How Do You Identify Yourself?

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Is your dream part of your identity?  My dream is to become an accomplished equestrian.

The phrases horse lover, horseback rider, equestrian, horse owner have been part of my identity since I was a little girl.

This is partly why I can’t change my dream from what it is to having something to do with the LaCanada Rose Parade float (which was suggested to me at our last 8 Women Dream meeting).

But, it goes deeper than that.

Neptune's HorsesWhen I was about 14, my Mom finally gave in and bought me a horse.

His name was Tori.

I kept Tori at Eaton Canyon Stables and rode with Kathy Meyer.

Riding and hanging out with Tori got me through those difficult high school years.

Through all the moves and changes in my life, he was there with me.

When I moved to Northern California, I brought him.  When I went to college in Colorado, Tori came along too.  Then, when I was 25 and Tori was 20, he began to get sick.  All of a sudden, his legs would buckle and he would stumble and fall.

My wondeful vet couldn’t figure it out.

The experts at Colorado State University vet hospital couldn’t solve it.  My kind vet told me of what I knew in my heart – it was time to put him down.  I could no longer ride him.  It was becoming unsafe to even be around him because of the danger he posed in potentially falling on me.  It was getting harder for him to run around and play when he was turned out.

I was heartbroken.

My husband to be (our wedding was in a month) and I were moving back to California.  We were planning on buying a place where my horses could be at home.  I had been dreaming of going out and starting each day with Tori.  My life was going to be perfect; it was everything I had ever wanted.

Then suddenly, it wasn’t to be.

My vet told me there was no way Tori could make the long trip to California.  I spent countless hours sitting in the corner of his stall, crying.

I’m still crying as I write this now.  It’s like it was yesterday.

So, I made the hardest phone call of my life and set the date.  September 3.  I know it by heart.

I had Tori cremated.

His ashes are in the cupboard of my bedside table.  (Now you think I’m crazy, right?)  His picture is on my computer mouse pad.  But I can’t look at my photo album of him and our days at Eaton Canyon and the photos I took in the last month of his life.

I still feel him with me.  One evening, while standing quietly in my barn aisle, I felt him blow on my shoulder, just like he used to do.

When I look back over the past 12 years, I realize that I really haven’t ridden consistently (or well) since I lost Tori.  I’ve had two other horses (not counting Stormy, my dear retired horse), both of whom have deteriorated in their training under me.  I gave up and sold Smitty.

Now, I’ve been close to selling Nikki.

I know I have the skill to ride Nikki.  Tori and Kathy gave me that.  I feel like if I abandoned my dream of becoming an accomplished equestrian, I’d be giving up on Tori.

Is that silly?

But, also, “equestrian” has been part of my identity for too long to turn my back now.  Catherine gave us one year to accomplish our dream.  I have to stick with it at least that much longer.  I stated my goal of riding in 4 shows next season.  I have to put forth a concerted effort to make that happen.  Tori would have expected that.

So, while you’ll probably be hearing more about the Rose Parade float in my posts (especially when its raining and my arena is un-ride-able), with the support of 8 Women Dream and my beloved Tori from above, I’m going to go back to riding.

‘Til next week,


(Danelle left 8 Women Dream in March of 2010 and is still working  on her dream is to become an accomplished equestrian)

  • Kim, the traveler

    I’m so glad that you’re sticking with your initial dream. It must be something you really want. And you’ll get it! Thanks for sharing such a touching story.

  • Hi Danelle – Really beautifully written and touching – thanks for sharing the story of Tori, and a piece of your heart, with us. Since the story of Tori is also the story of you, and why your dream is so important to you…

    Love to see the photos someday and to meet Nikki too :)

    I’ll be cheering you on for those four shows next year, and just in doing more riding in general… It’s such a blessing really to get to live our our childhood dreams – not everyone does this. And we’re here as a team to support you in making it happen.

    Big hugs!

  • For Your Adornment

    I love this post, and thanks for sharing all that you are going through.

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  • Catherine

    Animals are like family and we feel honored that they trust us with their care. I remember how much my best friend changed when she was in junior high and her parents got divorced and sold her horse. She was never the same.
    I think she could have survived the divorce just fine if her father kept her horse for her. She ultimately ran away to live with someone else through high school. She was forever changed.

    Touching story my dear. I still want to meet that horse of yours – especially after seeing those photos.

    I used to watch my cousin compete in barrel racing. I loved those days spent with family watching her with her beloved horse. I am looking forward to watching you compete. I think about it every time I drive by the fairgrounds and see the women practicing in their equestrian suits on the back of amazing horses.

    I wave and say, “Hi Danelle.”


  • Remy G

    Danelle, There is something about the love and trust of and in an animal that of course isn’t crazy, that is, if you are an animal person. Some people don’t have marriages that last 20 years. Tori was with you thru important times in your life and became a part of how you defined yourself…so its totally understandable that a part of you would ‘die’ with him. You could have been safer, I guess, to not invest so much emotionally but what for? I admire you for pushing thru even when its hard, and when the time is right, you will ride and train and compete – 2010 will be yours! And geez, good luck with the float! what a project! Rem

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