Retired schoolteacher Debra Footman’s love of horses keeps her sane – and so much more
By Alisha Goslin
How did you find this activity?
I was born with a complete love of all animals. Later, it became more horse specific. I remember when I was 9 or 10, my parents would take me to see the horses on the Greenpoint Road in Brewer. It meant so much to me. In the summertime starting when I was 13, I would have the opportunity to go on trail rides and spend time at stables in the area, and I grew to love horses so much. My good friend in high school and I used to draw horses together. I knew, right then and there, that someday, I would have a horse of my own. It was a long time, because I went to college and got my degree and then started teaching before I had the opportunity to call a horse my own, but I did reach my goal.
When did you get your first horse?
When my son got older, I decided it was time for me to do something for myself. I had a friend who was working at a farm, and he called me up and said we got these two nice thoroughbreds here. You should come meet them. I fell in love with the “no name” (because no one knew his name) 16.2-hands-high thoroughbred that I later named Sierra’s Breeze. That is when my journey with horses began to be truly spiritual. When I touched him, there was an incredible exchange of energy. He made me whole and I made him whole. That has been the basis of my relationship with horses since.
What does this fulfill for you?
It began as a self discovery journey, and the more that I was with horses, the more I learned about myself. I’d compare my journey with horses to the book by Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit. It takes many, many years, but even the rabbit, when loved upon by his boy, until the point he was shabby and disheveled, when he cried a real tear, the fairy made him real, with a real bunny body. I find riding horses has affected my whole life. It’s made me a better person. My friends are real friends that are there for me no matter what. We ride together whenever possible, we travel together, we are at the barn together. It’s an incredible bond. In respect, I’m like the velveteen rabbit that became real. I’m old, I’m rubbed on and a little worse for the wear. But it’s made me real.
What would you tell people who are afraid of horses?
I understand why they would be scared, because horses are so big. I have graduated to riding a smaller horse at this later point in my life now. But the joy of riding an animal like that, and being around a horse, is truly a pleasure. Try and they may be surprised at the connection they feel.
How does this activity keep you sane?
It comforts me. Riding gives me something enjoyable, happy, and healthy to do. It occupies a lot of my time, being at the barn. It’s not unusual for me to go there in the morning and not be back until the evening. My life is a complete circle between family, friends and horses. It completes me.