He came to me at one of the lowest times of my life. A broken engagement, a horrible job, and a life spiraling out of control. Riding horses was not only a passion, it was my life. It grounded me and kept me sane. Every waking moment was spent dreaming of a horse of my own.
I did not start riding until I graduated from college. It seemed that my passion for a horse was something that I was born with and my parents did not feel the same way. Instead of learning how to ride a correct 20 meter circle, or post on the correct diagonal, I learned the beautiful art of making music on the piano. Horses were majestic and my heart ached for the stolen times my father would take me to a run-down farm to rent a horse for an hour. It was during these stolen minutes that stoked the fire of owning a horse even greater. My mother never knew of those times, my father and I went to the "market", were really a code name for a ride on a horse.
Upon graduation, I signed up for three lessons a week at a local stable. I started with the beginners, little tiny tots that bossed me around and rode like champions. Then I moved up to intermediate riding, jumping small cross rails, cantering a straight line, and then to advanced. The barn would frequently purchase horses from the local auction, and I was the crash test dummy. It was then that I learned that I had a gift, what they call an excellent seat. I perfected my riding, knowing that on a teacher's salary owning my own horse would probably be an impossibility.
That's when my trainer suggested that we look for a horse that I could grow with and own. I could work off a portion of the board if I would feed and do small chores. It was then that my dream was becoming a reality. We came to a local horse trader. A pretty colorful character with handsomely rugged features and a way of talking that made you believe him.
"Young lady, I just got in a horse that you would be interested in. He is a Thoroughbred Cross and he is bred from the Native Dancer line. He will do exactly what you want. He is a little thin, but I already put 100 pounds of groceries on him. He will jump anything," he said. He tipped his hat and with that a skinny, bones-jutting-out-of-his-hips, red bay with a thick black tail and mane appeared before me. He had the most beautiful eyes.
A young girl got on him and rode him in the ring and then she handed me the reins. I climbed on a horse that needed me as much as I needed him. His trot floated, his canter was balanced and fluid and yes he jumped the makeshift cross rail with abandon.
"How much are you asking for him?" I was afraid of what he would say.
"Young lady, this is a fine horse, only four years old. He has breeding that was carefully planned. He is worth $20,000 with more groceries and some more time in the saddle. But for you, I would like $3,500.00." He rocked back and stuck a piece of straw between his teeth and sucked noisily.
"I am sorry, I can't do that," tears formed in my eyes.
What he did not realize was that I am not a negotiator. I was honest. I could not afford that amount. It was not a tactic, it was the truth and of course the tears were real. I could feel my throat tighten and I knew speaking would be impossible. That's when he told the young girl to untack the horse and put a halter on him and load him on the trailer.
"Listen young lady, I am a business owner and I need to make money. I will take nothing less than $2,000. That's my final offer."
"Sir, I am sorry to waste your time. I am a teacher and that is impossible for me to afford. I thank you for showing me the horse. I was under the impression that he was less than that, not that he is worth less. To me, he is worth a million dollars."
"I have an idea," his eyes brightened. "Why don't you take him on trial? You have three months. If you don't like him, just bring him back. If you do, then I want $1,500. Can you do that?"
"Yes, I can do that." I spontaneously hugged him and started to jump up and down. As a child, I would jump, I had become childlike in my excitement. Nervous and explosive energy coursed through my body.
"Great, I will bring him to your trainer's farm within the hour," he said to me.
I drove with abandon. Though it was November and rather cold, all of the windows were down in my car and I allowed the wind to whip through my hair. The hour passed painfully slow. As soon as I heard the trailer, I ran to the end of the driveway. He unloaded the horse and handed me his papers. His name was Raise Your Dreams.
He handed me the lead line and said, "His name is Raise Your Dreams, I hope he raises all of your dreams."
I said, "He already has!"
The month passed quickly and somehow I had all of the money. I made the final payment. Raise Your Dreams was renamed Bud, in memory of my grandfather.
Bud filled out and flourished. He was a fabulous jumper and I had been offered a lot of money for him. I would tell the prospective buyer that Dreams were not for sale.
Bud was the first horse here at my farm, another impossible dream that became a reality. The day that I bought Raise Your Dreams, I knew that I would name my farm, Raise Your Dreams. Two dreams that became a reality were rolled into one.
As a born again Christian, one that believes and knows that God does not make mistakes, his name means Raising your Dreams to God and making your Dreams something that makes you rise.
Today Raise Your Dreams Farm, conducts equine therapy for Woodstown High School, Youth Counseling Services, Deveruex, Salem County Center for Autism, Resources for Independent Living, and a wide variety of special needs children and adults. Today the farm is home to six equine therapy horses, two huge therapy dogs, two angora bunnies, and a gazillion barn cats. Jill Mansor lives on her farm with her husband, Dan, and their four-legged children.
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