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As I am driving to Freedom Ride to teach for the day my mind begins to race. “I hope I have enough volunteers for all my lessons today:”, with that first thought the flood gates of my mind open and I begin thinking….

I hope Zeus is feeling better because I really need him for John’s lesson.  John has made such great progress and I don’t  want to cancel his lesson.  Last week was a great accomplishment for John, I still can not believe I cried when I saw him walk around the arena with no side walkers, sitting up straight, completely independent.

Last week was the first time he has been able to have the taste of freedom and ride independently. John, has been in a wheel chair and depended on his caretakers since his accident seven years ago. I begin to smile as I drive and realize how far John has comes over the past two years at Freedom Ride.

My thoughts switch to Ashley,  I really hope she overcomes her fear of cantering off the lounge line, today. I’m a little confused as to where her fear is coming from, she was cantering by herself beautifully just a couple of weeks ago. I need to talk to her mom about it, maybe, there is something that happened outside of her riding lesson that I am not aware of. She was making so much progress and I really want her to show in the walk, trot, canter class at Special Olympics this year.

Then I remember,  I need to complete all the paperwork for Special Olympics and I have to get all my progress notes to the program director from the previous session.  This is the moment, when I start to feel overwhelmed about my day and I haven’t even started teaching.

Ethan pops into my mind, and I can’t wait to see that big smile again when he starts trotting. That is one of those moments when I realize why I love teach therapeutic riding. What an incredible feeling to see, this little y year old, laughing and smiling when just three weeks ago he was afraid to even get on Pete the pony.

I have to give Titan a strong leader in today’s lessons. He was nipping yesterday when we went into the trot. I have to find time today and work with him. He is getting bored with the lessons and I need take him out on a trial ride to break up his day and get him out of the arena, at that moment I begin to be consumed with thoughts about all the horses and their needs.

I start to realize that my day is becoming a lot longer than I first anticipated.  I also have to get on Argus and ride him at some point.  He was not exercised that much in the past week and I need to work with him if I want him to stay in our program. I see so much potential in him and think he would be a great addition. We only have six more weeks until the trial period is over and we need to make our decision whether not keep him for the program. He is so willing and level-headed, he just needs a little work since he is an 8-year-old warm blood and has not been worked in over a year.

 

I pull into the parking lot, and remember that Lou, my led volunteer is on vacation. I depend on him to keep things running while I am teaching and I can not do my job effectively without him. He keeps the barn going and the lessons on schedule. I really count on him to help with tacking up, bringing horses in from the pasture, feeding and managing the other volunteers. “What am I going to do without him, today?”

My day begins and as I am walking to the stable I see that Joan is there. I take a deep breath of relief.  Joan, our other lead volunteer, must have heard me say that Lou was going to be out today and decided to show up and help. Freedom Ride would not exist without the support and dedication of the wonderful volunteers and I am thankful for them everyday.

This is just a glimpse into my life as a therapeutic riding instructor.It has been the most challenging and rewards position I have ever held. I had the pleasure of being part of an amazing team of loyal horses, staff and volunteers at Freedom Ride Therapeutic Riding Center in downtown Orlando FL.  Freedom Ride is dedicated to enriching the lives and experiences of children and adults with mental and physical disabilities by engaging them in various equestrian activities designed to promote and improve physical, mental and social well-being. Freedom Ride is built on the conviction that we are not defined by our limitations. I am honored to have been part of the Freedom Ride team and working with amazing staff, students and horses. Freedom Ride truly exemplifies the meaning of Horsepower for the Spirit.

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Learning to communicate with your horse is similar to learning a foreign language. Although, you cannot communicate in a language until you have learned the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary and syntax, you need to hear the language spoken many times to get a feel for its cadence and flow. Likewise, in riding you need to learn how to use your hands and legs effectively to give the aids. You also need to learn the feel of the horse when he is straight, balanced, and rhythmical.  Relaxation enhances your ability to empathize with the horse, and strengthens your ability to feel what you are seeing. This makes the language easier to learn.

While we have learned how to communicate with our aids, practice our balanced seat and relax our body, we must make a commitment to take the risks involved with asking our horse to do exactly what we want, with the expectation that he will listen. The risk of a communication breakdown always exists, we must bravely declare our will despite the possible problems. No risk, no gain. Your horse will quickly let you know if he understands you or not. If not, you can continue to ask, as often as necessary, until he shows you that he understands through a correct response. This risk-taking with a horse is much safer than it is with people.

