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Leaving the Stall Door and Your Heart Open: The Rest of the Story

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New horse, new hope, new healing

After Tragedy, Leaving the Stall Door Open…

Six months ago I wrote a blog post entitled After Tragedy, Leaving the Stall Door and Your Heart Open about facing the loss of a “heart horse” without closing up, giving up, or shutting down. The post touched thousands of readers who were grieving, suffering loss, and experiencing guilt over trying to “replace” their beloved horse. I’m here again now to tell you if you keep your heart open it is amazing what can happen. Let me share with you what I consider the magical story of how I ended up with a most amazing horse, despite incredible odds.

I will state outright that I’m not saying a new horse will never take the place of one you lost. Never. But if you keep your heart open, something new happens. As you fill the void and build memories with a new partner, you can look back on the old ones with less pain. Your mind starts to plan into the future instead of wandering around lost in the past. Grief plays strange tricks on us. Sometimes we feel “unfaithful” if we go on and love another too soon or too much. Sometimes we continue to guard our hearts, fearing they’ll break again. Our hearts are not built to be tucked away behind stone barricades, so sometimes those barricades have to be blasted down. Often in unexpected ways.

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The door is open.

The Horse I Wasn’t Expecting

I want to share a magical story. Why do I call it magical? Because every step of the way something unusual happened in order to clear the path towards me partnering with another horse. You may not see it as magical at first glance and I didn’t either until I looked back. Sometimes going down the road of life we can’t read the signs until we turn around and look at where we’ve been. At the start of this journey, only a few months earlier, I had suddenly lost my

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My beautiful mare, Dressed for Tea, looking into the distance.

“heart horse,” Dressed for Tea, to a severe bout of laminitis. I thought I was done with horses, or least was settled in for a long break from owning one. I was tapped out emotionally as well as financially. But the universe had something else in mind for me.

Never Browse Horse Classifieds Unless You’re Prepared…

Like many horse lovers, I have been known to peruse the “horses for sale” pictures and ads just out of curiosity. At my peril. One day I ran across a chestnut mare who caught my eye. I kept going back to look at her and couldn’t get her out of my mind. She was too expensive for me, but I sent her video to my trainer for her input. She encouraged me to go try her, but I did not want to waste the owner’s time as a “tire kicker” if I knew I would not be able to buy her. I tried to put her out of my mind. About a month later, I checked back and not only had her price come down a bit, there was an added note: ” sale or lease.” Aha, the first nudge. You see, I could reasonably afford to lease a horse. So off we go, my trainer in tow, to see the mare.

She’s Not at All Like My Old Horse

The mare, Lucida, was bigger, stronger, more forward, and much more sensitive than what I was used to. Okay, I admit, she was a bit intimidating. When I tried her out, I hadn’t ridden for months and was used to my last little mare who had small gaits and needed a push. But, this red mare, Lucida, was a lovely mover, had a sensible and forgiving nature, and would undoubtedly teach me a lot. I could have walked away and told myself she was “too much horse for me” and lived with that excuse except for one thing. My trainer said something that kept looping through my brain: she essentially told me I could step up and work hard, conquer my anxiety, I could have a really nice horse to ride. (Side note: My thanks to a great trainer, Ashley Kennedy of Kennedy Dressage, who knows when to softly encourage and when to kick my butt.) Otherwise… The alternative was walking away and never finding out. I took a deep breath and made arrangements to lease her for two months. In that time, I’m not ashamed to admit we started on a longe line and the basics and worked towards a better partnership. All the while, this horse just got better and better and I learned so much.

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Lucida Arrives for a Two-Month Lease

Who Buys the First and Only Horse They Try?

The end of the lease came and I was offered the chance to buy Lucida. Her price, though very fair for such a nice horse, was a stretch. I had picked up two part time jobs over the winter lease period to help with expenses, but I still had to negotiate a payment plan if I were to buy her. The owner was a wonderful gal who was willing to work with me, so the decision was in my court. I went ahead and had a Pre-purchase Exam (PPE) done and a tentative payment plan negotiated. I had some misgivings about stressing our family budget for my horse habit so soon on the heels of chocking up big vet bills and cremation costs as a result of Tea’s final illness. To my surprise, however, the PPE did not yield the expected results. Lucida demonstrated some problems on a flex test that caused concern and threw me into another decision anxiety vortex. Should I take a chance? Will she hold up or have one problem after another? How much will her maintenance cost? In the end, I decided with my heart. I just could not imagine “giving her back” so we negotiated a lower price that would reflect what special supplemental veterinary needs she may require. Another nudge. It was a price I could pay outright and she would be mine. Was it a wise decision? Time will tell. But I will say now that I enjoy her every day that I can without reservation.

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Happy Purchase Day! Lucida is my horse.

So Where’s the Magic?

I believe in a God-directed world. Others may not and that’s okay. Chock it up to coincidence, luck, synchronicity, or nothing at all–but I feel that Lucida was a miraculous gift dropped into my life at a time when I needed it most. Why had this beautiful, talented, and very sane mare not sold for all the time she was for sale before I found her? Why did all those pieces fall into place at the right time, pushing me towards buying her? How is it that I “went with my gut” when making the decision instead of my usual over-intellectualizing every factor with analysis paralysis? I think it is because I left the stall door open and she was the horse meant to walk through it.

Thanks for listening. 




  1. I, too, also believe God works things for the good of those who believe in Him, and that opening our hearts to love again is both painful and healing. Our new rescue dog will never replace the one we lost, but he is worthy of love and brings us joy. My mare has challenged me to up my horsemanship and the result is a growing and delightful relationship

    1. Susan, thanks so much for writing and sharing your experience. It validates the idea of keeping love alive and believing in Good.

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