up in a bad situation. But I don’t think riding is the be-all end-all of having a horse, either… and if you’re terrified and just forcing yourself to get on, that doesn’t help anybody either. I hope you both meet your goals in the end, whatever those goals may be!

  7. Boy was a 16 year old ex racehorse when I got him and our journey has had all of your elements. He was basically untrained for novice riders like me and no go and lots of resentment. After SEVEN years I have the confidence to ride him around my house. I thought today I might try that trail ride for the first time and was up all night worrying about it but still WANTING it so badly. It would mean I am a leader finally, and he is every bit the great horse I know he is. Actually, he is the greatest horse for putting up with me and teaching me how to be a partner even when I didn’t get on his back for two years because I was afraid. My advice: just keep moving on. When you are too afraid to ride, do ground work and love on your horse. It will all come together if you take the time it takes, and in the meantime, you will develop your own language for each other. You couldn’t be at a better place than Parelli-land because so many people there have been where you are and………….like me, they love to prattle on and on about their horses and how special those horses are. And those horses are the most special and stunning animals on this earth.

    • Wow, what an awesome story! I don’t think I have too much fear of riding — or at least not of riding Juno — just a general fear o completely stuffing it up. ;D So I think Ill be okay to keep progressing with her, no matter how clumsily. Terry and I are planning a pretty length trail ride for the weekend, and I think that’ll be huge for me and Juno both in building our partnership and confidence.

  8. Great Job Mackenzie!!

    Gina is absolutely right, awesomeness and horribleness are oftentimes separated by the thinnest of lines. We can learn from either side of that line, but we learn the most when we tread that line. What I take away from this post is, you got quite wound up, but Juno took care of you (she’ll always take care of you if you let her). So, now that the breakdown is over with, all involved have survived and a new day has dawned…. Time to saddle up again and try for better (let Juno help, she knows!!).

    • Thanks Darin! :) Glad to see you still around, hope everything’s going okay!

      She really was a rock star, and I’m looking forward to getting on again, though the terror of screwing up is still there. ;D We’re going out on the trails with Terry this weekend and I think that’ll be a nice lower-pressure way for us to partner up. :)

    • I loved this posting, she really was a rockgirl

  9. When I drove by, I saw you were on Juno. I gave a quick “Yeah, Mack!!!” But, I didn’t want to break the moment. Way to go. I know it’s been a long journey. The best thing you can do right now is go for a trail ride with the girls :o)

    • Thanks Lvonne! Terry suggested we trail ride this weekend, you should come with us! And feel free to stop next time and man the camera for me. :D Terry took a couple of great shots but it quickly became apparent that I needed his coaching more than his photography… ;D

  10. Hey Mack! I am so proud of you and totally understand! God wouldn’t have given us tears if we weren’t supposed to use them, especially when you have a breakdown (I call them “dropping my basket”). Great blog and I am looking forward to hearing more. Realizing that we need to work on our leadership is the first step towards progress, and the hardest step:).

    • Thanks Julie! “Work on your leadership” is pretty much what everybody I know has been telling me all year… but they haven’t told me exactly how to do that. :D We’ll get there in the end, though… we’ve managed to stumble our way through it this far. ;D

  11. Your writing is beautiful — and the photos are incredible as well.

    Thank you for sharing!

  12. Haha!! I love how you say you could have had a “Disney finale” and would just know that you could do it…so funny!

    You’re very lucky to have Juno! To be honest, I’m rather jealous… ;)

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  13. This is lovely. A great read and a break from the usual (for me anyway). I went horseback riding for my 23rd birthday in New York City. Now, I’m back in the Bluegrass (Kentucky) and hope to go at it again very soon.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  14. Hey, another really great read :) Congrats on the Fresh Pressing, you deserve it!

