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A Love Story

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Loving Memories of D'Artganan.

My First Horse.

My Partner and Friend for Over Two Decades.

My Heart Horse.

I believe the pain you feel during a loss is equivalent to how much love there was in the relationship, and Dart was so very loved...💔

There really aren't words to adequately honor him, so I'm sharing loving memories of him.

I want to remember and honor him.

Dart was completely retired at the time I created Heart Horsemanship, so there aren't any blogs here about him.

Many of you following this page know him from various points in time during our partnership, so I thought you would enjoy learning more about him through these memories.

If you don't know him, I hope you enjoy reading about our partnership.

These first photos were given to me by his breeder after I bought him. She really loved him ❤️

Who doesn't love horse baby pictures?!...He is just so smoochable 🥰

The next two pictures are Dart in his life before I became his human. He was a stallion in these photos and actually has some babies of his own out there somewhere.

His breeder started him under saddle and took him trail riding. She really loved him and kept in touch for many years—often coming out to watch us compete when we got to that point in our partnership. Having love, good care, and a good start from the very beginning is no doubt part of what made him the wonderful horse he was.

The third photo is the day after I bought him.

I started riding when I was 10 years old and fell in love with it instantly. I am not from a "horsey" family, so didn't know riding horses was even an option until I went on some trail rides during a family vacation. After those trail rides, I immediately wanted to find more opportunities to be with horses, so my parents found a farm where I could take lessons.

I learned to ride on school horses until I was 15. Like every horse-crazy little girl, my dream was to have my own horse. Specifically, I wanted a horse like Black Beauty (spoiler alert!...I did get a horse like Black Beauty, but not until 20 years later 😉)

When I finally convinced my family to help me get a horse of my own, one of the instructors at the farm where I learned to ride found a young horse named "Duke." He didn't quite look like Black Beauty, but I fell in love with him anyway. My Grandparents bought him for me and he was the greatest gift they could have ever given me.

I was the happiest girl in the world on that day ✨

I changed his name to "D'Artagnan" (Dart for short) and this is how our partnership began ❤🐴

From the beginning of our partnership, I was determined to develop Dart myself. He was young and green and I was young and inexperienced—not always a good combination. However, Dart and I developed a strong connection right from the start.

I remember my instructor frequently asking, "Is there anything that horse won't do for you?!" Dart always tried his best at whatever I would ask of him, which remained true for our entire partnership. He did everything with his whole heart.

I didn't know how to "train" a horse at this time in my life. I was just having fun, enjoying every moment, and trusting when things felt good we were on the right track.

I just loved being with him...

Our connection was from the heart ✨❤🐴

These three photos were taken at some of our first schooling shows together at the farm where I grew up.

As our partnership grew, we began traveling to events.

These next two photos are from our first recognized Horse Trial together at the Hoosier Horse Park. He is so adorable 🥰

I so enjoyed traveling to competitions with him...they were exciting new adventures with my best friend! Spending an entire weekend doing things with him was the best thing ever.

All the preparation before the event was just as fun. I'd get him perfectly groomed and neatly pack all of the supplies we'd need for our weekend of fun. It was a ritual that spread the fun out far beyond the competition itself.

I was living a dream with him ✨

Dart LOVED to gallop, and oh man so did I!

To this day, I've never ridden a horse with a faster gallop (sorry, Talon!...but you already know this is true from Dart whomping you in your races around the pasture back in the day!)

I'm a very quiet person, but I would get sooo loud running XC with Dart. He absolutely lit up when I talked to him out on course. We both loved galloping together so much ✨🏇❤

I would always warn my students about his love of galloping when he became a school horse later in his life; they didn't always believe me (he was a super steady guy)...but...he'd often give them a demonstration when he knew they were ready 😂

...Vroom Vroom 🏁

Dart was far from purpose-bred for Eventing and Dressage. He was a stocky, registered Paint.

I remember often being surrounded by very flashy and impressive looking horses in warm-up arenas, and I would tell myself and Dart, "There is nothing they can do that we can't."

I sincerely believed this. I believed in us.

Dart taught me from an early age one of the most important pieces in reaching a goal is a positive attitude and believing you can.

Dart turned into quite an athlete over the years. The most frequent comment we would get on our dressage tests was, "Lovely Pair," which always made me very proud...

Our partnership was my priority ❤✨❤

These are some of my favorite pictures of us jumping together.

I love the next two candid pictures from an Event at the Kentucky Horse Park. I think they capture the "vibe" of our partnership ❤✨❤

The second photo is a picture of one of our post-XC rituals. Dart and I always shared a Gatorade. He drank it straight from the bottle...the best part was it would stain his pink lips the color of the Gatorade for the remainder of the day 😂. He loved it ❤

So much joy with him ✨

In college, I boarded Dart at a pure Dressage barn. It was here I really began realizing my love for the art that is Dressage.

College was a stressful time for me. Purdue's Engineering program is no joke, and I took my studies very seriously.

The barn has always been my sanctuary and this was especially true in college. I did a large amount of study sitting on my tack trunk across from Dart's stall. Dart kept me grounded.

