Horsing with Denise Brock
by Laura Schonberg
Denise Brock’s degree in Range and Wild Land Management may seem an unlikely background for her 25 years as a bookkeeper for food co-ops and artisan bakeries, but it lends itself well to her new phase in life. She is enlarging her own farm with an eye on raising the best hay in the valley and resurrecting the historic barn site. Horses have always been a passion, and now she is exploring new challenges and opportunities with her equine partners.
Why I horse: I don’t have a good reason for it. I’ve been horse crazy ever since I was a kid. I just never outgrew it! We lived in Tulsa until I was a teenager in an undeveloped neighborhood. There was an eighty-acre parcel that had no structures or cross fencing of any kind—just a big open field that all the kids from the area kept their horses in.
Since my parents weren’t into horses, I was the designated horse sitter for all the other kids. I’d go out in my shorts and flip flops, throw on a bridle, and be gone for the day. Our parents had no idea where we were, and knew nothing about us swimming the horses in ponds with water moccasins, riding up the local “mountain”, or racing cars along the fence line that bordered the street. When developers surveyed the lot for a K-Mart, we pulled up the stakes. Twice.
The connection between a girl and a horse is so strong; horses were always on my mind. I covered my spiral notebooks with horsey sketches and read every Black Stallion book. I would gallop around on my hands and knees in PE (I loved the padded floor!), and had a jump course staged around the neighborhood that I would “ride” on my own two feet over bushes, fire hydrants, branches — whatever I could use as an obstacle. I saved all my money to buy the newest Breyer Collection model. I always got enjoyment out of doing anything that was related to horses.
Now, I totally enjoy the caregiving aspect of owning horses. I also push the envelope, looking for new things to do with them.
Come try this! I never got into showing and have had very little formal training of any kind. I just like being around horses, caring for them, and growing and developing the partnership with them. Developing trust in my horses (that goes beyond them being happy to see me because I feed them) has motivated me to keep my horses at home.
I love a challenge so I’ve had horses with a lot of attitude. I know they reflect who I am as a person. Those kinds of horses, though, have a willingness to trust me when I earn it. That earned trust allows me to explore the potential in doing new things.
I love seeing new places, and through the encouragement of a friend I did my first endurance ride last spring. It was a huge learning curve, from the vet checks to camping with our horses. Our horses all got out of their pen one morning and ran berserk around camp. What a novice embarrassment!
The new skills we’re developing and how much I’ve learned about my horse has been amazing. We also just started dabbling in packing. After doing several test rides, we’re feeling more prepared for an extended trip.
I used to be concerned to try new things because of our equipment, but purchasing a “new” used truck, trailer, and camper on our shoestring budget has fixed all that! Now, it’s just finding the time to go try all the things I want to do.
Advice for myself: I have to make the time. After raising two kids, working full-time, trying to include my family in horsing, and muddling along in my riding for many years I now have the convenience of my horses living nearby. That makes it possible to at least see them. Lately, my house is a mess because I don’t clean—I’d rather go do something with the horses! There’s only so many hours in the day, and I make horsing a priority.
Advice for others: Follow your passion. Don’t let somebody tell you that you should be doing something different. Do what your heart tells you. Decide for yourself the path that you want to be on and prioritize how you want to spend your time. There are so many limits on your time, so spend it doing something you want. Otherwise, it’s a waste. Don’t live your life wishing you had done something different.
Originally Published December 2016 Issue
Thankful to call the Pacific Northwest home, Laura Schonberg is an educator in a local school district and is outside at her place when she isn’t inside at work. Summers are spent cow-girling at a friend’s ranch, with forrays into the Cascade Mountains as time and weather permit year-round. Winter finds her at a local barn doing dressage lessons to support her ranch riding, and re-starting horses through the county’s equine rescue program.