Stories Horses Have Told My Cousin

Although I have been working on and off for years on a family history and photograph project, I don’t bring it up too terribly often over here. I have collected antique and vintage family photos from many branches of my family–once I showed an interest to my grandparents years ago, the whole family has been directing heirlooms my way. It’s very time-consuming, and I’ve had to do a lot of genealogical research to put information in order.

Through my family history blog, The Family Kalamazoo, and I’ve met (online mainly) soooo many people who have helped me. It’s astonishing. I now have friends in Europe, as well as the United States who are relatives, distant cousins, or related by “someone-somewhere’s” marriage. These are all such special people. And they all have fabulous stories.

I was introduced to my cousin Jeane by a genealogist friend who I met through The Family Kalamazoo. Her father and my father were first cousins, but they never met, to my knowledge. Her father was older than mine and the families had become more distant as years went on. I hope I can meet Jeane in person. She lives in the east, on a lovely horse farm (a post-retirement project), and loves–get this–animals and writing. She is also involved in animal rescue. 🙂

When Jeane was a girl she dreamed, as so many girls, of having her own horse. She imagined riding the horse and the bond they would have. But after she retired, and after years of dog rescue, she fell in love with a horse named Virgil that had been abused. Jeane had to board him as she had no place to keep him. Eventually, she and her husband got their own farm because of Virgil and other horses. Through him, Jeane began to learn how difficult the lives of horses can be. She also learned to place a high value on communication with horses.

Jeane has written a collection of short stories called Stories My Horses Have Told Me. The background of each horse that Jeane adopted is detailed in these stories. After adopting four rescues, Jeane tells us:


After five years of dreaming and searching, we arrived at our farm in the middle of June 2004 with four horses.  As each horse stepped off the trailer they were led to a stall and allowed to rest.  Each had hay and fresh water.  All were anticipating their first turn-out into their new fields.

Although the four horses all came from different families, they bonded immediately.  They were now a family.

What we didn’t realize is that our herd was not complete yet.  Star was waiting for us . . . .

We swore we would never buy a horse.  There are horses needing adoption or rescue and that was our focus – until Star.

Jeane has had a couple of wonderful horse whisperers helping her to communicate with her horses. One of them was able to communicate with Star.

Star talked about being cold.  She said she never wanted to be cold again.  We didn’t understand then that she was talking about her sale in January, being shaved, with no shelter or blanket in her new home.  That information came in a conversation with her previous owner.  I asked what time of year he bought her and under what circumstances.  Then I asked if she had been shaved.  When he said “yes,” I asked had he blanketed her.  “Lord no! She’s a horse.”

To sum up Star’s previous life:

What we know about Star’s previous life is that there had been seven owners in her short five years.  Her owners had not been kind, treating and riding her roughly. Her winter coat had been shaved off in January 2004 so she would present as sleek and shiny for a horse sale.  Her new owner didn’t have shelter and did not offer her a blanket to protect her from the sub-freezing temperatures, and she was cold.  She also endured being stabbed with a pitchfork, a broom handle broken over her head, and her halter used as a weapon to make her obey.  She had little patience, and no trust in humans.

There was more, much more, to Star then met the eye.  She was not a happy horse.  She was a loner, not wanting to interact with any of the herd.  Something about her made you feel so sad.  There was someone special she was searching for.

That someone special was not to be Jeane, but it’s a tribute to Jeane’s love for animals that she recognizes that every horse is different and with different needs. Star was determined to be a highly intelligent horse.

What an extraordinary horse.  But her trust in humans remained unchanged regardless of our efforts.  She would leave the barn as we entered, wanting as little contact as possible, but that didn’t happen the day a friend arrived for a visit.  Their eyes locked, Star walked up to her and life suddenly had purpose.  Michele is a professor at a university in Washington, DC.  Star sensed the intelligence – an equal.  The connection couldn’t be denied and Star soon went to live with Michele.