Miscommunication with a horse is immediately recognizable, because we do not get the outcome we expect. When this happens, we should pause for a moment and try again. If too many retries are necessary, we should walk and review what is happening. Somehow we are not getting the message through to our horse. Re-evaluate what and how you are asking making sure your horse understands what you want.

Misunderstandings, whether with a horse or man, are the root of most problems. Each of us has an obligation to try to avoid failures in communication. The first step is to believe that we do not want to cause harm or discomfort to another being. The second step is to be observant to the response of our communication: we must notice the reactions of our partner. If we notice any reaction other than the one we intended, we must change the way we phrase our question until we are certain that the other party understands what our statement or question means. We can never assume that the other party understands our meaning, we must always closely observe his reaction.  We do this automatically while on our horse. Horses demand an immediate response or they do not know what to do. People do not have this need.   It is important to remember that, whether you are dealing with a horse or human, unsatisfactory communications that remain unresolved do not go away.  The longer they remain, the more negative energy they accumulate. What began as simple misunderstanding can become a resentment, grudge, hostility, or even aggression. Therefore, it is important to resolve ill feelings as soon as possible.

Something I have learned over the years being in the saddle, as well as on the ground teaching,  is to communicated with my instructor. Especially when I was younger, I was afraid to express my concerns, frustrations and especially my fears. Once I started communicating with my instructor about my feelings, problems I was having outside of my lesson and as well as my fears we discovered (together) solutions easier and my problems were solved much more quickly.  Since, instructors are not mind readers, they make decisions based on what they see. Once I started teaching I realized that many hours of frustration could be avoided if students developed the confidence to express themselves to their instructor. Ideally, students should try to achieve a complete communication cycle with their instructor. The student asks a question, the instructor answers, and the student then acknowledges the answer. Effective communication is the essence of teaching, and it is also the fundamental process of learning.

Our conversation with horses is through body language and energy,  rather than through the words that dominate human interchange. Since body language and energy play a major role in our horse interaction, we must learn the art of a new type of communication. In order for our body to be a relaxed and supple communicator, it must be in balance with our mind. Only then can can it offer us the highly refined interaction necessary for the quick, effective conversation we need and desire with our horses.

Our philosophy sets the tone for all forms of communications.  The more we can believe in a positive attitude, unconditional love, and free flowing energy, the more likely it is that out interactions will have a positive outcome. Determining your personal philosophy and purpose in life paves the way for the most effective communication. 

Whether communicating with horse or man, all interactions have a three-part cycle. These three steps are clear and concise; question, answer and acknowledgement. For humans; ” How are you?” “I am doing well.” “That’s good to hear.”  And that’s the three-part cycle for human interactions.  For horses the three-part cycle is a little more subtle; close your legs, then close your hands (question), horse stops (answer), you soften (acknowledgement). Each of these is  a complete part of the communication cycle, and an incomplete cycle opens the door for confusion.

I still remember when I was learning to ride my corners with my young, very green thoroughbred, Chance, and the importance of this concept.  If I forgot to release my leg after Chance responded, he would speed up or pin his ears back. If I forgot to release my hand, he would get harder and harder against my hand. If I held in my seat, Chance would get more and more resistant. All these evasions were a result of Chance’s effort to do what he thought I was asking of him. It took several months to uncover all the different confusions that I was creating because I did not understand the communication formula.

Every aspect of our life is influenced by communication. Intimate disclosures, ones that require us to express what we really feel, are frightening. They frighten us because we are not certain if what we are feeling is acceptable or correct. Our feelings may not match what we think is expected. Riding requires intimate communication. I think it is easier to learn this type of conversation with a horse because a horse is non-threatening, responds without preconceived notions, and is non-judgmental. Intimate communications do not begin until we have learned the fundamental skills of riding. Position, control, and relaxation must become second nature to us, before we can begin to concentrate on communication. The first part of your riding journey encompasses learning position and basic control. While learning these skills you begin by using your hands, legs, and seat to control your horse safely.  Initially, your communication is limited to stop, go, and turn. Ultimately, however, control is through feel, so a rider must be comfortable, confident, and relaxed on the horse. A stiff rider inhibits his horse’s ability to respond, and is deaf to the responses of the horse. As a rider gains experience, these basic fundamental skills will become more refined, creating a solid foundation for more intimate communication.

