I grew up in the country with cattle. Let me clarify. I had parents and a family, but we also had cattle. With cattle comes the unspoken obligation to have a horse or two. We weren’t “horse people” per se; we were cow people with horses, trust me, there’s a difference. If you’ve read my January 2014 entry, “Flying Lesson #1 in a P51 Mustang”, you know I was also exposed to aviation during my childhood. There were distinct differences in how these two things were presented to me. There were no warnings about airplanes; I couldn’t really wonder onto an airport unsupervised and go galloping off in a Cessna 150. But in the case of horses, my perspective was emblazoned with a healthy fear. Until adulthood, I hadn’t fully understood the relationship a person could have with the powerful, longitudinally-oriented creature — horse. In my twenties, I became interested in a horse of my own. After inquiring about an advertisement, I traveled to look at a particular mare. I bought her but I also paid a paltry sum for another young pony. She was very undernourished but affectionate — I named her Hannah.
We connected, as if she was communicating, “you and I are going to be friends; I like you.” Shortly after bringing Hannah home, a hefty case of Strangles set in. Given her underweight condition, I, along with the veterinarian feared for her life. After weeks of shots, washing, feeding and general loving, she began to rebound, gain weight, and a healthy glow. In turn, I began to educate myself about how to properly communicate with these magnificent animals. Hannah was a very forgiving friend, accommodating my ignorance and stupidity. Some of my favorite memories are riding across a vast field on perfect weather days, escaping time, technology, troubles and human complexity — freedom. But with freedom comes, great responsibility.
My priorities changed and life got too busy to give Hannah the attention she needed, therefore, she is now in the care of someone else. Whenever I am around horses, I think of her… It was a special thing, she and I. Forward ten years or so, and I am a licensed pilot. Up there, in the air, is a freedom. It is similar to that found with Hannah, years ago… and likewise, accompanied by great responsibility. A few years ago, I met some people who have connected these two worlds in a wonderful way.
Just east of Dallas, Texas in the beautiful countryside near Murchison, TX, is a philanthropic endeavor known as, The Pegasus Project. It is a nonprofit, husband and wife facilitated, horse rescue, rehabilitation and adoption service. A few years ago, I met Mike DeCanio (the husband) at a fly-in with his Nanchang, CJ-6A. Mike shared a little about their project, and mentioned an open-house/fundraiser they would be having — there would be airplanes too. My wife and I attended the first annual, Pegasus Project open-house, where we met Mike’s wife, Allyson. The Pegasus Project is, the realization of Allyson’s lifelong dream, a passion. Each horse has a story, a trail to overcome, and they provide the avenue for them to recover, thrive, and ultimately find a new home. My wife and I attended the open house. Mike had fashioned a 2500’ grass strip on the property, runway 02-20. In keeping with the Nanchang theme, the private strip shows up on the sectional as: “Red Star”. You can read more about the “Project” at their website, and by all means, feel free to make a tax deductible contribution.
A horse is a creature too powerful to be controlled through physical strength, you must reach the horse in its mind — so you are obligated to harness your own mind. The prevailing pedagogy avails us of the ways and means to achieve this discipline, however, once undertaken, it is often self-discipline, patience, and understanding, by the person, that proves most challenging. With the proper commitment, great freedom can be found for both horse and man while in the company of one another. Mike and Allyson have summed it up so well in their mantra, “We Give Horses Wings.”
I interviewed Allyson for radio in 2012. Here is a portion of that interview along with a few pictures from their open house / fundraiser from 2014.