Horses … Many a little girl reveries in the companionship of this uniquely large pet that often towers over its owner, weighing in at over 1,000 pounds (draft horses upwards of 2,000 pounds!). Not many of us make reality of our childhood fantasies.
In addition to size, the feeding bills alone (they eat 15 to 20 pounds of hay a day) could intimidate a potential owner. Horses require at least three acres of space, a sturdy fence, a shelter and supplements. Then there are farrier fees, lessons, trailers, etc. (let’s not even get into vet bills). Clearly, this ain’t no goldfish. As pet responsibility goes, horse ownership is not to be taken lightly.
Enter Cathy Deer Grasholm, a person who believes strongly that “animals do not (and should not) come into your life lightly” and who was a self-professed “horse-crazy kid.” Cathy grew up in the North. Her father was with the RCMP, and her mom was a painter who rode horses growing up. “Maybe it’s in my blood, I don’t know … I think I was influenced a little bit. I don’t know why … Why are young girls so horse crazy!”
Despite her infatuation, the closest Cathy ever came to horses was in her thoughts, and on paper—in her sketches of them. “I didn’t start into my ‘horse life’ till I was thirty-two,” said Cathy. That year, she and her husband bought a small acreage, and the stage was set for the possibility of fulfilling her childhood dream. Cathy started training with a friend, and pretty soon had her first horse; and later, her second. Chance is her third. “He’s the true story of my horse life!” she exclaimed.
“There is a bond with him. I don’t know what it is; it’s sort of like dogs … some dogs you love, but others are just yours. There is that connection.”
I wanted to know more about this connection and the story of Chance coming into Cathy’s life …
It had been a difficult year leading up to their meeting. Her father, her beloved Jack Russell terrier and her morgan horse had all died within the same year, and Cathy was exhausted. She carefully considered what her next horse, essentially a family member for Cathy, would ideally be like. “I wanted a connection with a young horse that I could start to bond with. I was not a trainer, but my skills had progressed enough that I could get help to train him … I wanted a horse I could start fresh with.”
At a local riding workshop, the visiting clinician, Greg, listened carefully to the type of personality she wanted in a horse and said, “Well, I might just have something for you.” He invited Cathy to come to his property, in Alberta, to meet Hollywood. A year went by, and she “interviewed” dozens of other horses but didn’t feel the right chemistry. Then, at a point when she’d almost given up finding her perfect “horse mate,” she happened to be in Alberta and decided to finally take Greg up on his offer. Cathy had been unmoved by the photos and videos of Hollywood that Greg had sent her after the riding clinic, but she took the young quarter horse into the arena and gave him a second chance.
“I wanted to feel something. And what really got to me was he just wanted to be with me,” she said, laughing. “He was just like Ferdinand the Bull. We really bonded. He was just a sweet boy. There was just something there.”
A year later, he came home—not to southern California, as his registered name, Twoeyesonhollywood, would suggest, but to Cathy’s acreage off the Hotsprings Road in southern Yukon. Cathy came to the conclusion that Hollywood was her last chance at finding a horse to love; and his new name stuck.
Chance is full of personality, and the only thing that lingers from his papered name is a certain attitude akin to Hollywood stars. “He’s kind of demanding, he’s maybe a bit spoiled. He can be a bossypants; he’s quite full of himself,” explained Cathy, with affection. She added, “He’s dog-friendly, kid-friendly … he’s a Curious George kind of horse.” He loves people and comes over, even abandoning his feed, whenever Cathy is out. He’s super-vocal and whinnies for feeding time and is the best “watchdog” Cathy has ever had.
The two spend lots of quality time together. “The wonderful thing I find with my horse is, riding isn’t everything. I work with my horse as much on the ground as I do [when I] ride. There is ground training you can do … I teach him tricks, we have a large ball we play with—whether I am in the saddle or not. And quite often we go for walks … just like you’d put your dog on a leash, we go for walks.
Cathy admits it’s expensive owning a horse, and Chance is not always easy to ride, but she has not looked back and says that it is “incredibly rewarding.”
She sounded smitten when she told me, “He’s a beautiful horse, physically, and his personality is absolutely perfect.”
Chance is Cathy’s childhood fantasy come true. “Every time I go out with him, I have this stupid grin on my face … because you can’t help but enjoy yourself. He just takes me away. It’s so wonderful being out with him [trail riding]. It’s like a retreat—you just go and the world melts away. It’s wonderful.”