Your invitation, dear reader, to participate in a grand equestrian learning adventure with a charismatic young man from Montréal, Québec reads: “Come ride with me.” It is an adventure like no other for all concerned - the young man, the horse, the coach, the support team, and all those who accept the invitation to become their online supporters and participants. It is predicated on trust and vulnerability. Your invitation comes compliments of Jeffrey Beausoleil.
Jeffrey is a man of courage. Fortitude has been a hallmark of his life. From the beginning, his path has been strewn with obstacles of every kind – physical, social, mental, and emotional. Jeffrey was born without a right hand or right foot which has dictated the terms of his physical reality, a reality that could defeat one of less substance. He, however, does not let it get in his way. He dictates his response to his reality. He transcends it with grace and courage.
Jeffrey’s life epitomizes that which can be achieved when one faces a harsh reality head on, seeking and accepting help when necessary, understanding when it is he who needs to adapt and when the responsibility lies with others, and using his own experiences to shine light on the power of conquering challenges through collaboration.
When bullied and beaten up in the seventh grade for being different, Jeffrey overcame his fears and desires to withdraw. He fortified himself with welcomed help from friends and family and stepped out to publicly share his experience with schools across Québec through an anti-bullying program sponsored by the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, an institution that has been with him from birth. He has shown his appreciation for their support by competing in the grueling Spartan Obstacle Race to help raise thousands of dollars for their programs. He strives for his best, acknowledges those who have extended a helping hand, and continually clears the path for those who follow behind him. It takes a village; and Jeffrey has had a big one. Jeffery’s relationship with his village has been one of reciprocity and generosity, passing inspiration, perspective, and strength back and forth for the enrichment of all.
The security of Jeffrey’s village has given him the self-confidence to explore a new world – a world in which he has had no previous experience and about which he knows almost nothing: the world of equestrian dressage. It is a world that will require much of him. Success depends not only on his marshalling his own forces to elicit top performance, but on his ability to obtain the same from his horse, an animal whose very nature is at odds with his own. Horsemanship is singular in its demands. It requires unity with a large, fast, powerful, sentient, and potentially dangerous animal. It involves every aspect of your being, from the physical to the spiritual.
Happily, Jeffrey’s self-confidence is robust. He is not only willing to tackle this new world, he is willing to do so in the company of others – people with “inquiring minds” who come with varying degrees of horse experience, from experts to those who have never seen a horse in person. He does so by opening himself up to the online community that has gathered around Dunrovin Ranch, a small guest ranch in Montana. Dunrovin has created a virtual front porch using interactive web cameras to gather people of good will from across the globe for fun, fellowship, and friendship by sharing real life in real time. Jeffrey joins this virtual front porch through the miracles of modern technology.
This is no small step for either Jeffrey or for the Canadian Para-Dressage team. Inviting others to witness and participate in real time in an endeavour that is inherently risky and arduous is an act of vulnerability and trust. Allowing people to enter the private sanctum of the training barn to fully experience Jeffrey’s journey of preparing himself and connecting with a horse so they can dance together is an extraordinary gift wrought by courage.
While Jeffrey may not yet be aware, it is exactly the kind of courage and vulnerability that a horse seeks in its human partner. Horses are prey animals. They live a vulnerable life in which they constantly seek security. Like Jeffrey with his village, they find that security in their herd, be it a large free-ranging herd of horses, barn mates, or a herd of two consisting of horse and human. They find that security by following the one who is willing to go first – to round the bend, to enter the forest, to risk encountering predators for the benefit of all. In short, they know which one is strong enough to be vulnerable for their sake.
The risks Jeffrey and his coach take by openly sharing his training process, with its inevitable ups and downs, hard work, perseverance and numerous small failures and triumphs, are very real. But the benefits are incalculable. Horses have a way of magnifying everything. Their reactions are immediate, apparent, and definitive. One need not be physically present to feel their power. Watching, listening, and conversing with Jeffrey as his training unfolds and he builds his horsemanship confidence and his relationship with his equine partner will enable those of us in his virtual village to absorb the life lessons that will inevitably arise.
And, to be sure, life lessons will, indeed, arise, both for Jeffrey and for members of the virtual village. We will begin to comprehend the ramifications of the journey and its multi-sided nature, its achievements, its disappointments, and its ultimate resolution, whatever that resolution may be. Through this, we can also confront our own assumptions and our realizations of what it means to undertake something as daunting and demanding as trying to become a member of the Para-Dressage National Team Program.
Thanks are due to Jeffrey and the Canadian Para-Dressage team for taking the risk and giving Dunrovin’s virtual village the opportunity to establish the same culture of support and reciprocity with Jeffrey that he has enjoyed in his homeland. We at Dunrovin believe that riding together with Jeffrey will take us all to new places.
WHO IS SUZANNE MILLER?
SuzAnne M. Miller, a native of Butte, Montana, has over 35 years of experience in biometric, biological, social science, and economic research. She has an extensive background in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Her career focus was integrating socioeconomic information into public policies for natural resource management and development.
SuzAnne’s work and life passions have taken her to the back country and wild lands of some the world’s most beautiful places: Alaska, Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. But no place captures her heart quite like Montana. Her love of animals – especially horses, dogs and birds – and of her great state prompted her to open Dunrovin Ranch as a full-service guest ranch and equestrian club offering unique back country adventures on smooth-gaited Tennessee Walking Horses. The installation of a web camera at Dunrovin for a joint science project with the University of Montana eventually lead SuzAnne to staking out a special space in cyber space with the world’s first cyber ranch at www.DaysAtDunrovin.com.
WHO IS DOUGLAS ALLEN?
Douglas Allen is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Toronto. His historical studies are of late medieval and Renaissance Europe. He is interested in using the lens of identity to explore and understand history, human motivation and action. Douglas is also a writer who is currently writing a novel set in the City of Winnipeg in the 1980’s, which explores the nature of indigenous and non-indigenous relations.