This month marks one year since I started volunteering for The Center for America’s First Horse. It’s hard to believe that just one year ago I was trying to break into the Vermont horse world. My husband and I had lived in Vermont for a couple years at that point and in that time I had yet to find the horse farm that was the best fit for me. In February 2011 the Center became that place!
I remember calling Stephanie, the owner, and asking if she needed a volunteer to help out for half a day on Sundays. “Do I ever!” she said. Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. became my new ritual. I would drive to the Center and feed the horses, scoop poop, and learn a bit about natural horsemanship before heading home at noon.
I was hooked and half a day on Sundays didn’t seem like enough time so I rearranged my work schedule to 10 hour days so I could spend a full day on Friday and half a day on Sunday at The Center. Fridays were filled with hard work and horse fun. Tasks involved feeding, cleaning poop, getting hay, putting up fence, building, picking up, and all the chores that go along with caring for 17 horses. During this time I also participated in a couple of clinics and enjoyed a weekend of fun called Women’s Weekend where a handful of horse women spent the weekend doing horsey things.
Shortly after becoming a volunteer I was invited to join the Board of Directors and was given the title of Education Coordinator. This was my first “board” experience and it was interesting. The main task that I was given was to help plan the Equine Arts & Eats Festival.
During my service for the Center I met Mas, a Colonial Spanish horse with a lot of heart, spirit, and courage. He is a beautiful, flashy horse that was most likely used as the Chief’s horse back in the day because of his unique coloring and spiritual presence. Mas taught me about learning to be more assertive because of his dominance and pushiness. He made me cry on a couple of occasions because of my frustration in not knowing how to be a better leader for him, but Stephanie, the horse guru that she is, was there to help me through it and told me that he was a great teacher due to how difficult he was for me. I would learn faster with Mas as my guide.
Through the Center I also met Jennifer Swartz, the first woman farrier that I had ever met, and it was her example that sparked the idea of a new career path for me. I decided to pursue what it would take to become a full-time farrier. I drove to Cornell, to inquire about their farrier program, and contacted Mark Plumlee of Mission Farrier School, to learn more about their farrier program (which is the same program that Jen graduated from). In the end I decided to enroll at Mission Farrier Schooland join their two month program which would enable me to be a proficient farrier skilled in Natural Balance principles.
In just one year I was introduced to the Colonial Spanish horse breed, natural horsemanship, and my passion to pursue becoming a farrier. This year of discovery has led me to a new career path, to deciding to start my own business, and most importantly, has helped me find the right way to be with horses, to communicate with horses, and to become a better leader for my horse.
I am grateful to Stephanie Lockhart for showing me the path to natural horsemanship, to Mas for making me stronger and more assertive (and for melting my heart), and to Jen for welcoming me into her craft and encouraging me to become a farrier.
This has been a Magnificent Year of Discovery!