What calling do you feel led to do?
Sometimes, we need to “go for it” with “callings” when “feeling” and “thinking” makes us cautious.
This article also is about doing something more meaningful than logical–traveling across the USA and back 5,000 miles to bring home a horse.
<= Star of the Bar in the Inland Northwest on a memorable ride. This is one of my favorite photos of her–she showed again she is an athlete and servant.
For two years I lived in Washington State during which I was “adopted” by three horses. Star of the Bar, American Patriot (Anakus Flynn), and Indian Legend were my herd. Each came from different starts and had their own stories.
A new purpose
Two years later while preparing to return home to Alabama, a family requested Star to fill a need for their family, especially two young girls. The mother of the girls, ages eight and ten, had died.
Loving grandparents Hap and Dewey wanted another horse so they and their granddaughters could enjoy horsemanship together. Their son, a police officer, had long shifts at work, so the girls would spend lots of days with their grandparents.
Star was called to a purpose: to help these girls have more positive purpose as they healed from the loss of their mother and grew into young ladies.
It was hard to leave Star behind in Washington because I am not a horse trader; I intend to love ’em for life. When I heard their story, I agreed to meet the family, questioning if it was more important for Star to be with their family than to be one of three horses for me, even though I had privately hoped to share her with someone special.
When the grandparents and girls came to meet Star, she became extra gentle as if she knew she should protect them. They arrived early as I was about to put a bridle and saddle on Star so in the moment I trusted her and mounted without a saddle so we could greet the girls at the gate. Thinking to myself, “this could be either beautiful or ugly,” Star carried me safely across the corral to the smiles of the girls and the misty eyes of their grandparents. We all sensed Star would be safe with the girls. I finally started to feel I should let her go. When I delivered Star to their farm, they promised to call me if anything changed.
They kept their promise. Five years later, Hap called. She told me, Dewey (granddad) had contracted Parkinson’s Disease. Star was loved though the extra horse without purpose could become more burden than blessing.
Calling over Convenience
They could have found Star a place to go in Washington much faster than waiting for me to make the trip. Yet, they cared so much about Star they worried about where she might end up because some horses, even good ones, get sold for slaughter across the border.
In 2015, after six years apart, Star came home to be with her herd. The 5,000 miles of travel to prepare, get there, and return home was one of the most inspiring and hardest experiences I remember. It was worth it.
What tough choice should you make that could enrich life for you and/or others?
The process of deciding if to invest weeks of time and thousands of dollars preparing and 10 days traveling cross-country to get a horse forced me to face my callings and values—especially when horses can be adopted in my zip code. This experience deepened my beliefs about when we sometimes need to “go for it” in life even if options may not seem “logical.” Lots of people advised, “just get a horse here” or “let them find her a home.”
People who understand the meaning of “animal family” may be the only only ones who see the logic of acting on emotion to “do the harder right” when a loved animal is at stake. After going for Star became a “resolution,” she helped me learn we can do most things needed if we internalize commitment and use inspiration to help us gain “freedom” from doubts through planning, massive action, and persistence.
Late fall and winter can bring treacherous driving conditions, especially for a truck pulling a horse on a trailer through the mountain gaps of Washington and Idaho. Hap and Dewey patiently offered to keep feeding Star through the winter. They gave me time and encouragement to decide how I could travel cross-country to get her after April 15, which included getting ahead with work and arranging care for horses, donkeys, and cats staying at home. As time approached for me to leave, a person near them offered to purchase Star before I could get there, yet they kept their word to me.
People tend to treat others like they treat animals. If you find people who honor animals beyond what is legal, you typically found caring people you can trust.
Hap and Dewey reminded me of why I have come to believe people who treat animals well usually are trustworthy to treat people well, even when it’s “legal” to do otherwise. Doing “the harder right” (a term used shared by Colonel Dunn as used at West Point) comes to mind to support keeping promises after it becomes easier or more profitable to do wrong.
Mid-April seemed like a safe time to travel avoiding snow. Yet, when I arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming April 17, I found most roads closed and 10 inches of snow expected over night. For this Southerner, I had not even thought to plan for snow in latter April.
My recently rescued dog, Cowgirl, and I followed routes recommended by Google Maps and MapQuest from Alabama through Tennessee, then northwest through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to Washington. On the way back, we drove slower, averaging only 45 miles per hour, to keep Star safe in case of trailer tire blow out or other problems.
Reunion after Six Years
Star remembered me when we reunited in Northern Washington, offering a special moment after a long journey to get there. She walked past me and turned around to look again as if she was thinking, “I know you.” She came to me.
Arriving on Saturday, we had one day to help Star get comfortable with the trailer and start the process of weaning to leave her place of comfort. Some people just force horses to load with ropes and whips though with a little planning and patience, loading and traveling can be a long-term training opportunity that builds trust instead of a dramatic experience to overcome later.
