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 Ancestry.com 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.