She's off at college now, but while she was still in high school Jalyn was pretty much a permanent fixture at Sioux River–mucking stalls, grooming horses, riding whoever and whenever she could, cleaning tack, volunteering for events, and just hanging out. In my opinion, every barn needs at least one kid like this, who lives and breaths everything horses and is happy as a clam working his/her tail off in return for getting to ride. We sure were lucky to have her, and we miss her.
Jalyn came to the barn initially as part of our Reins of Inspiration therapeutic riding program, during which time she was assigned a "project horse" to work with; a rescue Fjord named Bruce who had been abused and neglected earlier in his life. Bruce was extremely stand-offish and only green-broke when he came to us. Jalyn spent many, many hours patiently and dutifully proving to him that he could trust her. She was naturally sensitive to his emotions and needs, and Bruce caught on and was a changed man.
Bruce wasn't the only one who noticed Jalyn's knack for compassionate and confident horse-handling. We graduated her from Reins to our regular lesson program, and she was one of my favorites to teach thanks to her drive and try-and-try-again attitude about everything. But even after she was no longer part of the therapy program, she didn't forget about Bruce. She devoted several days a week to his continued training and care.
Sadly, Bruce passed away from colic complications in the dead of winter, the year Jalyn was due to move away to college. Perhaps the timing of his exit from this world was coincidence, or perhaps he could sense that she was moving on–the only person he had ever trusted and loved. Either way, the last years of his life, thanks to her, were balanced, content, fearless, full of treats and love.
Many of us horse people can relate to the feeling that our horse is our soul-mate. I have no doubt that Bruce and Jalyn were that for each other; that no one else could have gotten through to Bruce like she did, and vice versa. For me and everyone else at the barn, it was easy to see the impact this young woman had on the life of this horse. But recently, Jalyn wrote me a note explaining the impact he had had on her life as well:
It deeply touched me to hear this from her, and validated the many hours I've spent volunteering for the various Reins programs we facilitate at Sioux River. Those program do make a difference and are worthwhile and important.
To Jalyn, I'd like to say thank you for giving Bruce a second act, a job to do, and a home in your heart. We are very proud of you and you will always have a home at the barn.