Monday, March 9, 2015


Riding the train home to Syracuse, NY after a long weekend in NYC, my mind easily wanders to thinking about journeys. Journeys in the typical sense like this weekend – captive on a speeding bullet with multitudes of strangers – most of whom were glued to their phones or napping. Or journeys in the grander sense of the word. As in my life journey. More importantly, my journey with horses, which to me is the same thing.
I was not born into a horse family, but my mother had the equine bug and before anyone knew it, I was infected with it too. I don’t remember existing without horses. Once I hit grade school, I didn't understand the funny looks the other kids gave me when I casually mentioned a conversation my horse and I had had. At the same time, I was writing my own short stories like “The Adventures of Super Fishie”. Animals had always been my friends, why wouldn't I write about them?
Flash forward to me at fifteen.
My half Arabian lost his battle with colic on a stormy July night and almost took my heart with him. Whiskey had been spooky and beautiful and challenging and instructive. In the days after his death, I couldn't help but think – am I a failure? I hadn't achieved the goals I’d set out for Whiskey and I before I lost him. Was it some higher powers way of saying “horses really aren't your thing”? I spent a few months in a zombie-like limbo. I wanted to succeed – I wanted to show and win and have the best equitation (remember – 15 year old) but more than anything I wanted the bond with my horse back. And the idea that it could all just slip away - our time, our effort, our love – I was starting to think that I couldn't have that kind of relationship again.
Enter Took.
Jaklee Mr. T: a seven year old registered Morgan gelding with an incredibly nefarious nature. At the time, he was also very angry. He’d been working and training since he was six months old. He had a hard mouth, previous hock injuries and a stubborn streak that seemed never-ending. To make matters worse, his owner needed to give him up and he happened to be boarded at our barn.
I know what you’re thinking – this teenage kid needs a horse to ride before she completely loses heart in something she loves and this gelding needs a rider that will be his best friend because he is a one person kind of horse. Putting them together will heal them both and teach them to love again. Both my trainer and my mother had that same idea – Took and I would fit together because we could, because we should and for the betterment of both of us – we had to.
Instead, let’s ruminate on what happens when you put two very stubborn individuals together and tell them that despite their pain, they should work together and become a team. I can tell you what happens – battles, epic battles in the practice arena. Neither of us wanted to heal and neither wanted to yield to anyone, much less each other. We viewed each other as a stand-in for the individual we really loved, the one we missed. We didn't want to be better or fixed or together or loved. We wanted our previous lives or we wanted to be left alone.
Our battles continued for a few months. Finally, it was suggested to me by my mother and my trainer that I take Took on an annual trail ride with my friends. I was convinced they wanted me dead. (I don’t know why adults think teens are dramatic???) But being stubborn, I agreed. When “that Morgan” and I battled on the trail and I ended up dead, that would really show them! That day Took was adventurous and energetic and safe as a kitten. He picked his way through creeks and boldly covered ground, easily catching up to the crowd or hanging back and relaxing in the scenery, depending on what I asked of him. As the sun was setting that day, my mother drove into the camp grounds expecting to pick up her sullen daughter and angry Morgan. Instead she was greeted by a smiling, sweaty teenager and a bright eyed, puffed up gelding.  That was the beginning of 18 years of the best friendship I’ll ever have. He’s the reason I fell in love with the Morgan breed. He became my inspiration for creating a soft place for older Morgans to land. Tantius Farm is currently home to eight Morgan horses, two old Quarter Horses and one Anglo Arab.
I lost Took eight years ago this November but I see pieces of him in each of my residents. He makes his way into my stories as a war horse and best friend.  He still runs through my dreams and why wouldn't he? It was on his back that my journey in life really began.


  1. Gorgeous horses and what a great story. I've had the privilege of working with several Morgans while working at a summer camp in NH, and they are wonderful horses. We have a few in New Zealand who have been very successful in all disciplines, including show jumping, eventing, dressage and show hunters - and that's only the ones that I know! I always have half an eye out for one myself....

  2. Kate, this is amazing. I see in your bio that you went to Roads End Farm in NH. My daughter, Kim, above and I am part of a group called Forever Morgans Rescue, a non profit organization. Back around 2006 and 07, Forever Morgans rescued 3 morgan horses that were adopted by Tom at Roads End Farm. First was Tie Creek Rainier, the next two were Coachman's Encore and Ali(a morgan arab cross). Tom was great to work with and we kthey all would have a great home