Upon arrival, we backed the trailer into the round pen, opened the doors, and put Star’s feed in there. She had a chance to decide on her own to get on the trailer to eat and then get back off, learning she did not need to be afraid. She had not been on a trailer in six years.
The next day, we did more trust building training and started practicing her following my lead plus loading on and off multiple times. Star put up quite a fuss at first about getting on the trailer though after she did a few times and settled in, she acted calm.
Even so, I admit, my prayer life got an enriched workout on this trip. On the first hour of her on the trailer, I drove 30 miles an hour in case she decided to kick out the back gate on the old trailer. I tried to be a good cowboy “whispering” and serenading her with “Amazing Grace” and song verses I made up about her. It likely was more stress relieving for me than for her! To understand the feelings, consider your fatigue after napping in the back seat of a truck for five nights with your dog while “making time” to get there.
To help Star like the trailer (and want to stay there when driving), Star got lots of extra “TLC” with hay, water, and hand-picked grass at highway rest areas each hour. It took longer to get home stopping so often, though she was reasonably rested and happy when we arrived instead of stressed and possibly sick after the longest trip of her life.
Our return route was more rural and added South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Arkansas. We learned more of “horse hotels” as well as community parks and fairgrounds with corrals (in several towns, we found rodeo arenas next to soccer fields). We got to spend one night at the 7th Ranch (next to “Custer’s Last Stand of the 7th Cavalry” battlefield). Horses are herd animals and if left alone have been known to jump fences looking for company at great risk to their safety. Cowgirl and I camped out most nights in the truck within arenas with Star, and she stayed reasonably calm.
Indian Legend (Paint, center) was only one year old when he last saw Star (Quarter Horse). Then, she was his adopted mare after his birth mare was taken from him. Even though he is now the largest horse of the three, he immediately went to her and began following her around. If neighboring horses get close to her at the fence, he steps in to protect her—as does American Patriot (aka Anakus Flynn, Morgan Horse). Kyle Crider took photographs to help capture the reunion of Star with Patriot and Indy in Alabama. After six years, they lnew each other. My human family members came to the reunion.
Most horses deserve to be honored though this one certainly does. She is family. The term “animal family” is true. She has done most everything asked of her, including changing homes and families, to serve a purpose. I knew those little girls and their family needed Star, though part of me felt regret for leaving her behind. I am grateful to Hap and Dewey for keeping their word and giving me a chance to bring her home. Star staying made it easier for two horses to travel cross country and get set up—now the time is right for her to return as queen of the herd.
Was it worth the time, money, and energy to travel 5,000 miles to get Star? Yes, I feel blessed and peaceful with the decision and effort.
Was it worth redefining balance? To make the trip work and keep promises, I decided to work on projects early morning before travel and at night after travel and chores (thanks to mobile Internet, I worked on meetings, responded to requests, and more from my mobile office, my truck.
Was it worth giving up comforts for a while? Absolutely. Most people could reduce time for TV and increase time for relationships and reading with valuable results.
Now, Star’s purpose is with her herd, Life Leaders, and others she can serve and add joy. Part of my calling is taking care of her, the herd, and other animals. If we earn their trust, horses are a great source of joy as well as fitness and sport. Riding is a bonus—daily interactions, walks, runs, and play are well worth it. Like people, animals are happier if they have purpose. Adopt one or more if you can.
Sometimes, we need to “go for it” with our “callings” and “feelings” and make our “thinking” become “logical.” I returned mentally tougher and inspired to make the decision good through greater inspiration, productivity, and service.
Personal considerations: The first full day of travel was my birthday—turning “62” and not taking a vacation in years, I thought of getting Star as a birthday gift to self—to go for it and not “play it safe” in older years. Other April birthday remembrances that encouraged me to “go for it” were Pa, my grandfather, who died before his 70th birthday. Co-founder of Life Leaders Johnny Johnson died at 55 years old. Bucket list goals can inspire. The first full day of returning home was Star’s birthday, April 20.
About the Author
Dr. David Dyson is founder and director of Life Leaders Institute (aka Life Leaders America), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization based in Central Alabama. Life Leaders helps students, professionals, and teams develop plans for school and life, learn best-self leadership, and do public service projects to advance communities and citizens as they exercise their freedoms to pursue callings. He is a part-time “weekend warrior” caring for animals–mainly horses and donkeys, dogs and cats–and farming fruits and vegetables.
To see more photos from Star’s journey home: Life Leaders Institute Farm and Ranch page.
You are invited to learn more of Life Leaders Ranch or support care for a growing number of animals needing homes of care, safety, and purpose or help us serve patriotic events with horses.