Christy Clarke is passionate about horses, and she's trying to turn a 130 acre plot of land she purchased in New Brunswick into a shelter for abused, neglected and unwanted horses. She recently posted on the wall of the Heartland Facebook page about her efforts, which intrigued us enough to contact her, where we learned that although she had always had the dream of operating a horse shelter, it was watching Heartland that inspired her to pursue her dream. So she's my guest blogger today; I know you'll find her story interesting. Take it away Christy! Click through to the blog post to read it!
Hi everyone! My name is Christy and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to share with you my story about how Heartland inspired me to start a non-profit horse rescue of my own! It's been an exciting story for me to live, and I hope you find it just as exciting to read about!
For starters, I'll tell you a little bit about myself: Like many Heartland fans, I have been in love with horses for as long as I can remember. I think the obsession started before I was even born because my whole family loves animals. Growing up, I took riding lessons on and off as my mom could afford them, and when I was old enough I started mucking stalls and filling water buckets in exchange for lessons, and just to get the chance to be around horses more often. I was one of those little girls who had horse-everything plastered on my bedroom walls, and even pretended I WAS a horse when I couldn't be around them, cantering around my yard and jumping over obstacles I'd imagine were grand prix jumps... some of you can probably relate.
One summer I met a yearling named KC while working at a kids camp. (Note - that is KC and Christy in the above photo). He had been so neglected and abused by previous owners he was terrified of people - and even other horses. I worked closely with him in his healing process and completely fell in love. When the camp decided he wasn't going to be a good fit for their campers because of his high sensitivity, I was afraid he'd end up on a meat-truck. So, I got a job and bought him myself. We've been through so much since then including his his rehabilitation and cancer treatments, and I've learned a lot in the process. My experience with him confirmed my dream: I wanted to start a horse rescue one day, and help many more horses. But it wasn't until I saw the first season of Heartland that I decided it was time to make that dream a reality.
I read some of the Heartland book series when I was younger, and when I saw the advertisements about the show before it aired I was ecstatic! When I was really young I watched the show "Neon Rider," if anyone remembers that, and always loved the idea of bringing people with problems together with horses to help heal hearts and build confidence. As I went through university I did every research paper I could about horses in some way or another, from the slaughter industry to the mechanics of how horses see, and I even did my thesis on Equine Consciousness. I used my creativity to make schoolwork focus on something I was passionate about!
I continued on to do a Masters degree and studied the Animal Rights Movement and learned how animal welfare organizations work. I also trained as a facilitator of Equine Experiential Learning, where I learned how to help horses be the teachers. Like Amy does on the show, I now help people understand what horses are feeling, and often mirroring for their human partners, by interpreting their behavior and body language. Actually, what I do is surprisingly similar to the methods practiced by one of the Heartland characters, Victor Whitetail. I was so excited to see these methods in the show that I called everyone I knew immediately after the first episode Victor appears in to tell them they HAD to see it!
But that wasn't the first time Heartland excited me into action and it probably won't be the last. By about the 5th or 6th episode of the first season I was convinced the writers discovered my life-long dream and turned it into a TV show. Of course, I realize thousands of people share a dream like mine, but I was truly inspired. I decided that if my dream could be acted out in a television show, I should be able to make it happen in real life! So one night, after watching Heartland, I decided to start looking for property that I could use to start building my dream. I found a super realtor who had a bunch of farmland listings and convinced my Mom it was time to start looking.
Things happened faster than I anticipated - within two weeks we had found a plot of 130 acres near Sussex, New Brunswick that looked perfect! We put a bid in on the land, but when it was accepted we needed to find a way to pay for it. I discovered you can't get a mortgage for land like you can for a house, so I needed to get creative. My Mom is a single mom and she has been working as a dental assistant for 30+ years, so she wasn't in a position to help financially. It was frustrating! I was SO close to getting my dream started but couldn't quite reach the goal. But, I'm as stubborn as Amy when it comes to finding a way to do something to help horses, so I stuck to it. Within another couple of weeks, and the amazingly generous support of my Godfather and his family who co-signed a loan for me and Mom, we were able to finance the land!
Since then, I began a PhD on the history of horse-human relations, so I could have the chance to study everything there is to know from the greatest horsemen and horsewomen in the world. Since I'm only 24, I figured this education will help me help the horses I rescue in the best way possible. I did the paperwork and have registered what was once just a dream as a non-profit organization called Earth Spirit Horse Rescue.
Like Heartland, we are just a small group but we have a big determination to help as many horses as possible! My Mom and my sweetheart Tom are my partners in the organization but dozens of other amazing horse-lovers, friends, and family have been incredibly supportive in my efforts to realize this dream. Currently we are fund raising to build the facilities we need to operate the horse rescue at our land. One day I want to integrate youth programs into our operation, and like they do so beautifully on the show, work in a space that heals hearts and horses at the same time!
Every week when I watch Heartland, as I watch the characters act out a story that so closely resembles the one in my heart, I gain new enthusiasm toward building my dream in Earth Spirit Horse Rescue. Next time you watch an episode, I hope you'll think of us and smile knowing how Heartland encouraged one girl in Atlantic Canada to follow her biggest dream!
If you'd like to learn more about Earth Spirit Horse Rescue and how it is developing, you can visit our website at earthspirithorserescue.com - we'd love to hear how Heartland has inspired you and your horse-dreams too!
What an amazing story! Thanks Christy!