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  • Writer's pictureSam MacLean

THE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE HEART-HORSE--True Love Only Expands

I can’t recall the first time I heard the phrase “heart-horse,” but I can remember the first time I was 100% certain I experienced the “heart-horse” relationship in-person. It would have been about 10 years ago when I was an apprentice to a lovey equine bodyworker. (Full-disclosure: in the beginning I was tagging along with the equine bodyworker to get as much time seeing her work with as many hoses as possible. To this day I am ever so grateful to Tammy Parr for championing me on this path.) Back to the real story…


I vividly recall joining Tammy at a barn for a first (or second) session with a young girl, Margarethe, her mom, Gisela, and their new horse, a Thoroughbred named Keiran. Back then it was a typical role for me in every bodywork session to hold the rope halter, keep the horse calm and keep Tammy safe while the guardian could watch the session and ask questions. However, it quickly became obvious that this would not be a typical session because the relationship between the pre-teen, Margarethe, and her horse, Keiran, was way beyond the usual. 


Grand Shot of Gold


Keiran was Margarethe’s Christmas present when she was eleven. After leasing various ponies for a few years, her search for the right horse ended immediately upon meeting Keiran. He arrived with typical issues stemming from his racing days and fortunately for Margarethe he did not live up to his Jockey Club name, Grand Shot of Gold. According to Margarethe “he was, and still is, the best horse I have ever met. We always knew he would be with us forever. He embodied love and joy as conscious acts.”


As I witnessed Keiran and Margarethe facing each other, literally nose to nose in the stall, that first day…one thought came into my mind: now this is an actual heart-horse. In each other’s presence the two of them entered a trance of calm, deep care and Love. It was palpable. Margarethe shared that “Keiran always wanted to do his best, which allowed me to do my best. He taught me empathy and tenacity, and I taught him unconditional love and freedom.”




Over the years I was lucky to see their relationship grow through barn moves, injuries, changes in trainers, Margarethe maturing into her teen years and the transition from Tammy doing Keiran’s bodywork to me receiving that honor when she moved out of state. Seeing Margarethe and Keiran evolve together was beautiful. Margarethe describes it best: “when Keiran and I rode together, we moved as one. It's true - we became of one mind and one spirit. I never had to try in vain to visualize what his body was doing underneath me, because I intuitively knew where both he and I were at. I talked to him, and he responded. How can anyone describe what it's like to know and be known completely?” And, Gisela shares that “Keiran was a steady rock that listened when Margarethe felt misunderstood. He was her safe place.”


I loved getting to work with Keiran while Margarethe was present—their care and affection for each other was like getting to work in a giant bubble of unconditional Love. So healing for all of us!


Life Changes


We all know that change is part of life and as Margarethe grew from pre-teen to teen to college student she could not always be available for Keiran during our monthly bodywork sessions. It was then that I, too, began to benefit from Keiran’s giant heart. Our sessions together always felt like a dance, there was a resonance between us. While he could be a goof-ball in his paddock, during our sessions together he was a true gentleman…greeting me so gently as he would rest his chin in my palms; always shifting his posture to offer me more space; or letting me know in the softest way possible if something was difficult for him. We grew to know each other so well that he would show me parts of his body where he wanted extra attention. And, yes, he would try to convince me I did not need to work with his shoulder…but through our process he would relax and open to the work; always ending with huge yawns. He was gentle, he was affectionate, he could be stubborn at times, and he was a goof-ball. It was so easy to love Keiran. 


That’s why when he began to show discomfort in Aug of 2022 everyone was concerned. What turned out to be a suspensory injury with a good prognosis for a full recovery, evolved in to a chronic two-branch suspensory issue that continued to degrade. During a 6-month period Keiran had a whole team of people and professionals caring for him—he had the best care possible: veterinarian, chiropractor, trainer, barn manager, barn staff, farrier, bodyworker, friends and family all actively invested in his care and supporting him to achieve the best outcome. 


Over time it looked as though retirement might be his best option. Margarethe and Gisela only wanted what was best for their beloved Keiran—even if that meant early retirement. Everyone was hopeful as he stabilized and adjusted to a smaller paddock nestled between friends. While Margarethe was away at college, she got used to regular text, email and phone-call updates from the various people and professionals caring for her Keiran. While at home, Gisela managed all the comings and goings of his appointments and continued with his visits—he loved his “Grandma treats”. As the saying goes, “It takes a village” and the village was committed.


I believe we were each silently prepared that if Keiran ever got too goofy in his “crib” we may need to have a very undesirable conversation with the family…


And yet none of us expected that his sudden and severe neurological issues right before Christmas would have Keiran’s family planning for euthanasia. Because Margarethe was still away at school and prepping for finals, the barn management and staff went above and beyond the call of duty to keep Keiran safe, pain-free and comfortable until her return home. 


