DeEtte + River
My journey with River began when I was a toddler just coming out of diapers, some 47 years ago. There’s not a time that I can recall never loving horses. I was a typical tomboy, horse-crazy, farm girl who believed that God meant for me to be a horse. My first horse came to me when I was 11 years old, and I credit her with providing me with a foundation of love and respect for the horse. She humbled me when I needed to be reminded of my ignorance, loved me unconditionally and gave me so much joy through my turbulent teenage years.
As I grew up, I was fortunate to have horses come and go throughout my life, but not since childhood did I “own” another. I keep my passion alive through working at barns, riding lessons, and leasing horses. Though I was grateful for those opportunities, my heart longed to own a horse of my very own – and that desire never waned.
Through years of searching, I met amazing horses, all offering a relationship that, now looking back, was just right for the specific time they were in my life. Still, I would become discouraged and disappointed when horse ownership wasn’t an option.
In 2003 I found myself volunteering for Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, Maryland. They needed volunteers to work with their horses that came to them through county officials due to cruelty or neglect. Days End needed me, but I needed them more. For years I worked with the horses and found joy in the relationships they offered. At separate times there were two mares that I believed in my heart were meant to be mine. I pursued adoption only to have them both not work out by no fault of anyone. The mares found amazing homes – the right ones for them – and I kept on with my search.
Five years. Ten years. Twenty years. It seemed like a lifetime of waiting for the “perfect horse” for me. I had moments of disappointment and doubt that it would ever happen, but never did my dream die. Early 2008, five years after I began volunteering for Days End Farm, five horses arrived from Howard County, Maryland. They were neglected, starving and in need of rehabilitation. The worst of the herd was a seven-year-old Appaloosa gelding we named River. He was a body condition score of 1 out of 9. There wasn’t much to him other than skin and bones…and hair. With Days End doing what they do best, River and his herd mates rehabilitated and soon found themselves ready for new homes.
One of River’s companions was a bay quarter horse gelding that we named Quizzle. Quiet, easygoing, simple, aloof-yet-personable, I convinced myself that Quizzle was the horse I had been waiting for. By then I was staff at Days End and I approached my manager to share with her that I had decided to adopt Quizzle. She knew of my desire to own a horse, the two failed adoptions and years of waiting. I was sure she would be thrilled for me! Instead, she apologized and told me that Quizzle’s temperament was suited for the farm’s equine ambassadors program and it was decided that he would not be put up for adoption. I was disappointed but determined. Three more times I asked to adopt Quizzle and three more times she declined my request but encouraged me to look at River.
I dismissed her suggestion to spend time with River. He was a chestnut blanket Appaloosa. My years working at an Appaloosa breeding barn did not give me a favorable opinion of the breed. He simply wasn’t a horse that I would ever consider giving a second look. With over 60 horses at the rescue, I felt that others were better suited to what I was looking for, so I refused to meet him.
Weeks went by and I realized that my hope to adopt Quizzle needed to be put to rest. He was clearly working out as an ambassador and I made the decision to meet River, if for no other reason than to tell my manager that I had and prove to her that I was right in my hunch: he wasn’t my match.
Five minutes. That’s all it took for my heart to fall utterly and completely in love. I could share with you the list of all of attributes I compiled over the years that my perfect horse must possess, but I’ll spare you the time. Suffice to say that in just five minutes River gave me his trust, his try and his heart. It sounds hokey, but it’s true. I knew in that moment that I was going to spend the next day…and the next…and every day after getting to know him. There were potential adopters for him already on a waiting list. Of course there was! He was such a good boy and strikingly beautiful. I feared this would be another heartbreak, but one by one the obstacles fell away. In Oct. of 2008 I adopted my heart horse after two decades of waiting.
Since we’ve been together, River and I have had many miles of adventures together on the trails where we are both the happiest. He’s my best friend, my partner, my confidant and the love of my life. I promised him on day one that I would do my best to earn and keep his trust, that all I asked of in return was for him to try for me. Of course I’ve failed on occasion, but never intentionally and River has proven to be the better one of our partnership. Every day he freely gives me his trust. When his confidence wanes, he still tries his heart out for me and he reminds me to live in the moment. I thought I knew what I wanted in my ‘right horse’ but River has shown me that I didn’t dream big enough. He’s simply that amazing and I’m humbled and blessed to call him mine.
My hope for anyone who relates to the waiting and the searching is to know that it’s worth it. All of it. The right horse is out there for you so don’t lose hope: the right horse, at the right time, for the right reasons.