Shawna + Lil Bit
Like so many people, horses peaked my curiosity and called to my soul. Yet, unlike my new network of horse-loving friends, my life had not lent itself to growing up around horses or riding. In 2008, I applied to be a barn volunteer at Colorado Horse Rescue (CHR) with the goal of exploring my interest more fully and learning about the creatures that had captivated my attention. Was it like the movies? Did they really develop relationships with people? As an educator, I wanted to know what motivated them to achieve a desired behavior. Two years later, at 40 years old, I decided to take my new passion to another level and invested in my first riding lesson. For the next four years, rain or shine, I committed to weekly lessons, read every book I could get my hands on, and attended every seminar possible.
Unknown to me at the time, AQHA registered name JP Flip Sue, Lil Bit was bred by Phillips Quarter Horses in Elwood, Nebraska. Not making the breeding cut, she was sold amongst a trailer load of weanlings and yearlings to a trainer for $50. After three years, the trainer realized that Lil Bit was not going to get very big, so instead of investing in her training, she found her a home with a kind family. In 2011, the husband lost his wife to cancer. A year later, he determined that he did not have the knowledge, experience, or financial resources to take care of her horses. He asked CHR for help.
In 2013, my heart skipped a beat when I was offered a managerial position at the Colorado Horse Rescue. As the Adoption/Equine Training Coordinator and Development Associate, I implemented a volunteer riding program that further maximized our funding for equine training. Trainers could now transition horses to strong riders and refocus their time on horses who truly needed their skills. Horses that received that initial professional training continued to receive time under saddle by a volunteer rider, providing them with a better chance of being adopted.
As the program’s facilitator, I began to routinely ride with these volunteers to build team comradery and ensure strong cohesive communication and instruction between riders and trainers. I was assigned to a little sorrel Quarter Horse mare who was nine years old and had only been under saddle about six months. Together, both of us grew in our education; through regular ground work, walks around the property, and time spent in the saddle, Lil Bit challenged what I already knew about horsemanship and pushed me to seek more answers to our riding obstacles. Our journey together led to a cherished partnership, an inability to walk away, and a pending adoption.
Honestly, I never dreamed that my curiosity in horses and newfound sport of riding would have led me to where I am today. It is humbling to realize that I have gained enough confidence and skill to provide a forever home to this kind and sweet mare. I adopted Lil Bit from Colorado Horse Rescue in May of 2015. Like all who adopt from CHR, our trainer has provided Lil Bit and me with the support we needed to achieve a life-long partnership. Now, the Director of Development for CHR, I start most days having coffee with my little mare in the pasture to remind myself of the important work ahead.
Contrary to popular belief, animal seizures only account for about 20 percent of the horses that come to rescues like CHR. Most of our resources and services provide assistance to people and horses in all types of situations. Like Lil Bit, these horses are many times registered and have strong bloodlines. My end goal was not to go to shows, join a rodeo, jump, or compete in dressage. My dream was simple but challenging: to be able to take my horse out of the arena and ride the Colorado trails together, just her and me.
This is what “right horse” means to me.
It the beautiful partnership that can be found between a caring human and a horse in need of a home.