A story about a soul’s purpose, manifesting and coming home.
Since last Thursday I’ve been inspired to share this story. The reason for that inspiration is at the end. But it digs a little deeper into the why’s, how’s, who’s of my documentary film project, Horse Diamonds. I realize that by telling this story now, 24 hours until the Horse Diamonds fundraiser expires, it may be a bit late but it really doesn’t matter. Because, at the end of the day, I believe firmly in everything unfolding the way it is supposed to. I trust in the universe. And if I never raise another dime again, as it’s very tough and demoralizing (asking friends and family for support), the truth behind why these kinds of things- fundraisers, are good for me and my process, greenlit or not, is that it helps to push me further into the storytelling and honing my craft, and getting to the heart of what it’s all about. It sharpens my creativity and productivity. I’m very grateful for that.
So I remember the moment when everything changed in 2019. All it took was a phone call from my cousin Val asking, “hey, do you want to go to Hungary with us, we’re going to go look at some stallions? Maybe you can take some pictures.” (I held my breath, no I thought. Too much. Too soon.)
Of course I asked outloud, “when?”
It only took me a day (and with the support of Ibrahim) to make the decision to jump. I had about a week to prepare. And I’m so glad I did! Because now I’ve been drawn back into the equine world that I never intended to leave. The universe just had different plans for me. I always had a natural way with horses and I thought they would always be in my life. Until they weren’t. Now, 32 years later, it’s only taken me this long to come back to my first, true love.
At the same time, as our daughters started to grow, I knew I had to bring horses into their lives more frequently & permanently or they would miss out on something so very special. And I just couldn’t let that happen. Horses were my medicine until I was 17. The relationship between you and your very own horse is a bond that can’t be described unless you've experience it for yourself. So I became determined to think about how to do that.
But how do you do that when you live in the middle of a city for 18 years?
During one of our trips back west in 2016, I began imagining what it would be like to move back to the "Left Coast" (as my East Coast friends would call it) and get back to my roots - to get back to a life I had walked away from so long ago. Yet, it would take three more years before concrete steps could actually be taken. But it took traveling to Hungary that made me turn the corner.
When I came back, I knew I was meant to work on this film. The story reconnected me to who I was in so many different ways; it electrified my understanding for my purpose and even why it took me so long to come back to it. Ultimately, I know the time I spent without horses in my life was because I needed to learn the craft of how to tell stories in film. So I could be the one to share, not only this story, but stories of healing and of the relationship between humans and horses, women and horses and how important horses are to us as a species and this world.
Upon my return from Hungary, I had a conversation with a filmmaker colleague who had just returned from a retreat in Japan over the winter months. I mentioned to her that I felt the horse spirit was calling me and I was meant to do something with horses and young people and get back to living off the land. She mentioned her temporary roommate in Japan, who happened to be an “Equine therapist,” and though not really knowing what that was, I was intrigued by her suggestion to introduce me to her new friend and see what could happen. And so she did.
After being introduced and messaging over FB a few times, Ioana (pronounced Yo-on-ah) and I finally decided upon meeting some time in early 2020, and after a few hits and misses, we landed on early March. It ended up being a week before the pandemic hit our area and lockdown commenced shortly thereafter. It felt so foreboding. Nonetheless, Kamara, Alyja and I happily drove out to Virginia to meet Ioana and her trusting and loving steed, Max.
We had a wonderful first meeting. It was lovely to meet Ioana face to face, see the barn and riding facility, and learn more about what Equine therapy was all about. We talked a lot about horses and my work as a filmmaker and then after spending a little time with Max we said our goodbyes and came back to DC.
The next time we got to visit Max and Ioana in August, we all had our masks on, it was at a new barn with different energy but it was just as fun and therapeutic. I was so grateful to have met a woman out East who understood the value of just spending time with Horses. It wasn't about trophies, it wasn't about events, and it wasn't about competition. Even though we hardly knew each other, she was welcoming and trusting of me and the girls, to spend time with her and her horses. We also got to meet her new love-bug, Snuggleberry. Her 2nd, (former) race horse that Ioana would eventually incorporate into her equine-therapy practice.
Interestingly, Ioana is from Romania and I couldn’t help but feel like there was some connection between telling the story of the Hungarian Horses and spending time with somebody who was a horse lover and was from the same area in Europe. I also felt a kinship to her because of my own deep European roots.
At this point though, Covid was out of control, still no vaccines and testing was non-existent, and I still had lots of footage to process from the trip to Hungary the year before. I was not making very much headway on it.
Then sometime in early September, I received a wild text message, out of the blue, from Ioana, who asked me if I would be interested in being part of a few select horse people to help her move her horses Max and Snuggles to a more secluded and permanent barn. So that she could continue to establish her equine-therapy practice in a safer space. Of course I jumped at the chance; I couldn’t believe my luck! So starting from early October 2020, we did it together and it was so exciting. Then for six months, into 2021, the girls and I helped feed the horses, clean stalls, pick the paddock, and be part of a routine to make the barn and practice a well-oiled happiness machine. Piece of cake.
It only took the first few times of me walking into the quiet barn to be hit with a wall of extreme nostalgia. There I was shoveling horse manure, bawling my eyeballs out because it reminded me so much of my youth- the feeling of itchy hay, the smell of dusty horse hair, the sound of munching, I had missed it so much. I knew I was right where I belonged.
The craziest thing to me, out of all of the wild-world stuff happening, that during an incomprehensible pandemic, when we were stuck in the middle of the city and we needed to breathe and be out in nature, that this situation literally plopped right in my lap, right when we needed it most. Meant to be.
Now, last Thursday, Ioana had to say goodbye to Max, her first equine teacher and dear friend, as his 25 year old, earthly body could no longer hold the magnificent horse spirit within. We got to say goodbye to him last wednesday morning and feel better knowing that even though it’s hard to say goodbye to our equine friend, he’s at peace and so is Ioana.
I will always be grateful to Ioana for opening up to us, her already huge heart, to include us in this time of her life, of transition, and starting again. I know, for a fact, that all of this happened for a reason, and the purpose is still unfolding. I’m so inspired by her work, by these incredible equine teachers and what is still yet to come. Big changes on the horizon too.
The horse spirit is calling me and I’m listening.
Ps - it's not too late to support my film project:
Please and thank you!
Check out Ioana’s equine-therapy practice and non-profit: