Ends and beginnings—there are no such things.There are only middles. ~Robert Frost, In The Home Stretch
Where does one begin? Lewis Carroll makes it seem easy–“begin at that the beginning and then continue on to the end. Then stop.” But I have never found beginnings that simple and tidy. I think they are much more as Mr. Frost has described them, but dropping in to the middle of something right from the get-go does make for messy writing and clumsy reading. So instead, I shall attempt a beginning.
Perhaps I should begin with what you should expect to find here. I want to share stories about my horses and my farming here. I want to share photos of them too. I want to relate wisdom about working with horses. I want to share success stories from my clients. I want to share my eventing and foxhunting adventures. You will find here weekly blogs about one of two things: horses or farming. As I stated on the About page, I grew up wanting to be a horse trainer, or farmer, or poet, and now I find myself doing all three. I don’t always manage them gracefully, but I hope I can share my experiences with an eager audience.
So who am I, and what is Naturally Gifted Farms? My name is Caroline Johnson and I live and work in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. I moved here after graduating from DePauw University in 2003. After trying my hand at a variety of “respectable” jobs, I decided to take a run at my dream job: horse trainer and riding instructor. I started off at a lesson barn. By the end of 2010, I was ready to strike out on my own. I primarily work with folks who have their own horses, though I do teach a few students on lesson horses here and there. I actually miss working with the latter kind of client because of the new enthusiasm they can bring to the business, but there is something deeply satisfying about working with committed pairs on their partnerships and watching them blossom to reach their full potential.
That’s where the name came from. Naturally Gifted Farms is about recognizing that everyone has a natural talent, a gift. I just want to help horses and their owners tap in to that talent and bring it to its full potential. My passion for hobby farming is part of the name too. I am an advocate for small, sustainable, community agriculture and bringing that to the people. Nature is all around us. It is a gift given to us from God. And I think we should share it, cherish it, nurture it, and grow from it.
Currently, the two ideas are separate entities: I don’t actually own a farm of my own. I keep my horse at a boarding stable called Swinging M Stables in Cicero, IN. I also teach most of my lessons there and do most of my horse training there. My “farming” is more like gardening at the moment–I only do fruits and vegetables in my backyard–but I am working toward turning whatever space I have–be that a quarter of an acre, an acre, or 15 acres–into a hobby farm. I am learning about raising and keeping chickens, about maximizing yields in my limited space, and I am even contemplating how I can keep goats in my backyard without suffering the rath of my neighbors! Of course, I hope all of this will get a little easier soon as we look to buy a home that is at least closer to Swinging M. My wildest dreams have us buying a 20 to 40 acre farm of our own, but I imagine that will be years down the road!
For my own part, I have one equine partner-in-crime. Doc is a 2001 Saddlebred gelding. I met him in 2006 and I bought him in 2012. He is my eventer and foxhunter. Many of my riding aspirations rest on his back, but I believe he is just the athlete to carry me through to my goals. I hope one day to achieve “staff” status in the Hunt, and to be competitive at the Preliminary level. Doc is quite a character, and very opinionated…which makes him a perfect partner for me! We both have fiery spirits and great enthusiasm for all we do.
I also have two retired, well-loved equine soul mates: Dash and Samwise. Dash is a 1979 Appendix Quarter Horse out of Dash for Cash. We were a shooting star on the mid-western A Hunters circuit for one ill-fated summer before Dash’s career came to a sudden end due to acute pain in his front feet. I was 14 then and he taught me so much in those short months. Our friendship was sealed and I became forever committed to him over those months. These days he is peacefully living out his days at my parent’s farm, and recently celebrated his 34th birthday. Samwise is really Dash’s companion first and foremost, but he also has a special place in my heart. I met my little Appaloosa in 2002 as a coming 4 year old. He was short, affectionate, and easy to work with. I planned on selling him as a children’s show horse, but it wasn’t long after I bought him that he contracted Equine Recurrent Uveitis, also known as Moon Blindness, and lost all his vision. Despite this, he would move mountains for me. I could take him trail riding over the ruggedest of terrain, galloping in wide open fields, compete in dressage classes, ride him bareback and bridleless, teach riding lessons on him. He was, quite simply, amazing. And he did all of this because he trusted me–literally–with his life. I simply could not sell him once he had given this gift to me! Today, he is not doing much except keeping Dash young and pestering him, but I love him just the same.
To top it all off, I am a wife and new mother. Jeremy is my best friend and the love of my life, and a stalwart supporter of my equine and farming passions. We welcomed Samuel, our first child, into our family on September 14, 2012 and since then I have also enjoyed the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom (though Samuel does come to the barn with me often to teach lessons). If you’d like to read our family blog, visit us at Boots, Bibs, & Basil. You’ll be sure to get a healthy dose of Samuel Sightings, thoughts on becoming a parent, and bringing agriculture into the home.
And so, that is the beginning. Let’s see where we go from here…