I think there’s a twelve step program for that…

A young woman recently called the office, concerned about her new horse.

“Is this your first horse?”  I asked.

“Yes.”  She said.

“What kind of horse is she?”  I asked.

“Oh, she’s a thoroughbred.”  She said.  Her voice was beaming.

Thoroughbreds are strikingly beautiful animals.  I love the stories of a come-from-behind horse who isn’t expected to win or those horses who don’t have a well known trainer or owner with very much money.  I love those stories because they remind us that we might just be able to do the things that the world says can’t be done.

But, when I hear the word thoroughbred and new owner in the same sentence, I cringe a little bit.

Thoroughbred’s are considered to be a “hot blooded” breed. That term has nothing to do with the temperature of his blood instead it describes his temperament.  If you’ve ever seen a horse heading to the starting gate with a outrider accompanying him, you will notice that the outrider is a lot like a babysitter helping the thoroughbred hold it together until he explodes out of the starting gate.

It just usually doesn’t end well when an inexperienced rider partners up with an inexperienced horse.  What was she thinking?  I thought to myself.

“I’m not sure if I really need the vet.”  She said.

“What seems to be the problem.”

“Well, I was planning on moving her to another farm today.  But, she acts like she doesn’t want to move.”  She said.

“Is she trying to move and limping or can she not move at all?”  I asked.

“I don’t think she is able to move at all.”  She said. This horse was an off the track rescue.  Just thirty days before, she was still racing.  When a horse comes off the track, they have to “come down”.  They are so fit and used to expending so much energy that they have to be eased into normal activity.

Matt went out to see her.  She was acutely lame.  He found an abscess that he pared out, treated and bandaged.  Even for him, she was a challenge to treat.

The next day, they  called the office  again because they were unable to change the bandage.  My husband called them back and gave them some things to try but told them that if they still couldn’t do it, he would be happy to come out and change the bandage.

For the next several days this little thoroughbred mare required daily visits. I felt sorry for this young couple who had only owned this horse for ten days or less.  They couldn’t enjoy her or even handle her and their bill continued to grow.  When they came in to pay, I asked, “Did you ever consider getting  an older horse; maybe a quarter horse as a first horse?”  I asked.

“No.”  She said.

“Well, did you consider getting a thoroughbred that hadn’t just come off the track?”


“What were you thinking?”  I said, teasing her.

“I wanted to rescue one.”  She said.

And, before I could stop myself, I said, “You know, there are twelve-step groups that help with that sort of thing.”

She laughed.  I laughed.  And yet, as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew that I needed to stop judging her for picking an off the track thoroughbred as her first horse.  Who am I to judge?  And, what do I know?

I am a twelve-stepper.  I have tried to fix and rescue my entire life.  I can spot it in others, but am blind to my own insanity.  I think there is a biblical reference on judging that illustrates that pretty well.  In my twelve-step group, they say, “If you spot it, you’ve got it.”  I know this young lady because she is ‘my kind’.  My program and a lot of tough women from my group have taught me that her Higher Power can handle her journey just fine, thank you very much.

My grand-father Henry Heaton died in 1953, eleven years before I was born.  He was an alcoholic.  I never really thought that his alcoholism affected me.  But, with time and reflection, I realize that the tentacles of his addiction continue to reach out and touch me and even beyond my generation.   Daddy’s fear of alcoholism set me up to raise my family with fear as my guide.  I never had a plan to reach for something like a goal, I just ran away from problems.

Addiction has touched so many in my family that we could probably have our own set of meetings.  But, it was when it affected my son that I sat up and took notice.   I had to wait for things to get so very bad to find the courage to deal with them differently.

The first thing that happens in a twelve step-meeting is a prayer.  I might add that prayer is a mighty fine place to start.  I had forgotten.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

And, this prayer, lays it all out for us…  We can’t do anything about anyone but ourselves.  I am learning about me.  I am recovering me.  I am learning to live my life and slowly but surely, I am trying to learn to mind my own business.  It is a big job.

Turns out that the young lady had researched her problem, found a man who would transition her thoroughbred, found a boarding stable with a trainer to go to after her transition and was going to begin taking lessons.

Was it an ideal start?  Well, it wouldn’t have been for me.  But, I’m not her.  I am not anyone else but me.  That is important to remember when I worry about my addicted loved ones.  It is their journey. I have to figure out what mine is.

In order to do that I must remember that the most important thing, is to lay aside the idea that I am God.  I have to hand the notion that only I know what is best, over.  First.  It’s called taking the first step.  I hope to share the journey of my recovery with you.  I’d love to hear about yours.  Let’s have a conversation.









About The Author

Jean Heaton

I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.


  1. Mark Goodson | 22nd Jan 16

    This thoroughbred story serves your message well. I love the serenity prayer. There are far more things I am unable to change in this world than there are things I can. I can choose the people I spend time with, places I go, and things I do. As for everyone else, I can pray. Thanks for your story.

    • Jean Heaton | 23rd Jan 16

      Yes, I seem to be a slow learner. I guess that’s why in the steps they use words like “tried” and “continued”. They knew that we would need to keep working them all of our lives.

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