Woman of the West

The soul of a horse is kind, gentle, and free-spirited. Being surrounded by horses from a young age has taught me some of the most valuable life lessons that have shaped me into the person I am today, and more specifically, this was all learnt from my “heart horse.”

Now, for anyone who isn’t quite sure what a heart horse is, this phrase was coined by the equine community to describe your once-in-a-lifetime horse, best defined as a four-legged soulmate. And from my personal experience, I was introduced to my heart horse at the ripe age of eight years old. 

Growing up on a Quarter horse ranch, I learned the fundamentals of horsemanship as early on as I can remember. My grandpa Denny instilled in me the respect and awareness needed to be applied when working with and around horses. 

There was a lot more to being involved in the equine industry than just throwing on a saddle and going for a ride. Chores needed to be done, tack needed to be maintained, horses needed to be tended to, and once those tasks were completed, riding would come into play. 

My grandpa Denny introduced me to the sport of reining, and I remember watching reining horse trainers in our arena ride with such grace and ease as if the horse was floating across the sand and each movement flowed into the next. It was mesmerising.

To this day, I still remember the first time I had ever sat on my heart horse, Marty. I was grinning ear to ear as I sat tall and proud on top of this (what I thought was massive, however, he was only 14 hands high) reining horse that my grandpa had recently purchased.

Not long after this, I began taking lessons and training for reining shows where I would compete riding Marty, and our bond was undeniable. We were in sync with one another, with each movement being one. 

Chelsey Becker and Marty at a reining show in 2011.

As I grew to love this horse more and more, we began to challenge ourselves each day, building a trust where I could complete a reining pattern by dropping the reins and only using leg pressure to signal him on what our next step would be.  

Time seemed to go by faster than I could have imagined. Before I knew it, I was graduating high school and moving on to creating a future for myself, ultimately shifting my focus away from spending time in the saddle. My attention was pulled in different directions, and Marty lacked the time and energy he truly deserved, as his potential and skills were being dissipated. At this point, we had come to the hard realization that he deserved to go to someone who could allow him to shine bright, being the talented horse he was. 

This broke my heart. I remember feeling a sense of loss even though I knew this was in the best interest of all parties involved; however, I still was left feeling so empty and regretful.

Bittersweet moments such as this have taught me one thing — not to take anything in your life for granted and to always recognize and appreciate the opportunities and time you have to spend with your four-legged friends. 

The impact this horse has had on my life will forever be held close to my heart, and I am grateful for the lessons of trust, love, and loyalty he taught me.

“Plains, automobiles, trains, they are great. But when it comes to getting the heart going, they can’t touch a horse.”

-John Wayne
View from the saddle.

Photos and story by Chelsey Becker