Mindset | Animal Communication | Choices

Lightning Struck Twice. A Horse And A River Guide Kept Me Sane.

A year ago, I had big publishing plans. But life had other ideas.

Bonnie Kreitler


Author Photo Copyright Bonnie Kreitler

A year ago, I planned to refresh and relaunch a book written seven years ago, launch a brand spanky new one, and accelerate my blogging about human-animal relationships. I was pumped.

Those plans were shelved by a year of chaos, including months-long family medical crises, the departure from this earth plane of two close family members, and the loss of two special animals in my life. The demands of those serial events consumed my time and every bit of my physical and emotional bandwidth.

Two memories helped me through the chaos.

One was the memory of a long-ago white-water rafting trip with a guide named Dave.

The other was the grace of a disabled horse named Ben.

Each taught me, in their way, how to ride out turbulence.


Dave was one of the guides rowing our adventure group down Class III white-water rapids (read: BIG stuff, just shy of death-defying) on Utah’s Green River. Our float trip would take us through the aptly named Desolation Canyon.

Dave was a middle-aged fellow of few words who rowed quietly through the rapids. Our other guides were talkative college-age guys battling the monster waves and deep troughs. They pulled hard on their oars and whooped along the river, eager to prove their mastery. Their passengers held tight to the ropes along the sides of the rafts.

Riding in Dave’s raft on our last day, I couldn’t help but notice how differently he rowed. It was calmer in his boat. He rowed steadily but gently along the wild river. We bounced and rolled, too, but our raft didn’t buck and slam and splash like the others. We flowed with the river’s power rather than fighting it.

I asked Dave about what he was doing differently.

The corners of his mouth twitched, telegraphing his pleasure that his technique was noticed.

“I dip an oar on one side in at the top of a wave and just ride it down,” he explained. “Then I dip the oar on the other side into the top of another wave and ride it down. The river moves us along. I just use my oars to steer.”


Ben was a handsome, sooty buckskin gelding with a thick black mane and tail who belonged to a friend. She bought him when his days as an Amish workhorse wound down. He seemed perfect for the light trail riding the riders at her barn enjoyed. His gentle, curious demeanor drew farm visitors to him like a magnet.

He was the horse you put the kids up on.

Over time, however, he developed puzzling medical issues. My friend consulted multiple veterinarians, some highly specialized. Ben left them all scratching their heads. His issues eventually made it unwise to put riders on his back. He became the barn pet.

The barn sits on top of a hill. Stalls open onto paddocks sloping downhill. Came an icy winter when Ben began slipping and falling, sometimes sliding downhill on his belly. The following spring, his hindquarters gave out when he tried cantering while turned loose in the riding ring.

More interventions included chiropractic, myotherapy, reiki, acupuncture, physical therapy, and homeopathy. But the underlying source of Ben’s issues remained elusive.

I enjoyed the barn pet side of Ben. I did some bodywork with him that loosened up tight muscles. He relaxed to reiki. I also tried animal communication to try to shed light on his condition.

But Ben just wasn’t talking. It frustrated me. I wanted to learn more about his past injuries to help him. But there was silence on his part.

As fall turned to winter, my friend faced a hard decision.

Worried that Ben might not make it through another icy winter without injuring himself, even breaking a leg, she called the vet to arrange euthanasia.

I was walking Ben in the ring as the appointed day approached. We were wiggling along in a serpentine fashion to help him loosen his back when I stopped, sighed, and stroked his shoulder. Thinking about the upcoming vet visit saddened me, but I was resigned that it was for the best. As I petted him, I thought, “It’s OK, Ben. And I don’t need to know about your past. You’re good enough, just as you are.”

The gelding turned his head and looked me in the eye.

I heard the word “acceptance.”

Then he dumped his story. So many things now made perfect sense. And I understood that he was totally fine with what was to come. And was able to share those thoughts with my friend.

We were with him when the vet came. There was no fear, no anxiety. He calmly accepted what was coming and left with grace and dignity.


My string of life challenges started several months before Ben’s departure. Little did I suspect how many more departures and challenges were coming.

It’s incredible how helpful even a few minutes of mindful meditation can be in stressful situations.

Closing my eyes briefly and picturing Dave’s oars dipping calmly and rhythmically into the angry waves assaulting our raft helped keep me afloat.

Picturing the look in Ben’s eye as he turned to me and beamed “acceptance” helped me pause before panicking to take a long, deep breath. Or two. Or three. And dial down my stress level.

Those lessons learned from a wise human and a wise horse became life lines I clung to as event after event slammed me.

From Dave, I learned not to fight chaos. Harness its power.

From Ben, I learned that acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. Like Dave’s oars, it can mean harnessing the flow of events you can’t control so the energy carries you along without burning you out.

Together, they taught me that while we can’t control everything life throws in our paths, we can choose our reactions to it.

When I could only see things happening as unfair, punishing, or tragedies, the mess was taking me down.

We’ve all heard expressions like “go with the flow” and “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

But the memories of Ben and Dave helped me understand the “how” of doing that.

Accept whatever comes your way and just keep going.

Don’t fight chaos. Figure out a way use its energy.

Looking at situations from different perspectives enables us to find the power in life’s turmoil. And that was the difference that kept me sane.

Try it next time you feel like screaming.

© Bonnie Kreitler 2023. All rights reserved.

Writer Bonnie Kreitler creates content to help fellow animal addicts build rewarding relationships with the critters in their lives. New release — When Winnie Went Away, a fictional journey through pet grief. See more at www.ramblingdog.com



Bonnie Kreitler

Author, journalist, animal addict, observer, and explorer creating connections between our critter relationships and life lessons at ramblingdog.com