A New Direction

By Becky Adler Fagan

Hi everyone!  Sorry it has been so long since I have written.  Life has been very busy so writing had to take a back seat for a while but I am really excited to finally share the next part of our story with you.

Because it’s been so long since the last post, below is a link to the story if you need a refresher.  This post picks up where that one left off.  If you’re new to the blog, you’ll definitely want to start from the beginning.  Thanks for reading!


The visit with Francie that day in October 2010 was a very pivotal day in my journey with Grady.  It didn’t fix everything, but it started me on a search for what to do next. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I was looking for answers about how to help him, I was finding the path to future training concepts that not only helped him but other horses as well.   

During the time when Grady had become unrideable, something in my gut was telling me to try working with him from the ground.  My life of showing horses always consisted of just getting on and riding but as I researched articles and videos about groundwork, I was fascinated.  I tried methods of desensitization to help Grady with his fears and spent time teaching him to stay present with me while we worked together.  This is when I really started to learn the importance of thinking like a horse and the understanding of my sense of empathy with horses began to evolve.

One day, Francie and I were talking about what I had been doing with Grady and she had a thought.  “You should call my friend James.  He might really be able to help,” she told me.  I had known James socially and knew that he rode, but I had no idea that he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  In his practice, he incorporated work with horses to help clients gain awareness of issues they might be having.  Horses are mirrors and very often we can learn a lot about ourselves by paying close attention to their behavior. 

James came to the farm and I filled him in on what had been going on with Grady.  During a few sessions together over that winter, we explored some of the more spiritual aspects of the horse-human relationship.  I learned about the different chakras (energy centers) of the body and how Reiki (energy healing) can be used to enhance the flow of energy throughout the body.   Once again, not one specific thing was a quick fix, but what I realized through the time spent with James was that I was embarking on a new journey with Grady.  For the first time in a long time, rather than feeling exasperated by the fact that I was having so much trouble riding him, I was excited about the all the new things I was discovering and where it was going to take us. 

A big emotional breakthrough occurred after attending two workshops that James was holding in the spring of 2011.  These workshops focused on mindfulness, compassion and learning to listen to our intuition. The group discussed how authenticity and intention are crucial in helping us achieve our goals in life.  During individual sessions with horses in a round pen, we were given the opportunity to observe the horse’s behavior which often helped bring feelings to the surface, allowing us to examine them and come to realizations about what we were experiencing. 

Below is an article I wrote for James’ newsletter almost a year after attending the workshops describing what I learned about myself and my relationship with Grady.


Accepting Fear and Finding Compassion

by Becky Adler Fagan

 Just shy of a year ago, I had the privilege of working with Apple Jack in a round pen session during my first Equine Energetix workshop, Finding Your Path. After learning of his passing, I pulled out my workbooks from that weekend and the next one I attended, Seeing With The Heart. When you experience something as powerful as these workshops, it can be difficult to remember the details when you return to your busy day-to-day life.

Over the course of Finding Your Path and Seeing With The Heart, two themes seemed to come up for me: fear and compassion. As a trainer for both horse and rider, I contend with these two emotions quite a bit. I sometimes have to deal with a nervous horse or a fearful student and I do my best to handle these situations with compassion. It’s a delicate balance between empathizing and knowing when to push.

In the round pen with A.J., the idea of my own fear had emerged but I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. I didn’t feel scared of anything in particular, but when James pointed out that it could also show up as being afraid of failure or as worry about not being good enough, it began to make more sense.

I had come to these workshops looking for possible answers to the issues I had been having with my own horse, Grady, an off-the-track Thoroughbred, purchased for me to re-train at my family farm and eventually sell. Things started off really well but began to go downhill after about the first year. We explored every physical issue we could think of but there was nothing that completely solved the problem. After some improvement, the issues seemed to eventually return and each time they did, they were worse. The issue of fear spoke to me, not because I was afraid of Grady and what he might do when acting out during our rides, but because there was a lot of emotion that went along with it.

I worried about what would happen if we couldn’t “fix” him. I was okay with the idea that he might not be able to be ridden anymore, but he was only 10 years old and the question of what we would do with him for the rest of his life weighed heavily on my mind. He was a wonderful companion for my older horse, Toby, but my parents were getting on in years and who knew how much longer they would keep the farm going. How would I afford to keep him at a retirement facility for the rest of his life? In addition to these questions, the simple fact was that even if someone wanted him, our connection was strong and I had to admit that I no longer wanted to sell him. Could Grady have been feeling the effects of all this uncertainty?

As I read through my workbooks and reflected on my experiences at the workshops, I saw a connection with fear, compassion and my relationship with Grady. I realized how overprotective I had become of him, always worrying that something was wrong.   Of course, we needed to rule out physical issues but it was as if trying to figure out what was wrong with him became what was wrong with him. It was time to stop looking for reasons and just start over, one day at a time.

I needed to find a balance between being overly concerned about Grady and being frustrated and angry with him. I was completely at a loss for what to do, but every time I felt like giving up on him, something made me come back out the next day and try again. I started to wonder if the frustration and anger I was feeling was really directed at myself for not being able to figure out the problem, for sometimes feeling like giving up, for being frustrated and angry.

James helped me see that I had to learn to have compassion for myself. I needed to acknowledge my fears about the future and accept them, rather than try to suppress them. Bringing those feelings to the surface and accepting them would allow me to be in the moment with Grady and approach his issues from a truly compassionate, mindful place.

Finding that acceptance allowed me to see that Grady is with me for a reason. It may not be the one that I originally thought, but he has taken me in a new direction. I had gone through some changes in my life not long before Grady came along and his presence has led me on a journey of self-discovery that I never could have imagined. He led me to James, who has joined us on our journey and introduced us to new opportunities. It hasn’t been an easy road, but as I begin to embrace this experience, I’m finding comfort in the belief that Grady and I are right where we’re supposed to be.


It was during the second workshop I attended that I began to explore the idea of taking my career with horses in a different direction.  In the round pen with a beautiful bay horse named Astaire, I tried to figure out what that direction was.  Then I had a thought that I shared with James.  “What if Grady is trying to tell me it’s not just about the riding anymore?” I asked James.  He was floored by this revelation and Astaire, who had been meandering around the round pen, came over, stood quietly and listened.  I was on to something. 

After the workshops, I continued to do the groundwork exercises I had been doing with Grady, but I wanted to continue riding him as well.  I hoped that the groundwork would help the riding issues I had been having but the frustration began to creep back in when the riding didn’t improve.  I felt like I wanted to have someone else ride Grady to see what they thought.  Maybe I was just too emotionally involved.  After years of riding hundreds of horses as a professional, I couldn’t ride my own horse! 

Over lunch in December 2011, James and I discussed the issues I continued to have with Grady.  That is when James made a suggestion that would turn out to be a life changer for Grady and me.  That is the day he suggested I give Jayne a call. 

Best. Move. Ever.