We don’t always have control over the destinies of our horses.  We always hope we are making the right decisions.  Often there are difficult choices, but if we learn to listen to them it will make their lives, and ours, better.  They are always talking – take the time to listen.

Michele is a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  From England, she now calls the US home.  An accomplished equestrian, along with many other talents, she continues to ride and train in dressage.  Michele and Star make an incredible team!

Heroes for the animals come in so many styles. Jeane’s has been to make her home a refuge for all manner of needy animals (including cats :)!). Obviously, I’m thrilled to find this cousin of mine and hope we get to meet before too long.



Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

59 responses to “Stories Horses Have Told My Cousin

  1. I love stories with happy endings!

  2. Oh Luanne, what a thrill for you to have made contact with Jeane through your ancestry research, and such a heartwarming read about her animal resue and beautiful Star. I love dressage, how wonderful for Star to find her safe, healthy and happy home with her English equal 🙂 xoxo

  3. Lovely! My granddaughter Emily, a horsewoman at age 14, would also appreciate Star’s story. Thanks for sharing your ancestry research. Sounds like you’re on a roll 🙂

    • Oh, Emily would no doubt love the “Cinderella story” of Star. The family history thing is a slow-moving long-standing project that began when I was a history grad student (yes, for a period of time I did that and then quit) years ago. What really fascinates me is the local aspect of the history–the “little people,” the details about life “back then” that are uncovered, and what is special to my material, IMO, is that my grandparents collected photographs of friends and neighbors (one and the same thing in those days) as well as family. Many of them lived in one neighborhood in Kalamazoo, and I am slowly piecing together an idea of what the neighborhood was like, house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood. It’s sort of like playing with a dollhouse where you create a village in the living room. Does that make sense? I sort of have a mental “toy village” that I am creating.

  4. Wow! It’s amazing how much you and Jeane are on the same wavelength! She truly is a “hero for animals.”

    • Jeane is a really special human being. I will never be able to help as many people and animals in my life as she has done. And she sort of shares a name with you . . . .

  5. It’s great that you have so much in common. I love the story of Star.

    • Andrea, I know–isn’t it wonderful that it turns out so well? I love that Star has been able to fulfill her abilities and the expectations she seemed to have of life.

  6. What a great post, Luanne! I hope you get to meet your cousin soon. You definitely seem like kindred spirits. 🙂

  7. It’s always nice to find a lost relative. I am searching for mine. I like the idea of a website dedicated to the family. No one in my immediate family has any interest in family history at this point so I am the only one scanning hundreds of old photos and trying to find out who some of them are. After several years I am about done with the photos. It has been a rewarding journey of memories. I have even found out more about my parents simply through this process. Since my Dad was a fanatic with slide film I have to now figure out how to scan his slides to my computer. I have seen some programs that do that but not quite sure which to use. I look forward to following your family site as well as this one.

    • Andy, thanks for checking out The Family Kalamazoo. There are quite a few blogs on WordPress by people posting family history as they collect it. What I’ve noticed over the last few years, though, is many don’t stick with the blog. There are some that do–and many that do it for at least a couple of years. Someday someone will thank you for scanning all those photos. Because we can digitize our photos and shared with many family members there is a greater chance that our photos will be saved with names attached than would have happened before we had this technology. I keep thinking that university archives should be tapping into the information that is being collected by individuals and create a connected highway of obtaining this information. I also have information I am collecting on neighbors of my family from the “old days,” and would love to share with their descendants but don’t know how to find them. Good luck to you in your project!!

      • A connected highway USA wonderful idea. I found a print copy someone put on the net of my great grandfathers bible and genealogy inside. It’s good information but I want to see the actual Bible. I found out the lady who transcribed it was a cousin but died in 1987. I contacted the library in the county where she lived. They sent me her obituary which list the names of her children. I hope to track one of them down and find out who has the Bible and go take pictures of it. I tell you this because the obituary of you families neighbors might reveal their descendants for you. I look forward to more on your blog. Thanks!