The relaxation required for basic control of your horse, means that you are comfortable and balanced in your position. Once you decide to specialize in a particular riding discipline, your communication skills will be developed to meet the requirements of the discipline of your choice.  Whatever horse sport you choose, relaxation is a perquisite that allows balance, both with yourself and your horse. Becoming more deeply relaxed allows the muscles to supple, the energy to flow, and the body to move more freely. If you do not feel you are getting the results you want with your horses, you might want to look at your ability to relax both mentally and physically.

Relaxation

The definition of relaxation includes “the lengthening of inactive muscles or muscle fibers” and “the return or adjustment of a system of equilibrium following  displacement or abrupt change.” Relaxation should exist on three levels: Physical (suppleness), mental (clarity of mind and emotion) and spiritual (freedom from fear, anger, resentment, jealousy and other negative attitudes). The three are related in both humans and horses. Physical relaxation can be destroyed by confusion or fear, thus it is not a simple matter of controlling the length of muscle fibers. In most cases when the mind is the cause of tension, stress, fear or confusion we must try to relax our mind. Even if the cause requires a solution, the starting point is a relaxed mind that can focus. If we hope to achieve physical relaxation, we need to address the methods of promoting mental and spiritual relaxation since they are so closely connected.

Relaxation has many benefits in terms of both performance and soundness. Communication is more straightforward when we are relaxed. Both observer and horse feel the rider is lighter and more graceful. Our body will move in harmony with the horse’s movements. Our legs will breathe with the horse’s sides. Our hands will be quiet receivers and directors of the forward energy we are sharing. Our body as a whole will be prepared to respond to the horse quickly, quietly, and effectively. This harmony will enable both horse and rider to move forward with power and elasticity, creating a picture of total unity and majesty.  A  relaxed horse is an amazingly elastic creature, and therefore our goal should be to maintain this elasticity. It involves careful management of his physical body, slowly building up muscle tone.  Most horses have an advantage over man, in that they begin with a calm mind. If communications are clear and demands are realistic, they should remain mentally calm. This mental calmness, combined with the proper training of horse and rider, should maintain the horse’s elasticity, thus minimizing the wear and tear that cause unsoundness in our equine partners.

No doubt it is easier for a rider to relax on a horse who is relaxed, but the rider must learn to become supple and relaxed himself so that the horse can stay elastic and relaxed. It is the rider’s responsibility to maintain the relaxation of the horse.

It is more difficult for the rider to maintain a relaxed state, because the rider continues to have situations develop that make it difficult to maintain a relaxed, supple body. It is up to the rider to find an effective method to maintain a well functioning body.

Emotional turmoil produces disequilibrium in our bodies, leading to physical stiffness. Returning the body to equilibrium is a matter of relaxation. When we feel upset, or experience an uneasy feeling, an upset stomach, a headache, a backache, or another physical symptom, it may be our mental or spiritual self crying out. Physical exercises are designed to relax and supple the muscles, while meditative therapies provide methods to relax and free the body, mind and spirit.

“Mediation is any activity that keeps attention pleasantly anchored in the present moment” -Joan Borysenko

The more of our self we can access consciously, the more control we have over our lives and our goals. The more unresolved experiences we have, the more we will need to create freedom that brings about the useful inner self.  By having control over our thoughts and experience we come more relaxed in who we are, our goals and our dreams. This is key in our relationships, even our relationship with our horse.  Relaxation is necessary for the rider to attain inner harmony and for the horse to display his natural beauty.

Equestrian vaulting was on the top of my list of riding disciplines that I wanted to learn, while traveling  the United States in search for the ultimate riding experience. I had no idea what I was in for when I contacted Sara Nicolson of the Poway Valley Vaulters, at the Rolling Hills Stable in Poway, CA…

I was welcomed with open arms by the students and coaches, Bonnie Bruce and Sara Nicholson, when I arrived for my first vaulting lesson. Quickly realizing, their philosophy is about having fun while developing coordination, balance and strength as you work in harmony with your equine partner. The Poway Valley Vaulters offers an atmosphere that is very laid back and community focused. Everyone participating in the lesson is responsible for setting up and breaking down all equipment involved in that day’s lesson as well as grooming and caring for the horse that will be their vaulting partner that day.