  15. YEAH!!!

    Bwahahaha! I am so tickled that, on the selfsame week I posted about my beef with Freshly Pressed (thinking specifically of the injustice of your rodeo post not having been Freshly Pressed), the injustice has been remedied! :D :D :D

    My morning has been craptasmical enough that I don’t have the attention span to read for content just yet, but I look forward to revisiting later. ♥


  16. This is an inspiring post. I like your honest description of both your success and failure. Like your friend said, you’re learning and moving forward. Good for you!

  17. Sounds like you guys are doing a great job so far! We all get scared but at least you won’t be letting that stop you from continuing to learn with Juno. :)

  18. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! And what a great post they picked for it!

  19. I worked with horses as a young woman (and have the broken bones to prove it). What a touching story. Juno was not giving you a “wtf” behind your back when she curled her neck around you – she was giving you a horse hug.

    Thanks for sharing your story, your picture, and your heart. Congrats on being FPd

  20. I rode a horse one time in my life and it was so fun! My mom wasn’t too thrilled though lol

    • Hah, yeah, mothers don’t really tend to be big fans of even remotely dangerous activities. ;D

      • Haha. This actually came up in a game of Taboo with Briel! I was teased for being a “Jewish mom” before the game, when I expressed a desire Li’l D would pursue ballet instead of football.* This discussion earned the other team a point after the game started.

        I think you can understand my doubt at the thought I’ll be able to keep him away from “horsies.” :)

        * I’ll support him if he wants to play football. Just . . . what’s wrong with ballet?

  21. I trained my own horse when I was around 16 years old and she was 3 years old. To say the least, she was like a bad child, always throwing tantrums and would walk several feet, kick the wall, (while I was in the saddle) and refused to do anything that wasn’t her idea. It sounds you are doing a wonderful job with Juno, especially since she’s older and a mustang too. Enjoy every bit of time you have with her and the journey you two have learning things together.

    • Hah, sounds like you were dealing with what the Parelli “Horsenality” system calls a Left-Brain Introvert… their general attitude is “I want it my way!” :D Juno’s more of a Right-Brain Introvert, which means she’s the sort of horse that freezes then explodes when she gets really overstimulated… but thankfully now that I know how to work with that, it doesn’t really happen anymore. It’s amazing how much there is to learn about horse behavior… you could spend a lifetime and still only know a fraction of it. I’m not sure actually if that’s amazing or kind of depressing… ;D

  22. Wow, what a beautiful horse! And such a touching story! I’m so glad I stumbled onto this blog, and thus, glad you got fresh pressed!

    I used to ride when I was younger and could take lessons, but it was too expensive for my parents to keep paying, so I didn’t get very far. Someday though, I hope to get back into it because I love horses so, so much!

    Congrats on your hard work with Juno too. I know someday you’ll get up there without a single problem. He seems like a dream horse come true.

  23. Beautiful photos. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  24. I love my very well trained Thoroughbred off the track racehorse

  25. I just love your posts. Being a horse person myself, I’ve gone through this similar situation and you’ll come out so much more connected and liberated. Keep riding and I’ll keep reading :)

  26. Owning a horse can be humbling and confronting. It ain’t always an easy ride as I myself have experienced throughout the years. I love my horse (a huge & bloody strong Irish Gypsy Horse) to bits but he is a complex right brain introvert that also tends to switch between his right and left brain. I have learned so much about myself and horses on my journey to be able to work and play with him and although I have allowed us both to have a (maybe permanent) timeout after years of struggle, the whole experience of watching him grow up, backing him, teaching him riding aids and loving him as if he were my child was well worth it. Before I had him I couldn’t have thought having your own horse can be this intense, tough and interesting. It was great reading your story and it is so good to find that there are still people that first question or doubt themselves instead of always putting blame on the horse.

    • Juno is also RBI, and as she keeps advancing she’s headed toward the RBI/LBI cusp. I definitely find it hard to keep up sometimes! :D I had no idea either how much of learning horsemanship was going to be learning to master myself… or how difficult that would be. But so INCREDIBLY worth it. I don’t even know who I’d be if it weren’t for horses.

