I grew up in Washington State part of a large family where we didn’t have extra funds to pay for sports teams or art lessons. Not the ideal financial setting for a horse-crazy 10 year old girl. When it came to horses, I couldn’t get enough! I read and re-read every book on horses in the local library. I sketched and painted and dreamed horses. And I would pepper horse owners with questions begging to know anything and everything about this world I was passionate about.
Years later looking back, I realized that my dear parents did all they could to foster and not kill my unfortunate obsession. My mother helped me sign up as a volunteer at a local farm where I got to assist with the pony rides and the care of the horses. She set up meetings with a family friend who owned horses where I got to watch my first shoeing of a horse and even ride a couple times! And she arranged for me to spend 3 weeks of my summer as a 15 year old with a friend’s family out of state so I could ride horses! I remember listening to her describe me to a friend, “Jenn is just like most girls who have their ‘horse-crazy’ phase. She just hasn’t managed to grow out of it!”
I never did grow out of it. I continued reading and learning where ever I could. I volunteered at the barn during summer camp, exercised horses for a local dressage trainer, and gave up my summers to work for pennies at a ranch in the mountains of Washington State so I could be around horses. The hours started racking up and at 16 I got the chance to train my first horse.
He was gentle and sweet but didn’t trust me much. I named him Denny because he looked like the famous horse from the movie “Man from Snowy River.” One of our first rides together I remember trying to convince Denny to cross a little puddle of water that had collected over the trail. In desperation I dismounted and walked through the puddle myself before my stubborn mount frantically jumped accross without getting a toe wet. Our relationship was fragile and I didn’t know what I was doing really. But I knew I wanted to be close. I wanted him to trust me.
We worked all summer and I came off a couple times when I asked for things that were beyond the trust of our current relationship. Towards the end of the summer I found out that Denny was being sold to a nice family who wanted a young horse for their daughter. I’ll never forget the last ride we had together. We cantered across fields and jumped ditches without hesitation. And when I turned him towards the lake, he ran in unflinchingly, even swimming a few yards when we lost the ‘trail’ across the lake. I got to experience what it feels like to have a relationship where another trusts you not to ask them to do anything that will hurt them, and I trust them not to do anything that will hurt me. I have been hunting that kind of connection with horses for the twenty-plus years since then.
Fast forward several years through a BS in Marriage, Family, and Humans Development as well as a MS in Family Relationships. I remember dreaming with my 15 year-old best friend on that ranch in Washington how cool it would be to help people with horses. That was the sweetest dream that I fostered and protected for years. Half way through my Masters degree, I took my pipe dream down off the shelf and started risking to make it happen.
In 2012, while still in the process of completing my Masters Thesis, I moved to Southern Arizona to be the Equine Director for Arivaca Boys Ranch, a residential treatment facility for teen boys. I will always be thankful to the management there who gave me ‘free rein’ to develop the program and experiment and grow myself in the process. I got to engage in over 7000 supervised clinical hours with clients and their horses. It was a gift to watch the courage of these young men as they overcame huge obstacles in their traumatic past and fought to build healthy relationships with their family and horses.
While developing my own relationship with my horse Dancer, I grew exponentially as we worked through our individual baggage and a shared trauma history of several ruptures to our relationship in 2015. Arizona was an amazing growth experience I will never forget. However, I wanted to have the chance to work more closely with other professionals in the Equine Therapy field. Professionals with years of experience that I could continue to learn and grow from.
So, in September of 2017, my two horses and I headed south to Georgetown, Texas and started a new life. I started a business (Pecan Creek Ranch) with two of the best professionals in the Equine Therapy industry, Rebecca Hubbard and Reccia Jobe. Together we are focused on transforming relationships, one connection at a time. And I am still that horse-crazy girl, building connection with every horse I encounter and loving every moment!