My father shared the exciting news with my sister Lauren and me. He was buying us a horse!

The large field between our home and the old family log cabin in the Welsh Hills of Granville, Ohio, would be perfect for our new family addition. On a beautiful sunny afternoon in early summer, the trailer arrived.

The seller of the horse brought him out and we eagerly approached our large, chestnut-colored pet. He looked at us and we looked at him. It was love at first sight! (Or so I thought!)

We had to decide upon a name. After much deliberation, we decided on “Charlie!” Yes, Charlie, (the) horse! My mother’s great sense of humor provided the perfect moniker for our exquisite equine. Now, we needed to get familiar with Charlie, and begin to care for his needs at his new home.

Lauren and I went out early in the morning and brought him his oats and an apple. I learned not to stand behind him and not to hold the apple too long! A swift kick in the gut and overzealous chewing were intimidating for a seven-year-old. I had a lot to learn about being a horseman. My little sister stood back and watched all my missteps with a frightened face.

After all the morning chores I was ready to take Charlie for a ride. We had not yet bought a saddle and climbing aboard was going to be impossible without one. I had an ingenious idea; I would get a lawnchair to climb up onto Charlie’s back.

The next few moments will never be forgotten. I was no sooner seated upon him when he began bucking and kicking. Images of a rodeo crossed my mind as I was thrown several feet into the air and then onto my head. I sat dazed in the tall grass, fearful Charlie would step on me. I staggered to my feet, and ran home to tell Mom what had happened. Mom told me to wait until Dad got home and he would help me.

Dad told me I had mounted on the wrong side. So, he hoisted me up on the opposite side. Within a second, Charlie was back snorting, kicking and bucking us both. No Dad, that was not the problem!

The problem was that Charlie had not been saddle broken or ever ridden. In fear of permanent injury for the kids, aware he had been hustled by a con artist, and the realization that we weren’t equipped to care for a horse, Charlie went back to his previous owner. We watched as Dad and the owner exchanged unpleasant words. Then, the trailer had him loaded and headed down the dirt road, never to be seen again.

My sister and I had mixed emotions with losing Charlie. We liked him, but we were afraid of him. We would stick to dogs and cats. That summer in the hills of Ohio I learned many life lessons. It was imperative for me to learn from every experience, both negative and positive.

I learned I was in over my head with inexperience. I learned that coaxing parents to get you what you want may not be the best idea. I learned you cannot always take someone at their word; con artists are out to make a buck. I also learned several parenting principles that would be beneficial later in life.

There are many “teachable moments” in the course of one’s journey. We must commit ourselves to learning and growing. To emotional intelligence and self- awareness. To dusting ourselves off and trying again. Life will be full of personal failures. It is what we learn after we know it all that will make the biggest difference!

Have a great week, and remember, God loves YOU!

Contact Jon Shonebarger at

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