Dear Rachel, Your Horse Saved My Life

Dear Rachel, Your Horse Saved My Life

~An Open Letter to Rachel Covey~

Dear Rachel,

My name is Payton, and your horse saved my life. Literally. I have suffered from severe depression and anxiety for a long time and it grew to a point where after long sleepless weeks the knots that lived in my chest became unbearable to carry on my own. I ended up in the hospital for a considerable amount of time, and every day felt more hopeless than the last. The day I left the hospital is the day I began to stop feeling real.

That very same day I went through my messages and noticed a missed call from Bridle Up Hope offering me a tour in two days’ time. I have wanted to ride horses for years; it calls back to my roots of being from the Wild West (Montana) and it was something I had meant to do the summer previous. It felt surreal to be offered a chance to even see this place. Two days later, there I was sitting on a pink fluffy couch anxiously waiting for a tour. After having to confront my story for the sixtieth time in several weeks, I was led out to the stalls to meet the boys (the horses) and Arwen (the pony).

We walked all the way to the end, and I learned facts along the way about them all, like what breed they were, or maybe how they got there. I had never really worked with horses or animals this large before and I felt anxiety grow in me. Nicole, the Executive Director, said in the tour that if anything, I will learn confidence from this program because the horses do not respect weak people.

As we made it to the last stalls, I came eye to eye with your horse, Tarzan. With one glance he was able to transfer his strength to me. And for the first time in months, I felt unburdened. Shaken to my very core, I drove home speechless. This is where I was meant to be, and it would be where I would stay.

My first lesson was with Maui, I shook the entire time. He took advantage of that and because he was a playful boy he would sneak up on me to nip at my shoulders. It scared me to death! I came back every week and chipped away little by little at the fears I had attached to, well, everything: living, sobriety, accountability, and horses.

Recovery didn’t come without its trials. My own personal test of character was a 3-foot menace by the name of French Fry, the mini horse. He had done nothing wrong really. I think we have just met, multiple times, under the wrong circumstances. Every time I slipped or not so gracefully cowgirled my way onto the ground, I learned more about leadership and leading with love. It is not about the big issues we face daily, but more so our ability to stand up and laugh about them.

Rachel, this quote by your grandfather really influenced me. “Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise.’”

I made the decision to do better, to get better. On September 29th I was able to celebrate an entire year of being at the barn, of being sober, of making new friends, and of feeling like I was at home when I came to the barn.

I hoped and hoped that it would get easier, but the change couldn’t come from anyone other than me. I didn’t feel empowered enough to live my life because no one gave me permission to live freely until I met Tarzan. Without Joyce, Nicole, Winston, Tarzan, and the hope provided by many others, I am not sure where I would be today. I’m back in school, I have a great job, I have an internship with the Mayor’s office in Salt Lake City, and I get to speak to other government officials about why I think nonprofits are so important. I get to look forward to graduating from college this year and applying for my Masters. And I get to ride and balance my big rocks because of the tools you gave me.

Thank you.

All of my love,


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