Dart could see the entrance to the barn from his stall, and he would let out an excited squel when he'd see me at the about instantly melting your heart 💖

I don't think I would have made it through the Engineering program without Dart. When I graduated, my Grandma even had his name put on the cake too! "Congratulations Jamie & Dart!"🎉🧑‍🎓🐴🎂

After college, people started approaching me for lessons and training. They had seen how Dart and I had developed together and wanted the same with their horses—they wanted a partnership in connection from the heart ❤✨❤

I was working as a full-time "Process Optimization Engineer" at the time, but began building a side-business working with horses and riders.

Building a partnership is a process and my goal was to help horses and riders "optimize" their partnerships, so I named my side-business, "Horse Engineer," with Dart as the logo of course 🥰

While my logo and business name has evolved over time, the core piece to horsemanship I learned from Dart remains the same...

The partnership is ALWAYS most important.

Dart and I met Kim Walnes at the Hoosier Horse Fair.

Dart handled the chaotic environment of the Horse Expo extremely well—he was his normal perfect self 😇🐴🪽

It would not have been the same experience without him there with me.

Dart allowed me to soak in the wisdom Kim was sharing with me that weekend; he knew how important it would be for me.

Kim planted "seeds" that weekend that would grow into new perspectives and understandings about my approach to horsemanship and life.

Kim became a longtime mentor and friend. My horsemanship and life would not be the same without having met her at that Horse Expo.

Meeting Kim shifted my entire trajectory.

I have Dart to thank for letting me receive all she had to share ✨❤🐴

I adopted a young OTTB and named him, "Talon." Talon was progressing quickly in Eventing (too quickly, but Talon's story is a tale for another day), so I began focusing on developing Talon as my future Eventing partner.

Dart and I began doing pure Dressage together. I felt he had reached the limit of what he could safely do in Eventing, but was just scratching the surface of what he could do in Dressage.

We began working with a Grand Prix Level Dressage trainer. Her farm was full of very fancy horses, but she really enjoyed working with me and Dart.

She let me ride one of her Grand Prix horses at no charge to help me get the feel of what I was trying to create with Dart. She was very generous, believed in us, and wanted to help us develop.

Dart and I ended up being able to school all the movements required for Grand Prix, and we earned a USDF Bronze Medal together.

He could have continued competing up the levels of Dressage, but my side-business working with horses and riders had continued to grow...

It was time for me to take a leap of faith which would transition Dart and I into the next stage of our partnership where we would share our knowledge with others ✨❤🐴

I took a risk to follow my heart—I quit my engineering job and began working with horses and riders full-time.

At this stage, I began allowing students to ride Dart to build their confidence and help them learn how different skills should feel.

Dart became a master school horse ✨

He shared his gift with others while supporting me in learning to share mine.

Dart and I supported horses and riders together in Indiana until I had to follow my heart again—this time to follow my human partner to South Carolina—we found a whole new group of wonderful students to support there.

In Dart's years as a school master, he touched the lives of countless people of all ages and experience levels. Here are some kind comments from a handful of them:

"Thank you so much for allowing your wonderful Dart to let me feel what it's like to do tempi changes. I'll never forget it. He was so special and generous with his knowledge."

"Dart taught me how to listen to the horse and take my cues from him. He was an amazing teacher and I feel honored you allowed me to ride him."

"He was so patient and one of the reasons my daughter fell in love with horses was because of his sweet demeanor and patience with kids! Thank you for sharing him, he made a difference in my child's life."

"He was the first horse I ever rode, and I will never forget how kind and gentle he was."

"From the moment I met you both, it was so obvious to me the trust you had in Dart and you extended that trust to others. Dart was tolerant and talented. He didn't necessarily make things easy, but he took care of me and gave me the desired result when I asked correctly. What more could anyone ask for in a teacher?"

And a kind quote about what we tried to spread together...🌱✨

"So many times I saw you and your horses with love in your hearts for each other. I was so glad that you gave the best picture of 'life with your horses as it should be!' to the students wherever you were."

Some photos of Dart doing what Dart did best...😁

In addition to all the amazing things Dart did during his life, he was also a model and TV Star! ⭐🐴

He was the model for St. Francis Health's, "Why Use Two When One Will Do?" posters...I'm told these are still hanging in the hospitals!

He was "Shadowfax" in the HBO series "Vice Principals." I also appeared as the riding instructor and was the person coordinating everything Equestrian related behind the scenes! There are a tremendous amount of moving parts and people when a show is filmed, so Dart was the perfect horse to keep the young actress safe. Of course, he's quite handsome too 🥰

In the final stage of our partnership, I once again followed my human partner to a new state—this time to Virginia.

My original plan was to do as we had always done, which was to build up a new group of students again. However, Dart had gotten older and as much as I loved supporting horses and riders my spark had gone dim—I was burned out 😔

So, I retired Dart and he lived out the rest of his years relaxing with his best friend, Talon, on our very own farm, and I created Heart Horsemanship to support horses and riders at a higher-level than ever and in a sustainable way 😁❤‍🔥

Dart is now buried on our farm with a perfect view of the arena, so he can continue keeping an eye on me like he always has ✨

Thank you for everything, Dart 🙏

You were a horse angel long before you transitioned 😇🐴🪽

You are still with me during every ride, every time I teach, and in everything I create. You will live on not only in my heart, but in the hearts of the countless lives you touched and will touch through Heart Horsemanship.

Rest in peace, dear friend. You are so very loved ❤🐴

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