Helen K. Garber

fine art photography


We rescued a pair of Welsh Springer Spaniel puppies in September 2021 and life was pretty chaotic.  Somehow I became facebook friends with an animal trainer during the winter of 2022 and we arranged to start bringing the pups for training in February.  

The pandemic rules were lightening up, but it was still strange times.  We would just drop the pups off with Christina in Nambe and then go on a local adventure while she worked with the dogs.  We would pick a place to eat and then add on a car wash or some other chore to use up the time.  Eating lunch out had become quite a novelty since the lockdown and it was nice to be away from the house.

Christina was just down the road from Chimayó and I had an urge to create an art piece to honor the sanctuary.  I already knew that it would be a small wood box that would hold some of their sacred dirt, I would cover it with new photos with encaustic wax on top to encase the photos.  I had a need to collect twigs from the sacred ground of the chapel.   I planned to use them to create a crucifix by tying the twigs together with copper wire.

We dropped the boys off and headed over on a chilly day…Windy in the high 30’s, perhaps low 40’s.  Chimayo was practically deserted, very unusual on a normal Saturday afternoon.  But, nothing was normal and most people stayed home.

I took my photos, scooped up some twigs while Stuart went into the sanctuary.  I have no special feeling from the building, but always felt good on the land.  The twigs were especially aromatic and I breathed them in deeply.

There is a destination restaurant close by, we had a lovely lunch there and finished just in time to pick up the boys.

I guess we stayed around and talked with Christina awhile and realized that she also trained horses.  I told her how difficult it was to work with Gunner.  And thought she might want to work with him.

Her suggestion was to sell Gunner, and go find me a little old lady horse that I could just relax and enjoy riding.  She said that life was too short at this stage in life.  I took it to heart as permission to give up on trying to understand my emotionally challenged horse.  Actually a horse we bought for Stuart, but who found him too difficult so I traded him for my horse, Desi.

We stopped by a book store on the way home so I could find a bible, something I thought I could use for book pages for my art piece.  But even I couldn’t comfortably rip up a bible and settled for a book on Christian art instead.

I worked on the piece when we got home and the next day Sunday.  I took a break and looked on the internet to see what horses Emerson Williams was offering for auction that weekend.

I had been watching this online auction that specialized in gaited horses for the past two years and felt that would be the place to find my replacement for Gunner.  

The deal was that we would find a horse, send Gunner up to Christina for a month so she could train him to be sellable.   I couldn’t sell him honestly the way he behaved with me at that time.

I saw the video of Ranger and he seemed to fit the bill of what kind of horse I was looking for.  Cute, gaited, teenager, he could canter.  I sent the video to Christina and she thought he looked good.  Emerson said that the owner consigned him because he had terrible skin allergies living in Florida and she wanted to find him a more northern home.

The facebook auction allowed comments and Ranger’s first trainer posted that she hoped his first owner would win him back in the auction.  I asked her to call me and when she did , she explained how she started Ranger and sold him to a little girl in Indiana.  The young girl had to sell him years later when she went to college and that is when Doreen bought him and took him to Florida.  Mackenzie, his first owner, had now graduated and wanted to buy him back, but didn’t have the money the new owner wanted.  The trainer assured me that I shouldn’t feel guilty about the situation, especially if I was capable of giving him a good home.

Ranger’s price was still low and I made my first bid on that Sunday.  I know that auctions are won in the last few seconds and wanted to make sure that I stayed in the game.   But I didn’t want to bid him up beyond the $5000.00 budget Stuart and I agreed on, the amount we had paid for Gunner.

I met Stuart at the Tesuque Market for lunch the next day, Monday, which was also the day of the auction.  Stuart went off to adjust horses and I went home. I was alone in the house for the remainder of the auction.  Very exciting and stressful at the same time.

There was one other serious bidder moving me up to that $5000.00 limit, but they dropped out just at $4950.00.  I bid $4975 in the last ten-seconds and miraculously won.  Well, I thought so, anyway.  Then my name was listed as winner but at $5000.00.  It turns out that was the reserve Doreen had on Ranger, and I couldn’t have bought him for a penny less.

Emerson gave me Doreen’s information once I won and I found out that I was the same age and height as Doreen and she was thrilled to find out that not only was Stuart an equine chiropractor, but that he had a skin and allergy remedy that would help Ranger recover.  

She said that she had been praying to the Good Lord Jesus to help her find a great home for Ranger.  I never know how to respond to that declaration properly as I am a Secular Jew.

But, I do know that she and I connected on some Christian channel that brought me to the Sanctuary Chimayó that weekend to make an art piece with a hand made crucifix.  I have gotten good at manifesting things that I want, but this was my first time being an object of someone else’s manifestation….

I guess we manifested each other.

Ranger was shipped from Emerson’s in Tennessee and arrived past midnight about a week later.  Stuart had brought him up to the barn while I paid the shippers and by the time I got up there, Ranger was introducing himself to the other three horses.

We were supposed to bring Gunner to Christina the next morning, but when I went out to the barn, he and Ranger were canoodling.  Gunner strode up to me and asked if Ranger was a gift for him.  I said yes.  Gunner seemed so happy instead of nervous and afraid of monsters as he usually was.

He had gone from being a breeding stallion, living with his mom and offspring in a herd in a 10 acre pasture in Colorado to being gelded and the bottom of pecking order in his small herd of three.  

Luckily, Ranger had been exposed to all sorts of horses at Emerson’s and the transport, so holding on to Gunner for a couple of more weeks was the safe thing to do instead of sending him up to possibly pass on something to the horses she had there.  Besides, even though he was a pain to ride, I loved him very much and it was hard to let him go.

We took Gunner along with us when we brought Ranger to our trainer Lia to assess.  I never expected to ever get on Gunner  again.  Lia thought Ranger was well trained and easy, I got on him, felt the same way and then offered Stuart to test him out.  Stuart fell in love with him instantly and I looked to Lia and said, “Fuck, there goes my new horse”.  Finally a horse that Stuart felt safe with.

I took my saddle off Ranger and put it on Gunner and got back on him.  He was a total asshole, but weirdly I enjoyed riding the challenge more than the non challenge.  Gunner has been much happier, more confident with Ranger by his side and now they are as bonded as Desi and Ranse were.  And now we owned 4 horses.  We retired arthritic ridden Desi.   We just took just Ranger and Gunner on the trail while Desi stayed home with his buddy, Ranse.

Ranger was also a nurse maid to Ranse who was sick with EPM.  Ranse would mostly stay in his stall and Ranger would keep watch over him.  Unfortunately Ranse died just a few months later and now Ranger keeps his eyes on Desi.  Ranger grooms him as Ranse once did.  The three horses form a terrific little herd of love.  They all share the same great, great grandfather, Pride of Midnight, even though they are each registered as a different breed.

Ranger’s registry is as a Spotted Mountain horse with the name Ranger’s Royal Apache.  I call him Our little Gift from Heaven.