Professionally Kathleen Cox is a published author, professional speaker and creative event producer/director. Personally she is a reinvention specialist who is passionate about resiliency, creative thinking, and the courage to try something new. Her book, Destination Unknown, Adventures of a WWII American Red Cross Girl, is about one woman’s courage to leave the comfort and security of a teaching career behind and go to war. That decision led to an unimagined life and the experiences of a lifetime. As a speaker, Kathleen uses humor and real-life stories (especially hers) to inspire courage, resiliency, creative thinking, reinvention, and taking the right risks. A reinvention and resiliency specialist Kathleen has been a writer, publicist, marketing professional, event creator/director, Pan Am stewardess, wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She now resides on Boston’s South Shore but has lived in New York, New York; Yorktown Heights, New York; Darien, Connecticut; Greenwich, Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; Coconut Grove, Florida; Lexington, Kentucky; Covington, Kentucky; Cincinnati, Ohio, and Madison, Wisconsin. Kathleen says her next home will be on wheels!
My almost seven-year-old grandson, Trevor, wants a horse. Yesterday he opened a lemonade stand to begin earning money for Trevor’s Horse Fund.
When I was nearly seven I, too, began a Horse Fund. My parents had told me, a horse-crazy kid, that I could have a horse when I could afford to buy it myself. I’m not sure Trevor got the same message, he and his family live in the city of Toronto, but he seems to be a horse-crazy kid in the making.
“Prepare yourself,” I told my daughter, “remember, I was ten when I bought my first horse.” I had begun earning money and saving for a horse ever since my first riding lesson at age six. I pulled weeds, ran errands, sold Christmas cards, and kept an envelope taped to my bedroom door with “Horse Fund Donations” written in big letters.
Kindly babysitters, visitors, grandparents and parents donated to the Horse Fund over the years. And I had some ingenious ideas such as surreptitiously placing a tin can on my bed with a sign that read: “Coats, $1.00; Hats, 50 cents.” When my parents entertained people always put their coats and hats on my bed. To my delight, people paid! However, when a departing guest laughingly said the coat check fees at our house were a little steep the cat was out of the bag.
It took four years but by the time I was ten, there was $75.00 in the Horse Fund. Surely that was enough to buy a horse. Every Saturday I looked in the classified ads to see if there was a horse for sale. Always lots of kittens and puppies but never a horse. Until my luck changed.
It was a beautiful spring Saturday. As usual I was in front of the television watching my favorite shows, Fury and My Friend Flicka, with the classified section of the newspaper in my hands. Because it was such a beautiful day my parents thought they’d work on the yard, sow some grass seed, plant flowers. Knowing I wouldn’t budge from the television for the next hour they told me they were going to the nearby Farm Bureau to pick up grass seed and some plants. “We’ll be right back,” my mother said as she waved goodbye.
By the time they got home, which was in less than an hour, I had bought a horse, over the phone, for $75.00. Not only had I bought a horse, I had called Mrs. Viau, my favorite babysitter to ask if I could still put a horse in her barn? Mrs. Viau always donated to the Horse Fund and told me when I got a horse, she had the barn. Next I called the riding stable and asked if someone with a horse trailer would come with us to pick up my new horse. I also asked if the vet was there and if he could come too. You see, I had been planning this for four years, and asking everyone at the barn what I had to do when I found a horse.
The shock on my parents’ faces matched the excitement on mine! What else could they do but drive me across town to meet my “team” and pick up the horse? After all, they had told me when I had the money I could have the horse. I just don’t think they ever thought it would happen.
When we finally arrived at the address I had been given, there was an elderly couple holding what I thought was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. Her name was Goldie and she was a very old Saddlebred mare. Her ribs showed through her chestnut coat but Goldie was kind and gentle. The vet said there wasn’t anything wrong with her that a little feed wouldn’t fix.
I think that old mare sensed how much she was loved as she loaded right up in the trailer. I got to ride in the truck and couldn’t stop looking back at her; big, gentle eyes looking back at me. On my lap were Goldie’s saddle and bridle.
For years Goldie and I rode the Hamilton County trails together. Me in the old cavalry saddle, lunch tied to one of its rings. We’d be gone all day, riding with other kids who had horses, exploring every inch of the trail system. About the time my parents thought I should be heading home they’d drive to the spot where the road paralleled a trail. There we’d be, me asleep in the saddle, old Goldie heading for home.
I wish the same joy for Trevor. May everyone buy lemonade…lots of lemonade!
You know the “Real Deal” when you see it. Something that is absolutely, unequivocally, 100% real.
Nancy Nunke is the Real Deal. I need to tell you about her and about her Hearts & Hands Animal Rescue program (http://hhar.info). Her facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/HnHRescue.
Nancy is an animal rescuer, a most unique animal rescuer. She has a gift. As a three-year-old child, Nancy was communicating with animals in a way noticed by everyone. As an adult she has perfected several animal languages. “To become the animal to understand and train the animal,” she explains.
Among the languages she presumably speaks and the animals she has rescued and trained are: a wild Przewalski horse (believed to be untrainable), mountain lions, a Bengal tiger, black bears, zebras, deer, wolves, donkeys, alpacas, goats, camels, exotic birds, tortoises, cats, dogs, rabbits and pigs. Her work with zebras earned her the nickname of, “Zebra Whisperer.” Zoo Keepers throughout the world seek her advice to help them better understand and keep their zebras.