        • That’s a good point. What a wonderful find, though! I hope you can find it. My grandparents had one from Holland and I can’t figure out what happened to it. It had the family tree in it. Last time I saw it I was about 23. But I do have 2 Bibles brought from Holland by my great-great-grandmother’s brother-in-law. And a cousin in Holland as the Bible that belonged to our shared ancestor and sent me photographs. So exciting to see and so happy she still has it. She has the last name still (Mulder) and hopefully can leave it to her children who will care for it.

          • That’s so wonderful to even have photos of them. Do you think your children will be interested in keeping it going? I am in two memoir writing groups. We put out a small book of some of our memoirs this ear titled “In Case You Weren’t Listening…” It’s several of each of our memoirs. We titled that because we wished we had listened to our parents and grandparents when they were telling us their lives .

            • Oh, how I wish I had listened to more of the stories! And I am probably the only grandchild who DID listen at all sigh. What a great title! My children are adopted and while they do enjoy some of the family history because it all goes into who they are today as well, they are not “into” the immersion into either history or the early days of the family so I will be looking for more history-minded young people who will want the hopefully organized materials when I am ready to be done with it.

              • Well you have precious children. Perhaps as they grow they will want to know more. I chuckle with you at the, “…when I’m ready to be done with it.” I don’t think I’ll ever be done with mine.😃 Do you have a memory list to work from?

              • They are already pretty old 🙂 28 and 32 The older one is getting married this spring. Maybe after that he will get more interested!

  8. Beautiful coincidences! Lovely story.

  9. You simply have to meet her, Luanne. What a great story.

  10. I really hope you get to meet her, it sounds like you have a lot in common. This is a lovely story Luanne xxxx

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Dianne! Rags to riches for Star :). Eventually the gardener and I will get over to her part of the U.S.–and we will definitely be meeting! (Or Jeane–yoohoo!!!!–you’re welcome to come and stay with us in Arizona!!!) Have a good weekend . . . .

  11. If more people were like Joan, the world would be a better place.

  12. It’s amazing where this journey has taken you, Luanne

  13. What a lovely story!

  14. Wow, Luanne, how astonishing that you have so many similiarities to her! Love this post, though I am overly sensitive to stories about animals who have had a hard time. I so appreciate both the writer and animal lover in you!

  15. This is so beautifully told. Star is a star who needed to find her soul mate. I wish her previous bad owners could be fined and confined to a dirty stall for a week….

  16. Poor Star, it’s horrifying how some people behave towards other living creatures. I’m moved by Star’s story and pleased she finally find a happy home and owner.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! So horrifying. I am constantly asking myself what is wrong with “people.” Lucky Star to find Jeane who found her perfect human.

  17. Luanne, you have worked hard to connect your family’s ancestry, as well as finding out personal details to help tell their story. How amazing this is to meet Jeane while undertaking this family tree on, branch by branch. She sounds like a lovely, warm person who understands about animals, particularly horses. To have been able to match Michele with Star, she must have felt thrilled.
    So glad Star made a human friend in Jeane, and “chose” a caring owner and soul mate in the Georgetown professor! Thank you for sharing this fellow author and family member, both of you are destined to meet! <3

  18. Gee, I really feel like I need to look into some more. I have only the free account right now, but a friend of mine has a subscription and used it to great success in developing her family’s history. I have doubts about how far I can go because my family hasn’t done much to preserve their history, but you don’t know until you really try, right? And I love the story about Jeane and her horses, especially the happy ending with Star. I didn’t know horses could (and would) be shaved. Ugh, what people will do to animals just because they can. I’ve always been in awe of horses (and slightly afraid of them). They are such magnificent creatures.

  19. What a fascinating story, Luanne. It looks like Star and Michele were soul mates or at least meant to find each other. And you finding your cousin is so uplifting.

    • Carol, so happy to “see” you! Yes, they must be soul mates the way Star responded to Michelle! And I loved finding Jeane and can’t wait until we meet in person!

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