Once the two barrels and mats are set up, Sara Nicholson, led the group with stretching exercises to warm up everyone muscles before tackling the gymnastic moves on top of the barrels. I watched as each student mounted the barrel. I quickly realized that this was completely foreign to me, as I stood there in tights and sneakers (not riding pants and boots) and my transitional leg up.

Although, there are many ways to mount in equestrian vaulting, we practiced the simple leg up mount, where the rider is facing the horse’s head with their body parallel to the horse’s back while your partner counts to three lifting your bend left leg,  guiding you on top of your mount. In this particular mounting style the rider focuses on their right leg going straight up to the sky, perpendicular to the horse’s back, then gently sitting up straight in perfect posture on top of you mount (horse or barrel). This is no easy task and requires a lot of upper body strength, coordination and balance.

As the rest of the students practiced their individual and partner routines on the barrel, Sara, took me aside and explained the origins of vaulting, benefits and the different styles and movements required in vaulting competitions. In individual competitions there are six compulsory exercises that must be performed without dismounting: basic seat, flag, mill, click or scissors, stand and flank.  The compulsories are performed in succession without pause or dismounts.

Sara explained each compulsory movement starting with the basic seat moving through all six exercises. As I practiced each movement I became more and more comfortable and was eventually able to move to some freestyle movements that included hand stands, kneeling, standing and aerial moves such as flips. As this begin my first lesson,  I chose to stick with the easier movements such as kneeling and standing.  I was very comfortable with each compulsory movement, as well as standing and kneeling. I got the courage to  do a front roll, however I was on a non-moving barrel.

After about 90 minutes of practicing on the barrel, I was ready to mount an actual moving horse. I am not one to get nervous especially around horses, but right before mounting the horse my palms began sweating and butterflies filled my stomach with anxiety. Once, I was mounted (leg up while the horse is moving) all my fears went away and I got comfort in knowing that I was on the back of a beautiful horse that has done this for years.

I practiced each compulsory movement at the walk and eventually working my way into the trot, holding each movement for 4 seconds, in succession without pausing. I started with the basic seat, which I sat astride with my arms held to the side raised to ear level. My legs were wrapped around the horse’s barrel, soles facing rearward, with toes down and feet arched. Totally different from the heels down approach that I am so costumed to.

After the basic seat I quickly hopped to my knees and extended my right leg straight out behind me, holding it slightly above my head,  parallel to the horse’s spine. My other leg was had equal pressure distributed through my shin and foot. I learned that to avoid digging your knee into the horse’s back your weight should be on the back on your ankle. Once, my legs were in the correct position I raised my left arm stretching it forward, also parallel to the horse’s spine.

After the flag, I moved into the basic seat to begin the mill movement. The mill starts from the astride position, bringing my right leg over the horse’s neck, while my hand grips were released and retaken as I brought my leg over. I brought my left leg in a full arc over the croup of the horse, again with a change of grips, before my right leg followed it, and the left leg moves over the neck to complete the full turn.  The mill brought flashbacks of me on my pony as a young rider completing “around the world” at the walk, trot and canter during my lounge line lessons. Who knew many years later I would be doing the same thing.

The click was the most difficult for me out of all six compulsory movements. From the basic seat position, I swung on my left leg over the horse’s neck, seating sideways, and then swinging my right leg over the horse’s croup so I was sitting backwards on the horse. While grasping the surcingle handles I quietly swung my leg forward giving me momentum to left my entire body off the horse’s back while my leg swing together, clicking my heals like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. This movement requires an immense amount of upper body strength that by the time the lesson was over my arms were shaking from fatigue.

The stand was next in succession and I wanted to complete this at the walk, but to be safe Sara and Bonnie provided me with a spotter, since I had never stood on a horse before. From the basic seat position I moved to my shins and immediately onto both feet, I released my hand grips and held the hands of my spotter. Once I felt comfortable I began to straighten up with both my knees bent, with my tail bone tucked for balance. After a couple of strides at the walk I was able to let go of my spotter’s hands and held my hands straight out as in the basic seat.  I was amazed that I was able to hold my standing position for 4 seconds at the walk.

