I always look forward to writing this New Years message as a way to process the year just past. I am inevitably amazed (and a bit overwhelmed) at just how MUCH a year can hold at Freedom Farm! And as always, I feel so grateful for this ongoing opportunity—also known as “my life”— to serve others through horsemanship—watching, advising, trusting and supporting our students, clients, boarders, and community.
So please bear with me as I try to put into words something of what 2017 has meant to me. What a year!
A few goodbyes. In 2017 we said some teary goodbyes to our old horse friends and teachers Toffee and William, and dear friend Jennifer Kirtcher. May they rest in peace. Longtime Farm hand Lester Hardy up and moved to Florida, where he is apparently way too relaxed and happy (apart from dealing with hurricanes, that is).
Lots of hellos. We also welcomed many new boarders and donated horses from all around the US. We’ve been glad to welcome wonderful new folks to the Farm (Lori, Michael, we’re lookin’ at you!). Some little tiny folks have appeared this year, too—new babies Cal (Dekker and Breanna) and Adi (Coach Kenny and Liz).
Jess. This year Jess helped a very troubled horse—a very, very troubled horse who few trainers would have taken on. You have heard the saying that ‘when the student is ready the teacher will appear’ and that was the case for Jess and Harmony. Jess’s ability to see into a horse and find a connection to nurture through thick and thin is truly stunning. Thanks to Harmony’s owner, Cheri Levy, for your belief, trust, and patience in Harmony and Jess. There are few trainers that could have saved Harmony, and I feel proud and fortunate to have Jessica Crouch on our team, helping our horsemanship community.
Jerry. 2017 started out pretty rough for Jerry Schmidt, as he recovered from a broken hip. But if you know Jerry, there is no way to stop him. Many thanks, Jerry, for the following:
- Sharing your vast knowledge and ability to teach our students in the art of hoof maintenance and trimming. Three excellent classes!
- Seeing to it that Freedom Farm has the best locally grown hay in our valley.
- New and rebuilt shelters, and also the fun riding obstacles that help us learn while we play with our horses (who also learn, of course).
- All the broken stuff that gets fixed daily, and for always making time to answer questions on the health of our horses’ feet and teeth.
Hoof Beats Team. In 2017, these young riders were a living testament to our philosophy of natural lifestyle and developing the horse/human connection on the ground and in the saddle. Every outing to important shows—in Washington and Oregon, and beyond—was a massive success. Each time the competitive bar was raised, our team rose to the occasion. I am so proud of them for how they supported each other and shared their knowledge with new, up and coming students. Ben, Gracie, Zavannah, Grace, Ellie, and Maddie—you all set a great example for future horsemen of how to put your relationship with your horse, and their well-being first. And besides all that, you are a pleasure to coach!
Hoof Beats Parents. Our students have the best possible support in horsemanship and in life from their parents. 2017 was no exception: Hoof Beats parents again went above and beyond, getting students to lessons and fundraising events, transporting horses, keeping healthy food available for meals and snacks—on top of the endless packing and unpacking for horse shows, and on occasion, sticking it out when trucks broke down (thanks John!) to make sure everyone was safe. Kimi Robertson and Jasmine Kettle put in extra time organizing some very successful fundraisers this year, with a lot of extra thought and care, and great support from everybody (and their extended families!). Hoof Beats parents, you are definitely the wind beneath your kids’ wings! Thank you, thank you!
International student Maya DeVogel was drawn to us from across the big water, all the way from the Netherlands, to learn about how our horses live, learn, and compete. While she was here, she shared her love for dressage, giving practice tests and encouraging students whenever she could, along with being indispensable in general. Maya also helped me get the ball rolling on a long-cherished dream of mine, to produce our own horse cards, featuring star Freedom Farm horses and their many wonderful qualities. We will continue to develop the cards as a way for our Hoof Beats team to fundraise for their horsemanship education. And we hope Maya will join us again in the future!
The Tulin Team is the ‘team inside the team’ and I so appreciate their support. Mary is the one who keeps you in touch with all we do here at Freedom Farm through the newsletter, website, Facebook page, blog, and more. Because I do not understand the tech world, Mary Tulin is a miracle worker. Her husband Kip is a very handy elf who does secret projects that no one else thinks of—they appear like magic, to everyone’s delight. It is Kip who is secretly adding obstacles to our play areas around the farm. He replaced that broken mirror in the arena, and entertained our youngsters and their families at events with his accordion playing. We are so thankful for all the Tulins do.
Farm Hands. Dusty Ahrens has really grown into the role of lead hand this year, taking ownership for chores and repairs getting done to a high standard, and keeping an eye out for details. Ready with ideas and to share a laugh, Dusty gets the job done. Jeremy Soderstrom has also grown quite a bit, stepping up to help with feeding and other tasks. And Thomas Gallagher is our very welcome go-to guy, filling in on weekends and holidays. Feeding our army of equines is a job that is essential for our horse’s well-being—day in, day out, rain or shine, and on holidays. Dusty, Jeremy, and Thomas, you are so appreciated. Everyone at Freedom Farm thanks you.
The Next Generation. We are lucky to have a crew of up and coming trainers and instructors at the Farm. Colton Crouch is well on his way to becoming a master colt starter with further interest in equine body work. Hannah Crouch is caring for the older horses’ special needs, as well as nurturing young riders as they begin their horsemanship journey. Grace Mitchell has set her sights on representing Freedom Farm as a balanced performance rider and competitor. All three are a daily asset as they help keep our horses in good shape and are a resource to our boarders. I am so proud and excited for this next generation of Freedom Farm horsemen.
Our Cool Library. In 2017 our library provided the perfect environment for holding classes and other Freedom Farm events. Our hoof care classes proved popular and helpful in our community and beyond, as horse owners from around the state came to learn how to care for and maintain their barefoot horses. As we move into 2018, we will expand the library to give our students access to great horsemanship from all over the world, through media memberships, video archives, and live streaming of national and international events.
The Freedom Farm Vision—Relationship, Lifestyle, Balanced Performance. We are known for bringing joy and meaning to life by helping our clients and students build better relationships with their horses. Our lifestyle embraces the horse’s natural way of life. Our balanced performance philosophy respects the horse’s intelligence, while as teachers we push the envelope on how we connect and communicate with these magnificent partners. In realizing this vision, we support growth, good health, and longevity in ourselves and our horses.
Well, that’s about it! 2017 was a full, incredible year. 2018 will carry on the good work and fun and be even better! This year we are looking forward to welcoming more great horsemen to Freedom Farm to share their wisdom. Please connect with us through our newsletter and/or Facebook to stay in touch!
We wish you a wise and wonderful New Year. Thank you for being a part of our world at Freedom Farm.