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  • Writer's picturePaul Cotter

Follow Your Heart

A pair of leather riding boots in an old horse stable

My sister Pat has loved horses for as long as I can remember. When we were kids, she would set up a classroom in our basement and she’d coerce her unwitting little brother (me) into attending lessons where I had to learn about horse anatomy and horse diseases.


Much later in life, her dream of owning and riding horses finally came true – at a painful price. She had a catastrophic fall where the horse she was riding fell on top of her and shattered the femur in her leg. Then she had another fall that could have left her paralyzed. This time, she suffered spinal fractures in her neck and lower back when she was thrown from a horse.


After that second fall, many people – myself included – thought Pat should stay away from horses forever. But she refused to give up. My sister got back in the saddle, determined to master the skills she needed to ride successfully.


It was only her bones, not her spirit, that had been broken.


Today, Pat and her husband live on a farm in a rural part of Western New York. They own several horses, ride them and travel to enter them in competitive shows. My sister is one of the happiest, most content people I know. After her 69th birthday last week, she told me: “I feel 69 physically – aches and pains – but in my mind I am ageless.”

The life lesson she teaches is more valuable than anything she taught in her basement horse classroom. My sister is living proof that happiness comes from following our hearts, even when it’s a challenging ride.



Photographer’s Footnote: I photographed Pat's boots in the stable on their farm in East Aurora, NY in August 2022.


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