“That Is One Incredible Horse”

by Parelli Central on July 13, 2012

Parelli student Kathy Peterson sent us this inspiring blog. Take it away, Kathy!

As I knelt down to meet the smiling face beaming at the big paint mare standing behind me, I could feel Kiowa softly step forward and lower her head. The boy was very disabled, but determined to pet her soft muzzle. As he reached for her, I smiled and looked on with pride as he happily held her nostrils in his hands, all the while another group of children painted her body and hind legs from both sides, and my sweet girl never faltered. He glowed from his wheelchair while he interacted with her and signed “thank you” and “love” to her afterwards. As his mom was explaining to him that it was time to be done, he began to cry and sign “ride.” My eyes began to well up with tears. I would have loved to spend the next hour with just that boy and let him ride her…..he made my day.

This was just one of many incredible moments I had the privilege of being a part of at the 2012 Special Kids’ Rodeo, presented by the Reno Rodeo Foundation, on Sunday, June 17th. The Special Kids’ Rodeo is one of the most popular events at the Reno Rodeo and had a record 135 entries this year. Open to children and young adults under the age of 18 with physical and mental “exceptionalities,” this annual event is a fun way for children to experience the cowboy way of life first hand. Participants enjoy riding a “mechanical” bull or “bucking” horse (made from straw bales and operated by volunteers), roping steer dummies, meeting therapy pets including several dogs and a rabbit named Morpheus, riding a horse (courtesy of the Reno Rodeo Flag Team), and, for the second time, painting my horse Kiowa! During the Special Kids’ Rodeo “performance,” the participants and their families are assisted (as needed) by volunteers of the Reno Rodeo Association. Volunteers included members of local law enforcement and fire departments, EMTs, rodeo queens, and many others.

Kiowa definitely made an impression on the kids!

Kiowa definitely made an impression on the kids!

Kiowa is a 20-year-old BLM mustang and a classic Left-Brain Introvert. She has owned me for 10 years and she led me to Parelli 7 years ago. We have officially graduated Level 1 and were playing well into level 3 when a coffin bone injury forced me to make the difficult decision to retire her as my levels horse. As a regular volunteer with Horses for the Spirit for several years, Kiowa has been painted numerous times and it is always a favorite activity for program participants. We have also volunteered our time having Kiowa painted at the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo in Reno as part of their Kids’ Day activities for the last two years. Her heart is so big, and she shares it so willingly that it is easy to forget how much fear she has had to conquer to allow over 100 children and their families to paint her during the 3-hour event. In spite of the extreme squeezes and friendly games, she maintained her composure – a testament to her Parelli foundation.

A highlight for me was a quiet moment for one little boy who just wanted to pet Kiowa, not paint her, who gently kissed her neck and whispered “I love you, horsey” to her. And then there was Maddy, a bubbly 7-year-old girl who spent the entire event at our table, helping my friends keep things running smoothly. As we were getting ready to leave at the end of the day, Maddy came up to me and said, “I love your horse.” I smiled and replied, “Me too.”

What a beautiful sight.

What a beautiful sight.

There are so many other stories I could share. From the young man who only wanted to hold Kiowa’s face for a while and share a secret meant just for her to know, to the beautiful little girl with Down’s Syndrome whose squeals of delight made everyone within earshot smile when she reached out to pet my sweet mare and Kiowa responded by gently licking her hand. Every child, every family was a story and a memory I will cherish.

At the end of the day, as the last children took their turns painting the few places left untouched, a volunteer with the Reno Rodeo Foundation approached me and said, “I’ve been watching your horse all day and I have to ask – is she drugged?” I smiled and replied, “No, this is just who she is.” The woman looked at Kiowa and said, “Wow! That is one incredible horse.” I smiled as I gazed at my beautiful friend and choked back the tears. There are no words that can describe the pride and love I feel for this horse, my equine soul mate, so I said the only thing I could manage in that moment:

“Yes. Yes she is.”