A few days before Christmas, beloved Keiran, found his peace; gently and lovingly transitioning while surrounded by his favorite people.


While there is never a good day or any easier time for euthanasia, Margarethe described it beautifully, “It was the greatest peace to know that I could do this for him. I was unburdened, knowing that I would walk Keiran through the end of this life without any regrets. He lived fully. Managing my own grief wasn't difficult. I had so many people by my side. Sam’s consistent presence was so valuable. I was never alone. Everything was taken care of for me, so that I could take care of him. My own sense of grief was just so eclipsed by my utter certainty that I was doing the right thing, and my joy at being able to honor Keiran at the conclusion of his life. It was such an honor to be able to do this for a soul who had served me and loved me and walked by my side for half of both of our lives.”


How to Heal?


So how does a family heal from having to euthanize their beloved family member? There are numerous ways people have honored the legacy of a precious animal…creating personalized charms, framed photos or paintings, rings, necklaces, and on and on…It didn’t take long for Gisela and Margarethe to identify how they wanted to honor Keiran.


They both wanted to honor his memory in a way that would allow other horses to receive some of the same care that Keiran was fortunate to have received. According to Margarethe, “Keiran was able to be successful because of the quality of care he received, and I'm adamantly in agreement with the idea that no horse should have to go without that kind of care.”


By establishing the Keiran Scholarship Fund their goal is to provide an increased quality of life for as many horses as possible, regardless of their breed, age, whether they are retired or active in any kind of work.


Margarethe and Gisela shared that their “greatest desire is that through this scholarship, other horses are able to work and/or live without pain. For horses who are working, we hope this fund elevates their performance and allows them to allocate more mental energy to having fun and experiencing the same sense of freedom that Keiran so loved. For horses who are retired, we hope that this fund gives them the opportunity to spend their golden years pain-free, and enjoy life with no work. Ultimately, we want Keiran’s memory to live on in others.”


How Does This Work? 


This is where I come in to the picture. I am the lucky one who Margarethe and Gisela entrusted with managing the fund, selecting the recipients and providing the benefits to the recipients. Why me? That is exactly what I asked them! According to Margarethe, “Sam is one of the kindest, most knowledgable people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. There was never a question as to who would be best to manage and carry out the Keiran Fund. I fully trust Sam's judgement, especially when it comes to discerning which horses need what kind of care, and how to execute that care. Anyone who decides to pursue an elevated quality of life for their horse would be lucky to have Sam on their team. The level of empathy and skill that Sam displayed during our time organizing and executing Keiran's end-of-life arrangements was unmatched, not to mention all of the wonderful things she did for Keiran during the years prior.”


Program Areas


The Keiran Scholarship Fund will provide financial support to cover two available services:


1) Equine Bodywork


The Fund will cover all bodywork costs related to the guardian’s horse, including the trip charge, for a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 bodywork sessions provided by me, Sam MacLean. The service area must be within 75 miles of Hartford, WI.


2) HeartMath Course


The Fund will cover the cost of the applicant to participate in my 4-week on-line HeartMath course. There is no service area limit due to the on-line nature of the course. 


How to Apply


Full details can be found in the brochure that can be downloaded at the end of this blog post. 


To apply please send a brief letter of interest to Sam at sam@rdrequine.com You will then receive additional instructions for the application.


Selection of recipients will be on-going throughout the year and twice a year we will promote the Fund to encourage applications. 


Applicants will be informed of the acceptance or the decline of their application within 3 weeks of submission.


Priority will be given to applicants with expressed hardship (financial or otherwise) and to horses who are retired.


All services will be provided by Sam MacLean, owner of Red Dog Ranch Equine LLC, www.rdrequine.com


Any questions about the fund or the application or selection should be directed to Sam at sam@rdrequine.com 


The Most Important Thing…


What is the most important thing you will take away from this blog post? 

Not everyone who reads this will apply to the Keiran Scholarship Fund, so in the end my hope is that you feel….Hopeful. 


Hopeful that wherever there is Love (true, unconditional Love) that it never ceases…it only expands. Margarethe and Gisela are expanding their love of Keiran to numerous other horses and guardians through their Scholarship Fund. But whether or not you can start a fund to honor of a beloved family member or even just reach out in kindness to a being who needs help…it does not matter how big or how small. What does matter is that we each open our hearts to allow good things to express through us.


What Love or Goodness is worthy of your attention? What Love or Goodness worthy of your expression? How will you go about your day shining more Love in the world? 


Now that is a legacy worthy of an amazing heart-horse like Keiran.


With heart and in harmony, 

Sam❤️



Keiran Scholarship Fund
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