The final movement the flank, is also the dismount in vaulting. From the basic seat, I swung my legs forward to create momentum, then swinging my legs backward, and rolling onto my stomach in an arch of the surcingle, with a full extension of my legs raise up behind me,  the goal to nearly reach a handstand. When coming down,  I brought my legs to the right side of the horse, pushing off the surcingle, landing on my feet on the outside of the lounging horse with a huge smile.

My experience at Poway Valley Vaulters was fun and educational. I appreciate the staff and students for making me feel as though I was part of the team for the day and allowing me to drop in on their class.  This experience created a passion for learning more about vaulting and about all the benefits vaulting has to offer to equestrian, non-equestrian and therapeutic riders.

A big thank you to Wil Fernandez for the wonderful photography.

Nestled in downtown Orlando FL, you will find a team of loyal horses, staff and volunteers that are dedicated to enriching the lives and experiences of children and adults with mental and physical disabilities by engaging them in various equestrian activities designed to promote and improve physical, mental and social well-being. Freedom Ride is built on the conviction that we are not defined by our limitations.

It all began with two riders, a borrowed horse, the support of a handful of dedicated volunteers and a rented space at a local barn. In 2001 the organization was awarded a lease on 10 acres from the City of Orlando, and after two years of hard work, sweat and dedication the facility relocated to its new home in February 2003. Since the relocation,  Freedom Ride has increased to serve over 150 individuals annually through their therapeutic and hippotherapy programs.

The therapeutic riding lessons are taught by a NARHA certified therapeutic riding instructor with a team of 1-3 volunteers. Riders participate in tasks and games that encourage physical strengthening and cognitive improvement, while learning basic riding skills. The emphasis is on developing riding skills in a safe environment that is both therapeutic and fun. Specific goals are set for each rider at the beginning of a session based upon input from the rider’s parents, physician, and therapists.

Each equestrian activity offers a wide variety of therapeutic benefits to participants recovering from injury or living with mental or physical disability. These benefits may be categorized as physical, psychological, educational and social in nature.

Therapeutic horseback riding improves the strength, tone, flexibility, and reflexes of postural muscles and leg muscles, thereby increasing stability of gait and balance in people with mild to moderate mobility disabilities.  Those with more severe disabilities benefit from improved balance, coordination, and postural control essential to healthy respiratory and digestive function. The aim of any program is to improve self-confidence and mental relaxation, along with the physical benefits.  In addition, one would hope for significant carry over of improvements from the therapy sessions to activities of daily living.

Like recreational riding, therapeutic riding is an excellent form of exercise therapy that is fun, safe, challenging and socially rewarding. The goals of therapeutic and recreational riding revolve around learning horsemanship, improving basic riding skills and many times learning a specific riding discipline such as dressage or western pleasure. In therapeutic riding, special attention is paid to facilitating improvements in musical strength, coordination, balance, stamina, self-confidence and social interaction. Lesson plans may be tailored individually to address clients’ special needs. The therapeutic riding instructors are specially trained and certified to instruct students with a wide variety of physical and mental disabilities, as well as students who are not disabled.  Therapeutic and recreational sessions are conducted according to each rider’s interests, needs, abilities and rate of progress.

Freedom Ride also offers hippotherapy to the community. Hippotherapy literally refers to therapy aided by a horse. Unlike therapeutic riding, where specific riding skills are taught, hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, speech or language therapy treatment that utilizes the horse’s movement as part of an integrated program to achieve beneficial outcomes for students.
Specially trained physical and occupational therapists use this treatment for students with movement dysfunction. In a Hippotherapy session, the horse provides multidimensional movement, which is variable, rhythmic and repetitive and influences the student rather than the student controlling the horse. The student is positioned on the horse and actively responds to the horse’s movement. The therapist directs the movement of the horse; analyzes the students responses; and adjusts the treatment accordingly. The horse’s movement has a great effect on postural control, sensory systems, and motor planning that can be used to facilitate coordination and timing, grading of responses, respiratory control, sensory integration skills and attentional skills.

A Licensed Physical or Occupational Therapist, certified with the American Hippotherapy Association, conducts the sessions providing a treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement. Hippotherapy naturally provides an integrated, multi-sensory experience and can also be modified to enhance or decrease certain types of sensory stimulation.
For those who are recovering from injury or who live with mental or physical disability, the human-horse relationship can open the door to an entirely new realm of possibilities. Horse and human become partners in a therapeutic relationship which offers a multitude of opportunities to focus on and explore abilities and not disabilities.  Students learn to be at ease, rather than dis-eased. I am honored to have been part of the Freedom Ride team and working with amazing staff, students and horses. Freedom Ride truly exemplifies the meaning of Horsepower for the Spirit.