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

lynette pomroy July 22, 2012 at 6:28 am

Kathy, so special to have a wonderful partner that is able to share the wonder of ‘a horse’ with so many. Horses and what they can give to people in a deep way never ceases to touch my heart. Thank you so much for sharing some of those precious memories. :) :)


Kathy Peterson July 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Thank you so much for your comment, Lynette! I am so glad you enjoyed reading it. I feel so privileged to be a part of Kiowa’s life and I am honored to share her with as many people as I can! :)


Nicky Ripley July 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

These interactions that you and Kiowa are providing for these families is so inspirational and vital! It’s people like you who make the world a better place.


Kathy Peterson July 17, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Oh, wow Nicky, what a sweet thing to say! I really appreciate that! Kiowa really is the most amazing girl. Thank you for your comment. =-)


Isabelle Greenfield July 15, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Beautiful moving blog! Of course I have join in the collective tears! I never cease to marvel at the generosity of spirit of our beautiful equine friends. They know, don’t they, when someone is special and need them to be extra gentle. Thanks for sharing this beautiful moment.


Kathy Peterson July 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words Isabelle! Horses really are incredible. Thank you for reading her story!


Suzy Anderson July 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

As always, Kathy, you and Kiowa are Rock Starz! Special Kids & Special Horses, doesn’t get any better than that! Thanks for all you do!


Kathy Peterson July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Thanks, Suzy! Looking forward to our next playday! I can’t wait ’til Lily and i are ready to join you guys jumping!


Frank Kline July 14, 2012 at 11:35 am

Wow. How very, very wonderful and inspiring. One of my Parelli partners is a 15-yr old BLM “classic LBI” gelding who I adopted as a 3-yr old straight off the range from the Burns BLM corrals. In his quiet thinking way he sets me up to learn something everyday as he has for the past 12 years. Together, we’re heading to the August Fast Track in several weeks; and now after reading your story, my heart will be swelled with gratitude for my relationship with him. Thank you for inspiring such a phenomenal feeling. And when I get frustrated and direct, I’ll think of your blog. Warmly, Frank


Kathy Peterson July 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Thank you so much for your comment Frank! What an honor….I am so glad my story gives you a new perspective on your partner. Mustangs are incredible aren’t they? It seems that they, more so than domestics, bond so deeply with the human that takes the time to really know them.
I know you with have an amazing adventure attending Fast Track with him….soak it up and enjoy every minute of it!

Someday I hope Lily (my 6 year old mustang) and I will be able to make it to Pagosa Springs for some intense learning! =-)


Margo Barrett July 14, 2012 at 9:44 am

What an exceptional touching story you shared. (sniff, sniff)
It’s does my heart good to know of, and to hear of, the stories these beautiful creations of God, give of themselves for humans. And also, what beautiful humans, like yourself give to other humans. I can’t imagine a world without either of them in it.
May God Bless You!
Margo Barrett


Kathy Peterson July 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words, Margo. You are so sweet and I really really appreciate it!


Karen Eklund July 14, 2012 at 5:17 am

I loved sharing your experience! Horses are so special, especially to each of us with our own “exceptionalities”. I know getting to spend some time with Kiowa made each persons day super special. I’m so glad you have the heart to share.

I’d love to share my horses with other, but I’m afraid they will get hurt. Did you ever have that concern? How do I get past that?

Really enjoyed your blog. ;)


Kathy Peterson July 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Thank you so much for your comment, Karen! I really appreciate it!

To answer your questions, I am always concerned about safety, not only for the people around her, but for Kiowa as well. The real secret for me is my relationship with my horse and being able to read her. I have to recognize when Kiowa is uncomfortable and respect it, even if that means asking everyone to give her some space for a few minutes. We started out with smaller groups of older kids and then gradually (over years) worked up to something as intense as the Rodeo. I also had to know beyond a shadow of a doubt how Kiowa will react when spooked. That meant LOTS of extreme friendly games, including parades, gunfire, other animals and more. I had to know that she would spook in place or not at all and be able to calm down quickly. For example, we have wanted to include my mom’s sweet mare, Dakota, in painting events but at this point, when she gets really really scared she still kicks and or bolts. Until that is NEVER an option in her mind because she trusts us and has been desensitized enough, I cannot in, good conscience, put her in that situation. Not only would it be unsafe, but it is completely unfair to her.
I also have to know when Kiowa is “Done”. She gets burnt out like anyone else and it is my responsibility to put the relationship first and honor that. I never ask her to do more than an hour without at least a 10-15 minute break where she can walk around, eat and relax.