  27. Pingback: The Long, Dark Horseback Ride of the Soul (via Red Roan Chronicles) | xymalf

  28. Congratulations, Fantastic article Mackenzie, I laughed and cried, you have such a gift for writing. It made me realise how much I have retreated from riding my horse Rory. Its only since I started Parelli that I have done this because like you I don’t want to be crap at it (I used to ride traditional easily but hated using a bit to control him,thats when I found Parelli) . I have only just become reconciled to using a bit after watching Linda’s game of contact. You have given me the impetus to stop faffing.
    Looking forward to more of the above. :)

  29. Yes, I identify with those feelings. But…. you are working towards a thing – which means you are not there yet. so it is completely ok to SEE that you are not there…. Juno can cope with it, and so can you, together. An amazing beginning to riding your horse… well done… keep going!

  30. Congratulations! Enjoyed your site last week when I took bigsheep’s field trip. This is wonderful.

  31. I loved this! Keep it up–soon enough you guys will be cantering across fields together.

    • Thank you! I have high hopes, but cantering is not really her strongest point. :D That’ll probably come later rather than sooner, but we’re definitely up for a nice trot! The trainer’s going to take us out on a trail ride this weekend so I expect we’ll be making a lot of progress in very short order! :)

  32. Great post! Thank you for sharing! i’d love to own a horse of my own someday! :)

  33. Mackenzie; what a gentle and sensitive soul you are. And the combination of these characteristics makes you quite simply beautiful.
    Being of a sensitive and caring disposition tends to make one seek a form of perfection that goes above and beyond actuality at times, thus making one’s dreams appear exceptionally daunting and extremely frustrating.

    In my honest opinion I think that you and Juno work magically together, you just fit, and through perseverance, love and trust you shall both come full circle and accomplish all you desire upon this journey that you have embarked upon together.

    So don’t be too hard on yourself, and when things start to feel a little overwhelming just let your thoughts go, breathe in deeply and let your heart and body guide you.

  34. Oh my, I loved this. Thank you. I used to own the biggest tank of a horse, a 16.2hh shire cross. He used to just not listen to anything as he was too convinced he was right all the time and gosh we went on some learning curves. I loved him though for those moments where the communication between us kicked in and we got some magic together. I’ll never forget one dressage competition where the little old show off, all feather and solid tough cobbiness, pranced in and did the routine of his life. I “joined up” with him and that, more than anything made the difference. I remember just being in tears that this big old rough and tough horse had his head on my shoulder and would follow me anywhere I took him. Man, I’m emotional now. Thanks for sharing :-)

  35. they’re sooo beautiful. i wish i had more opportunities to ride and spend time with horses. they’re amazing creatures. thanks for sharing!

  36. This was just wonderful; I’ve read your words before and couldn’t be prouder that you’re Fresh Pressed. Your love and respect for Juno resonates throughout this … well done!


  37. It’s a special thing to have a bond with an animal. Juno is beautiful! I’m sure she’s a very smart girl.

    • Hey Will, thanks for the link! I think I’m familiar with these particular horses… is this the same group that has suffered a series of horse-shootings over the last few years? I love Canada and hope to emigrate one day but it seems the wild horse policy there is even worse than here.:(

  38. Pingback: Thankful-my-head’s-back-on-straight(ish) Thursday « The Monster in Your Closet

  39. Being pressed is pretty great, but riding your horse is even better. Good for you, but be sure to do it again tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow. As you mention muddling through, many of the best horse/person partnerships begin with some crazy muddling. It’s all about persistence…that and core body strength. Get fit – I swear it will help!

    Good luck; if it was easy it wouldn’t be so special!

    • Thanks! I’m actually working on a lot of that and have been doing pilates and weight training, which is helping but not as much as I’d like. Last time I did any serious riding I was 18 and a martial arts instructor and was quite fit and balanced… I’m a different story now! :(

  40. I really enjoyed this post; I can identify with the emotions you described. Well done!

  41. Disney endings are highly overrated, and, I might add, just fantasy. The ending of this blog leaves room for another chapter or sequel. Keep living and writing and so will Juno!
    Well done on the fp!

  42. Mackenzie I applaud you for getting on Juno. I have felt everything you described with my Blue roan Peppy Blue Rose. Just a year and a half ago I would not even get in the paddock with her and now little by little we are getting out of MY comfort zones and riding farther and farther. I used to get butterflies 2 days before I planned on messing with her on the ground. Not for fear of getting hurt but for fear that I would fail at this life challenge and ruin her. I know you won’t give up on Juno and trust that Juno will never give up on you! A very wise 83 yr old woman in retrospect of my feeling low about my performance said to me.”.When you wake up in the morning tell yourself how far you have come and how great your progress has been no matter how big or small. The fact that you are doing something towards your dream is a gold medal in itself.” Keep going and you and Juno will be there in no time.

    • Thanks Barbara! It’s definitely a help to me when I’m struggling to remember back to a time when I was first gentling her and I couldn’t even touch or halter her… measured from that point, we’ve come so far it blows my mind! :D

  43. (Congratulations, you deserve the FP feature.)
    I am a little bit afraid of horses due to an experience I had as a child, but from what I have heard, horses are very sensitive to emotions and moods. The fact that you were so far from being calm and Juno worked with you anyway shows me that Juno is a good horse and also that Juno likes you.
    By the way, those Disney endings really annoy me.

  44. Lovely blog, and beautiful horse!

  45. Pingback: The Long, Dark Horseback Ride of the Soul (via Red Roan Chronicles) « rainingumbrellas

  46. Beautiful. I’m so happy for you, and I’m glad that you’re making progress, however scary it may be! Juno looks like a queen.

    I used to ride horses casually (western, trail riding, some arena work and barrel racing) for about 10 years and I miss it all the time. Your post brought me back to some of my fondest memories; I hope I can go horsebackriding soon!

  47. Very beautiful animals! I love horses!

  48. is she smiling, in the first photo? lol.

  49. Thanks for sharing. I do not ride but am always amazed at the strength and grace of horses–and it looks like you and Juno already have a great relationship. I predict you will each continue to grow and help/support each other–what a wonderful endeavor! Also good to see that FP Magic pulled you out for some attention–your writing and sensitivity both deserve that.

  50. Greetings Mackenzie – and thank you for such a wonderful post. I was with you and Juno every step of the way: admiring, willing you on and, I must admit, envious!
    Horses are fab teachers and friends. Wishing you many years of joy with Juno.

  51. Congrats for being freshly pressed! I love your post about Juno! Reminds me of the beginning with my arabian horse. Groundwork is the best way to train a horse, not only if it s young. I do it a lot of times and Shaman is 18 years now :)


  52. i really love the way you express a lot of yourself.. its really a soulful narration.. :)

  53. Great Blog Mackenzie! I so remember this same feeling when I had my first ride on my filly after she had been started by 3* James Roberts. It takes a while – and some tears – but it is worth it when one day you look back and realise your living your dream. Well done and thanks for sharing x

  54. I’m rather jealous you have a Juno at all. I’ve only ridden a horse once and not since I moved to the city. It’s good to learn first before rushing in, in anything!

  55. She’s beautiful!

  56. Beautiful horse, beautiful writing. Not sold on Parelli, but I will keep an open mind.

  57. An absolutely grand story… very well written. Good luck to you and Juno and your depening relationship. :)

  58. i love Juno, i wish i could have a horse for myself

  59. Thank you for sharing your’s and Juno’s journey. Remarkable post. Congratulations — both for having the courage to share your experience and for being FP’d.

  60. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed—this piece certainly deserves it.

  61. you are inspirational; sharing break-down moments is powerful stuff, missy. thanx 4 sharing your journey with Juno and yourself ! There’s courage and tenacity in your endeavors to become the Horse Whisperer that’s inside you… seriously rootin’ for ya

  62. Hi Mackenzie:
    Thanks for stopping by my wild mustangs website. Yes, wild mustangs in Canada have long been hunted : during the two world wars, for export of their meat to Europe (and to the province of Quebec, where the Quebecois retain their European taste for horse meat to the present day.)

    Otherwise, horses have been hunted for “sport”. And of course for their hides.

    These days the organized horse hunt is pretty much a thing of the past, since they’re nearly impossible to locate, and so few survive.

    Sad to say, the two Rocky Mountain provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, where the remnant population of pure blood Spanish mustangs barely survive, have wide-open hunting laws on the horses. Any horse found on private property is game for hunters. “Private property” includes land under grazing rights, so they’re pretty much liable to be hunted anywhere, as virtually all crown property (in America, you say “federal” property, I believe) is taken up by ranchers’ grazing rights. It’s a bloody shame.

    As a survival tactic, our horses evolved an “unnatural” new behaviour: they changed from open range creatures to deep forest animals. Better hiding in the cover of the forests.

    Since my website went up, in 2003, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the horses have gone totally extinct. One American professor of biology estimated in 2003 that the population at that time was not large enough to sustain a viable gene pool into the future. They may alread be gone.

    Find out lots more info on the Canadian horses by clicking “Updated Links” on my front page.

    Hey, we love American immigrants, so hurry on over!

    To be brutally honest, I see nothing much that I like in America, since Bush Jr. did his number on you people and practically wrecked your country. Pity.


  63. Pingback: Little snapshots made of breath and of bone « Red Roan Chronicles

  64. This so so so deserved to be freshly pressed. Your story and Juno are absolutely beautiful!

  65. Pingback: The Long, Dark Horseback Ride of the Soul (via Red Roan Chronicles) « Searching for my Goddess

  66. Cute pics but horses scare the b’jesus out of me! Thanks so much for sharing with us

  67. kudos to you for your perseverance. you are a better horsewoman than you think. own it !

  68. Mackenzie, Thank you so much for sharing your experience with Juno! I feel am in the same place mentally with my innate LBI Quarter Horse. I started out with a natural horsemanship trainer to help me get her under saddle and then lost my trainer due to reasons unrelated to my horse, only after 2 rides under saddle… boy do I feel lost! I myself, even with my lack of horse starting savvy have now put rides 3-5 on her, and every time I mount up, I feel like I am not able to be the leader she needs with my lack of confidence! We are going to finally start working with a Parelli instructor in the next few weeks. So I am really looking forward to making some much anticipated progress. :-)
    Your blog was inspiring. I wish you and Juno the best of luck in your journey!!

  69. Wow, Mackenzie. Well, I don’t know about your horsemanship (though I suspect it’s not as bad as you let on), but your writing is superb! I tried to pick a favorite sentence out, but couldn’t narrow it down to less than 5. Actually, I imagine that your ability to be honest and find humor in that honesty makes you just as good of a horseman as you are a writer. Keep it coming!

  70. Very well written Mackenzie, and trust me, we’ve all been there at some point in our life, may not be with horses, but with whatever we deeply cared for and scared the (*&$ out of us! Your friend is right, you are learning, and it will get easier. It’s called meeting up with the truth.

  71. I am just beginning my journey with a 7y green rescue pasture-ornament mare. I have a great trainer who has some parelli knowledge who is helping me overcome my fears and my mare’s greenness. I got on her for the first time and thought I had reached the summit of Everest. It was scary, awesome, bonding, exciting, and not without some panic. Keep up with the training, gain confidences and hold onto the love. Horses are totally awesome creatures who deserve our understanding and love. Keep going and your relationship will be sooooo special you will never regret getting her.

  72. Pingback: Trusting the Process « Red Roan Chronicles

  73. I love horse too, but i can’t have one when i still live in city. Nice post, thanks for sharing.

  74. Wonderfully honest!! Loved it…thanks Mackenzie!

  75. Pingback: Best Start for the Unbroke Horse Series: Ground Training – Pressure and Release

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