At Hearts & Hands, Nancy takes in animals of any species that need her care.
In his book, Passion For Horses & Artistic Talent, Robert M. Miller, D.V.M., describes Nancy as follows: “In the course of my veterinary career I have known many incredibly talented animal trainers. Included were circus stars, movie and TV trainers and world-class horse trainers in every conceivable discipline. My clients have included trainers of dolphins, elephants, lions, tigers, chimpanzees, birds, dogs and everything else you can name. But, I have never known a person with greater inborn animal training aptitude than Nancy Nunke.”
Nancy needs help. When California wildfires claimed her ranch, Nancy lost her home, all outbuildings, a twenty-stall barn, all equipment and most of her tack. Intentionally under-insured to conserve badly needed funds to care for the animals, Nancy was left with little money to rebuild. She lives now in a travel trailer on the property and uses what’s left of her own money to rebuild, and care for the animals. She can’t continue to do this alone.
Nancy and two other Directors formed the Community Benefit Organization, Hearts & Hands Animal Rescue (www.hhar.info) several years ago, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit. She has just two employees and volunteers help as they can.
If you can help Nancy as a volunteer, or better yet, as a donor to Hearts & Hands I hope you will.
Wouldn’t a donation in a loved one’s name make a gift that’s the Real Deal to commemorate a birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or any other special day?
Follow Hearts and Hands on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/HnHRescue
The lightning and thunder just ended. I went out onto my balcony to survey the damage and in the sky, there was the most magnificent rainbow (in fact, a faintly seen double rainbow) I have ever seen. Thinking about my angst just minutes ago about not being able to keep up with my social networking, and not knowing what to say in the script for my video, there was the rainbow. I think the message was that in the midst of turmoil and angst, look for the beauty. It’s there.
One thing about animals is they don’t see the world in shades of gray. Animals are very black and white: Things are either right or they’re wrong. Not almost right, or kind of wrong. Most of the truly great animal trainers operate the same way, which is what makes them truly great.
In a recent commentary I talked about Tommie Maier, horseman and founder of Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls. Today I talk about “Uncle Joe” Vanorio. Tommie and Uncle Joe were horse trainers before they were people trainers; and did a fantastic job with both.
Tommie and Uncle Joe’s stories inspired me to begin writing about the parallels between good animal training and good people training. Simple, straight forward thinking, clearly communicated with patience, kindness and commitment wins every time.
“Uncle Joe” Vanorio was/is a legend. In his day he was Tom Mix’s stunt double, and the only judge in what was then American Horse Shows Association, to have his “Big R” in all breeds and all disciplines (which means he could judge anything). Uncle Joe was referenced in Helen Crabtree’s book about Saddle Seat Equitation as the title holder for the most Saddle Seat Equitation Champions at Madison Square Garden; he had retired to teach and judge before Helen took over that title.
Most of all, Uncle Joe was the consummate horseman and gentleman. One of the most important things he taught me about training a horse is also one of the most important things in life. He said, “Every little bit is a little bit more.” Which meant: Take it easy, do it correctly, and be grateful for every little step in the right direction.
Uncle Joe also taught me to recognize a “ counterfeit” and to never put a horse in a situation where his natural abilities aren’t in use. Or try to pass a counterfeit off as a champion.
The Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls are known worldwide for their western performing arts including trick riding and trick roping. To date, they have traveled to 17 countries and across the United States. Director, Jennifer Welch Nicholson says, “Each girl is a product of the training provided by the Riata Ranch Horsemanship Clinics. Students chosen for the teams go through an extensive program that focuses on physical skills that promote positive life skills.”
Tommie co-authored a book about his experiences with this program titled: Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls: Life Lessons Learned on the Back of a Horse. (Available here on amazon.com)
This is the story of Tommie Maier, of Riata Ranch, and of the young women whose lives have been enriched there. Told through rich text, entries from the diary of a current Cowboy Girl, the memories of Riata Ranch alumnae, and full-color photographs throughout, the story is spectacular and inspiring.
The Riata Cowboy Girls have performed on network TV and in rodeos, Olympic exhibitions, horse-driving competitions, NFL half-time shows and for England’s Queen Elizabeth at her Diamond Jubilee. They have traveled to 18 countries and have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, and Cowboys & Indians magazine.
Among the top principles for success are:
I met Tommy Maier and Jennifer early in the 1990′s. I am so proud to have been their friend through the ensuing years and to have worked with them both. While Tommie is no longer with us, I still get to work with Jennifer, her team as well as her husband Chad Nicholson. Tommie autographed my own copy of his book book to me saying I had helped Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls become what they are. I treasure that because I hope it’s true. I love what they stand for and who they are.
Check THIS out!
Jennifer carries on the traditions to this day as the Riata Cowboy Girls continue to thrill their audiences and build success upon success as individuals. She says: ”Our founder, Tom Maier was a visionary and on the cutting edge of teaching and pairing life lessons and horsemanship for students young and old. Since his passing in 2002, I have continued to present the Riata program and uphold the teachings and life lessons he began.”
She’s doing a wonderful job of it! I think you’ll be able to tell from the more recent of the photos below.