Joe

Kitty Hawk and I were top of our game when I was slapped in the face with reality.  She was diagnosed with navicular and was restricted to flat work.  The news was devastating.  After a lot of tears and mourning the loss,  I learned my first lesson of acceptance and realized that our relationship did not end, it just changed.  She remained in my life for many years after I stopped showing her and we continued to go on trail rides and enjoyed playing on the flat.

Enter Joe, a beautiful 16 hand, dappled gray thoroughbred with a heart of gold. He was willing to do anything that I asked of him and had a huge smile on his face while doing it. He was one of those horses that comes into our  life for a very short time but changes it forever. Joe was my equine teacher in the lessons of  acceptance and humility.

I remember the day I brought Joe home like it was yesterday. This was my first horse that I could actually call my own. I wasn’t leasing him, I owned him. At 13 years old, I was the luckiest girl in the world to have my own horse. To say that I was ecstatic is an understatement.  My confidence was high and knew that we would be successful as a team.

The first month of our relationship together was perfect. We were in perfect sync while getting to know each other. We were having incredible lessons and advancing in ways that I could not have imaged.  I felt like we were made for each another and I was given yet another incredible equine partner. Things couldn’t have been better. The show season was starting soon and I was riding everyday in preparation.  For one of my lessons we decided to trailer Joe to a local equestrian center that had a show jumping and dressage ring as well as a cross-country course. I showed there many times with Kitty Hawk and was very comfortable with the area.

Joe, trailered beautifully to the facility and our warm up was going well.  My instructor, Sue Cassell, set up a jumping course for us and off we went. We have been jumping since the first day I got him so this was no big deal. Jumping the  3.5 foot fences felt like we were cantering over ground polls. Joe jumped with ease and loved every minute of it.  Our first couple fences went well and we continued on with the entire course. The last line was a triple combination with an oxer to complete the course. As we were rounding the turn for the final line I remember thinking, ” This is easy, we got this”.

The first fence was perfect and the second was even better. As were taking off for the oxer, the last fence in the line and of the course, something felt different, but I had no time to react. While in mid-air, Joe bucked and I went flying head first into the ground.  I was unconscious for a moment and had no idea what happened. I remember my mom, my instructor and Joe came over to me in a frenzy. As I was opening my eyes with my mom in a panic, there was this moment when Joe and I locked eyes and knew that he was confused on what had just happened.  He came up to me, nuzzled his nose on my face as if to say, ” I’m sorry”  and I started to cry. I felt a connection between us that I had never felt before. I knew that he did not buck me off intentionally, however I was not exactly sure the reason at the time. This was the beginning of my lesson in humility.

After a couple of days of recovering for the soreness I was back out at the stables ready to ride. I was determined not to let a little fall create fear in me.  As we were warning up, my self-confidence started to improved and my fear began fading away.  Our flat work was evolving nicely and I started to feel synchronicity between us.  After about 40 minutes my confidence was back and I was ready to take on some fences. We did a couple single verticals that went very well, my nerves started to settle and I started to relax.

I set up a double combination,  Joe jumped the first vertical with ease and we were approaching the second at a nice canter. As we took off for the second fence I could tell Joe was uncomfortable and the next thing I knew I was on the ground with a very bruised tail bone and ego.  As I sat there in confusion and pain, Joe walked over to me, nuzzled his nose in my neck and gave me a look of, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it”.  Once again, he bucked me off in mid-air over the fence and I went flying.

Obviously, I was unable to ride for the next couple of weeks due to my bruised tail bone. I spent the next couple of weeks trying to figure out what was going on with him. I worked with him everyday lounging and  free jumping.  After several consults  with our vet we discovered that Joe had arthritis in his back and jumping larger fences was causing him pain. The lessons of acceptance and humility where everywhere I turned, and I quickly realized that I needed to accept the things I can not change and I needed to make decisions that were unselfish. After much contemplation,  Joe, was given to a wonderful little girl and her family, where he was loved, went on trail rides and most likely ate too many carrots. He was a wonderful horse that taught me much more than I could have taught him. I will forever be grateful for my equine teacher in acceptance and humility.