I hope that make sense and that I am not over-stepping my bounds!


Jodie webber July 14, 2012 at 3:29 am

Just Beautiful! You truly do have an incredible horse!


Kathy Peterson July 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Thank you Jodie! I really appreciate your comment! =-)


Pam Hunter July 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm



Kathy Peterson July 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Thank you Pam! I appreciate it!


mary grace arrowood July 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm

That just makes me want to cry. U can just see the pleasur our horses can bring to others. I have seen horses help so many people. It is amazing. They r therapy. I tell people that all the time. U got to see it and experience it first hand. Does something for ur heart.


Kathy Peterson July 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I agree with you whole-heartedly Mary Grace! Thank you for your lovely comment. I really do feel privileged to be a part of Kiowa’s life. She has lead me to some of the most incredible experiences and I can’t wait to see what’s next for us!


Brigitte Jones July 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Thank you for sharing. That was very inspirational to me and touching.


Kathy Peterson July 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Thank you for reading it and taking the time to comment, Brigitte! =-) I’m glad you enjoyed it!


Janie Elliott July 13, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful story. We were so fortunate to have had a very special mare in our lives who gave so many special memories to our grandchildren, their friends and our adult friends as well. She was very special and always offered to each individual just what they needed. I never cease to be amazed at what our equine friends and companions give to us.


Kathy Peterson July 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Thank you for your wonderful comment, Janie. Your mare sounds like she was a true angel for your family. You are so blessed to have had that…so many people go through life and horse ownership without ever experiencing that kind of relationship! =-)


Brenda Keiner July 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Hi Kathy. This brought tears to me, too. Thanks for sharing these experiences with us, and reminding us how special our horses are. You and Kiowa are wonderful ambassadors for all horses, and for the Parelli program in particular. xxoo


Kathy Peterson July 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Thank you, Brenda!!! I really appreciate your comment. =-)


Kathy Peterson July 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm

If you would like to see a couple more pictures from the event, they are on my Parelli Connect page, and you can get there by clicking my name above or going to the link below:

I also wanted to thank Sally McBride (my Mom), Pam Oliveiri, and Eileen McGowan for all of their help that day!!! Kiowa I could not have done it without you!!! =-)


Larrelle Benjamin July 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

OMG – Tears streaming down my cheeks, loved this blog!


Kathy Peterson July 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Thank you, Larrelle! I am so happy I have the chance to share with more people how amazing she is! I’m so glad you enjoyed her story!


Cynthia Edmonson July 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Kathy….speechless…..with tears pouring down my face….I’ve had to work really hard this year in my business away from horses and I’ve all but had to stop my progression on my levels goals as a result. We’ve had some tuff health issues to deal with for 2 of our beloved friends (10 in all), and between work and doctoring, feeding and “husbandry” care are the only things my horses have gotten to do all year. No training sessions, no riding. I needed this as a wake up call to remind myself that those special moments mean more to them than anything else we can share with them. So, my 5 minutes a day with each horse IS enough.

Thank you for being SO generous with your time and Kiowa and sharing her with SO many. I know so many you touched truly appreciate it and made a memory they won’t forget. And you get the best gift of all, the memory of the smile Kiowa brought to each of their shinning faces!

Thanks for sharing your story,



Kathy Peterson July 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Oh, Cynthia, I can totally relate! Because my girls (I have another mustang named Lily) are boarded due to my husband’s allergies, I used to feel like I had to make every trip “count” and “do something” with them. It has taken a long time to realize that just being present and in the moment means so much to them. Some of my fondest memories are lying in the corral with Kiowa quietly standing over the top of me napping.
In your horses’ eyes, YOU ARE ENOUGH. <3

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on Kiowa's story. =-)


Deb and Jake July 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

how lovely :) x


Kathy Peterson July 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Thank you Deb (and Jake!) I appreciate your taking the time to comment!


Leave a Comment

 characters available (if over 1,600, comment will trunicate)

Previous post:

Next post: