Today, July 15, is National I Love Horses Day! Horses have been closely linked to humans for years due to their versatility and agreeableness. Whether they are working or providing companionship, horses are eager to help. In honor of this annual celebration of these reliable animals, let’s hear from some of our TDS associates about their horses.
Gail, a TDS state government affairs manager, has loved horses her whole life. At the age of 14, Gail saved up all her money and bought her first horse, Buffy, for $175. “I would go everywhere with her,” Gail said. “She kept me out of trouble!”
Since then, Gail has owned and cared for seven horses. Gail now owns Lizzie, a 19-year-old paint horse. Over the 15 years that Gail has owned Lizzie, the two have developed a close bond. Consequently, Gail has had the pleasure of getting to know Lizzie’s personality. “Lizzie is a very deep thinker; she moves kind of slow but is still very intelligent,” she said. “You just have to let her think through things.”
Although Gail thoroughly enjoys taking Lizzie to clinics and lessons, she is mindful of the fact that Lizzie is getting older. Currently, Gail only walks and rides Lizzie, but she hopes to soon get involved in equine therapy. This type of therapy is used to support people’s physical and mental well-being through a variety of activities with horses. Moreover, it teaches people patience, humility, and responsibility. “There is so much to be gained from spending time with horses,” Gail said. “They’re good for the soul.”
Gail knows firsthand how beneficial horses can be for one’s happiness. “My husband would always say, ‘Gail has a very stressful job, and you can see all the stress on her face when she leaves for the barn. When she comes back, she might have dirt on her face or hay in her hair, but the stress is all gone.’”
For as long as he can remember, Jim, a TDS network specialist, has had an affinity for horses. Although Jim and his wife have owned 10 horses over the years, the pair now own two—Fred, a 20-year-old paint horse, and Gwen, a 15-year-old sorrel horse. Both mares, Fred and Gwen are working horses, meaning Jim uses them to cut, herd, pen, and sort cattle.
In his younger years, Jim participated in rodeos—riding bulls, bucking horses, and roping steers. Jim traveled with the Army rodeo team for the Military Rodeo Cowboy Association in the late 1980s. Even after his time in the Army, Jim continued to participate in rodeos. “It was an all-consuming thing,” Jim said. “The adrenaline rush felt good, and the camaraderie I felt on the road helped me when I left the service.”
Starting in 1998, Jim trained horses as his sole source of income for about 10 years. Once the recession hit, fewer people could send their horses to training sessions, so Jim pursued other work. Today, Jim primarily hosts clinics and judges horse shows on the side. Jim takes pride in knowing that, through dedication and patience, he can train an unruly horse. “It’s really special to take a horse that has had minimal handling and give them a job, or teach them how to do something,” Jim said.
Jim’s favorite part about training horses is admiring how joyful his clients are when their horses perform well. “It’s great watching people achieve these milestones with their horses,” he said. “I feel good knowing that I had a part in that.”
When Katy, an associate manager of central marketing for TDS, was just 6 years old, she knew her relationship with horses was special. “I have always felt that with horses, you can build a stronger and deeper connection because you go through so many challenges with them,” she said. “They can buck you off and hurt you, but they will always be there for you when you need them.”
Katy currently owns two horses, Sunflower (Sunny), an 18-year-old paint pony, and her baby Saffron (Ronny), an 8-year-old bay horse. When Katy was 10, she rescued an abused and malnourished Sunny from a dog kennel in Enoch, Utah. Although Katy rehabilitated Sunny, the challenges did not end there.
Sunny has a rare genetic condition that causes her the inability to process sugar, which, in turn, eats away at her muscles. One winter, Sunny’s health started to quickly deteriorate to the point where a good quality of life would be near impossible. Katy made the painful decision to have a vet put her to rest, but when the vet performed his final examination, he felt they should wait. Thankfully, after that visit, Sunny made a full recovery, earning her the nickname “Little Miss Miracles Sunflower.”
Between monitoring Sunny’s health and raising Ronny, Katy had her work cut out for her. “I am probably the most responsible person you will ever meet, and it’s all because of my horses,” she said. “You learn a lot about respecting and understanding the animal.”
Despite the many hardships the trio has faced, the friendship between Katy, Sunny and Ronny is irreplaceable. “Horses truly have a healing presence in my life,” she said. “When you have that kind of connection with an animal that could hurt you if they wanted, but you still fully trust them with your life, there is nothing more powerful.”
A lifetime horse lover, Kristi, director of content management for TDS, learned how to ride a horse before a bike. Growing up on a farm, Kristi was constantly surrounded by horses. Today, Kristi owns five horses: Quincy, a 25-year-old sorrel quarter horse, an 18-year-old red dun quarter horse named Jack, a 5-year-old buckskin rocky mountain horse named Ray, a 4-year-old bay quarter horse named Smartie, and a 2-year-old bay roan appendix horse named Dax.
Each of her horses has a distinct personality. “Quincy is the lead—he’s definitely the herd boss. Jack is the first horse to meet me at the gate with this friendly whinny. Ray is a bit more elusive; I earn his trust by teaching him how to react calmly and patiently, but once he learns something, he retains it. Smartie has an outstanding temperament and athleticism, making him easier to train. Dax, like many 2-year-olds, is curious. He appears to be a good problem solver and a fast mover, which serves him well as the older horses establish a herd hierarchy,” Kristi said.
Kristi enjoys taking her herd, as she lovingly calls them, trail riding with her husband, Bob. “For five years, my husband rode in some of the most beautiful and rugged areas of our country with our two horses,” Kristi said. Some of the duo’s favorite places to ride are in the mountains of Colorado, the Dakotas, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
Needing to retire Quincy in 2020, Kristi and Bob decided to add more horses to their herd with the stamina for riding in the mountains. Because of the pandemic, the horse market exploded, and it was difficult to find trained horses at reasonable prices, so the two decided to take on training young horses. “I feel like I have learned a lot about leadership and patience from horses,” Kristi said. “When you’re training a horse, you’re teaching them to have confidence in you, as their leader, to do what you ask even when their instinct is to run from or avoid obstacles. It takes time to develop trust with a horse, but when you finally have that trust, you have a lifelong partnership.”
By Emma Maring, TDS Communications Intern