A Diva Named Contessa

What is in a name? A LOT!

Contessa was proof of that. A two year old dark bay filly with attitude coming out of every pore – she was a handful.

Contessa was born on the farm a couple of years before Aquila and I arrived as WWOOFers. From the moment she entered the world, she seemed to fully embody the hierarchy associated with her name. She intimidated many humans, and persisted with all the horses until they gave into her will.

Each morning and afternoon we would lead the horses in and out of the barn so they could have their time in the fields. This was my favourite part of the day as it gave me a chance to test myself with the horses in action. Would I be a good leader today, or would they be leading me?


What will the day bring? What will I bring to the day?

One morning, I decided to take Contessa outside since she was the only horse left in the barn. Unaware of her history, I approached her innocently and confidently, and she, unaware of my lack of horse experience, went along with me out to her paddock.

As I was locking the gate the owner of the farm rushed over, concerned for my safety. Not only was I surprised by her worry, I actually felt an affinity for Contessa. Seeing all had gone well with our first encounter and appreciating my persistence in spending time with the horses, the owner offered I work with the filly as a project horse. I was delighted.

I tried to incorporate a short activity for the two of us nearly every day. She tested my character constantly, and let me get away with nothing. Simply leading Contessa could take all of my emotional and physical strength!


One of our challenging moments…

To some, this may seem like a terrible idea – a feisty young horse paired with a green human. Truthfully, it was fairly risky, but looking back I am beyond grateful I was given the opportunity. I am quite sure she taught me more than I taught her, but the regular interaction and connection with a human helped her become a much more willing partner.
Contessa was my first horse, even though I didn’t “own” her. She will always be part of me, and she is the reason I was offered a farrier apprenticeship.


Appreciating a peaceful exchange with the Diva herself.

Do you know anyone with a revealing name? I would love to know, leave me a comment!

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I’m Addicted to Horses


There are plans, and then there is life.

Initially, Aquila and I were to stay at our WWOOF location for two weeks. Nearly two years later, we were still there.

The farm owners were looking for long term apprentices and we were happy to fill those roles. Despite my family believing I had joined a cult, I felt free. I was making decisions for myself, learning what I wanted even if I had no idea where it was taking me.

Over time, we lived with nearly 150 people from all over the world; like us, they wanted to experience Canadian small farming. I loved learning about everyone’s different cultures through sometimes thick accents and exuberant body language. We became a family for a short time. What a diverse, revolving-door family it was.


Every spare moment I had I spent at the barn. It felt like the horses were also teaching me about equine culture through a silent language of their own. Whether I was leading them out to their paddocks, helping with night feed, or simply standing by their side, I struggled to understand them and loved every minute.

Whether it was learning to live in human or horse community, the lessons received often coincided. Everything I practised with horses was completely applicable to people. Both species can require enormous amounts of patience, while simultaneously offering support and growth.



Horse time during my WWOOF apprenticeship.

Two full planting seasons had passed as WWOOFers for room and board, and Aquila and I started feeling the need to find paid work. Once we decided it was time to move on, I began to feel panic. I could not imagine my life without horses. An occasional horse visit would not suffice; I was thoroughly addicted and needed my dose every day.

Unexpectedly, a solution was offered: I would become a farrier.


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This is part of a continuing story – click here to start from the beginning!