Dakota is my 14-year-old mustang who is one of the most amazing mustangs I have ever met. She came from the Rocky Hills HMA in Battle Mountain, Nevada.
She has the most amazing heart and soul, she connects with me fully and deeply as long as I am in the present moment with her and connect with her through my heart and soul.
I first saw this mare at a facility I was working at in 2017. I didn't pay attention to her, because I knew she was there for some training and was for sale.
Me having a huge soft spot in my heart for mustangs, knew it was best if I just didn't get to know her. Every time I would walk by her stall, she would come stick her head out in the aisle way and watch me walk by.
Finally one day, for some reason, I stopped walked over to her and said: "so who are you big girl?" She laid her chin on my shoulder in a way that our eyes were about 1" away from each other and when our eyes met, we saw deep into each other’s souls.
It took my breath away and we just stayed there connected like that for about 5 minutes. It was at that moment, I knew I would be adopting her and she would become a member of our nonprofit's mustang ambassador team.
Well, it didn't take long after she joined our team that I realized she did not want to be a public figure, she needed a person to call her own.
In 2018 I gave her to a young student of mine who together they found a unique friendship. They helped each other to grow in ways that each needed at that time.
In 2020 Dakota came back to me at a time when I was having to retire my main partner prematurely and was heartbroken. Dakota was heartbroken too, she had bonded with this young girl.
Well God always has a plan that we often don’t understand.
When she came back to me, it was clear she was depressed and had shut down due to physical discomfort that had been ignored.
I focused on figuring out why this mare had started bolting under saddle, resisting going into an arena and did not want to be caught.
It took a few months of continuous body work before she started to come out of her shell. During that time, I was spending a great deal of time with her.
I was planning on rehoming her once she was feeling better. However, Dakota and I were beginning to create a deep bond.
I realized one afternoon while we were just hanging out and she was grazing, that she and I were meant to become each other’s new partners.
She was helping me to see light and hope after RC. I was helping her to open her heart and trust that she truly had found her forever person in me.
This mare was giving me more and more of herself every day. Each time we rode she opened up more to becoming my partner and was beginning to really find comfort in that role.
We spent that fall doing as much trail riding as we could. She had not done any prior to our reuniting, so it was a new experience for her. She loved it and has a level of endurance I have not had in any other horse.
I teach trail riding lessons to clients and it was amazing to see this strong and courageous mare take the lead. It’s as though she knew the other horses were lacking confidence and I could feel her become the leader for them.
In the beginning of 2021, I created my Pathway to True Unity online horsemanship course. Dakota did a great deal of the training videos with me. It was a unique experience to be teaching her while I was filming. It provides my students the opportunity to see the process of teaching the horse and learning what to do when the horse is confused and needs more guidance.
During the summer she was my assistant during the horsemanship clinics I taught and again she just seemed to know what her job was. She is so good at being a mentor and a teacher for the people and horses we work and ride with.
I recently joined the Douglas County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse and was excited to share this new adventure with Dakota.
Our first event we went to was a sensory clinic. This is where there are a lot of different obstacles in a large arena.
There were flags, gates, water crossings, obstacles with drapes hanging down to go through, baby strollers, people with umbrellas, a police car with sirens and lights. An array of noises over the PA system.
Well to say that Dakota was on sensory overload is an understatement. She was so worried and needed to move her feet constantly. That was fine as long as she moved them in the direction I asked her to and stayed with me, the best she could mentally and emotionally.
I was so proud of her; she had never ever experienced anything like this and she gave me all she had.
The next Posse training we went to was with a dozen other members with their horses. She was more relaxed but still very alert and a bit apprehensive. We took it slow, starting on the ground exploring all of the obstacles and then I rode her.
The obstacles we train with are those things that we may encounter if we are out riding in open areas helping with large animal rescues. Or things that we may come across when doing public events for the Sheriff.
There are strollers, umbrellas, tarps, cones, gates, flags that each horse needs to be able to carry or ride next to, bull horn with siren sounds. She did really good and stayed with me as my partner the entire time.
What I realized that day is Dakota was not having fun. She does not enjoy public events or high levels of activity. She prefers to hit the trail and spend quality time with me exploring wide open spaces.
Dakota is a mustang who has a presence that draws you in. She has the ability to make you feel at ease and focused in the present moment. When in the company of this majestic mare, looking into her eyes, you get a glimpse into your soul.
She is what I call my Soul horse, she helps me to be in the present moment and be authentic. I promised her on that day that I would not ask her to be my posse partner .
I adore this beautiful mustang and am amazed at the level of trust that we have gained in each other in such a short period. She will be my trail riding partner; my clinic assistant and I know that in time she will even begin to do equine assisted learning work with me.
She is such a blessing and I am so incredibly grateful that God brought her back into my life.
She still lays her chin on my shoulder and we look into each other’s eyes and connect with our Souls. In those moments we both feel as though we are truly home.
I do not believe that all horses are meant to or want to do everything we humans decide we want to do with them.
I see so many horses being forced to do things they are not meant to do or even want to do.
You can see it in their eyes, they begin to experience medical issues or displaced behavior as a result of being unhappy, trying to cope while not being heard.
My horsemanship approach is one of first building a solid relationship of trust, connection and communication. Then we can create a partnership where we are moving through all that we do as one.
It is one of the most incredible things to witness a horse for the first time turn to you and ask a question. After that they begin to problem solve with you, searching for what it is you are asking them to do.
They are becoming your partner and they love it; they are excited to see you and greet you at the gate, ready and eager for whatever you have in mind for the day.
Horses are very large thinking, feeling prey animals that need to feel safe above all else. When we take the time to prove to them, we are leaders worthy of following, we will have the most incredible partner we could ever hope for.
Dakota continues to teach me so much about relationships, partnership, horses and how to be a leader worthy of her trust.
It is my hope for horses, that more and more people want to learn how to be all they can be for their horses.
Instead of always expecting the horse to show up for them, can we show up for our horses?
It begins with the desire to be the best you can be with horses while allowing your horse to be the one you seek approval from.