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Horse proves good for soul

Sandra “Sam” Newell and Kahluah are old friends. They’ve seen each other through the toughest times. Their camaraderie transcends words. In each other’s presence, they feel relaxed, blissful, safe and adored.

But, like any two friends, they have differences.

Newell is a 37-year-old mother of a 2-year-old son. Her husband is a retired law enforcement officer. She is an assistant to an endodontist. They live in their single story, 2,140-square-foot house on 5 acres of land off Auburn Road, south of Grass Valley.



Kahluah lives 15 minutes away from her friend, at the Blue Fountain Farm. She’s a 20-year-old Dark Bay (dark brown) Trakehner mare with a black mane, tail and legs.

Newell rescued Kahluah eight years ago from imminent death, when her owners were selling her to the slaughter house. Kahluah, in return, revitalized Newell’s confidence and zest for life when her first marriage collapsed.




She helped Newell feel like a winner.

Today both are at peace with the world. And Newell has penned their inspiring saga of love and mutual support in the Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul Part II, published late last month. The short story, called “Strips of Ribbon,” recounts Kahluah’s rescue, her recovery, and the show she helped Newell win after she was rehabilitated.

The narrative moves swiftly over five and a quarter pages. Newell’s style is simple and touching, and sometimes, as if in a burst of creative epiphany, passionate and poetic.

“She imparted such freedom, I never felt more alive than when we were galloping across the black soil of the farmer’s fields with the ocean sun casting our shadows like winged souls,” Newell writes. “I trusted her simplicity.”

This is Newell’s favorite portion of the story when she first begins riding Kahluah after the latter’s recuperation.

Today, after so many years, Newell says, she still feels the same way when she rides her old companion.

“I just love her,” Newell gushed, and giggled like a mother obsessed with her newborn. “I don’t know how to describe her; she is the sweetest horse.

“She’s got all kinds of little quirks and idiosyncrasies, like she loves to have her belly button scratched. I mean, how many people even know that horses have belly buttons?”

The anecdotes go on – one more endearing than the other. Newell talks about how she can read the body language of Kahluah – a little worry wrinkle right above her eye, the tail clamped to the back, are signs of discomfort Newell can decipher.

“My horse is very stoic,” she said. “If she is in pain, she won’t show it. She’s been so through much in her life, her vital signs will remain normal until something do-or-die is going to happen.”

Newell shows more than 20 awards she has won with Kahluah. But her fascination with equines is not limited to Kahluah. Her house is full of pictures of horses – a black horse in the guest room, an ink-on-paper painting in one of the bathrooms, a print of an oil painting in the living room.

In fact, according to Newell, her first word was “horse.”

“I feel a very strong affinity for all animals,” she said. “But I feel I can understand horses a little bit better. I think that horses in general are wonderful creatures. But I think the sport of riding horses is the one thing human beings can do in conjunction with an animal and be in perfect harmony for just those few minutes that you are riding or jumping or running or whatever. It’s the best drug in the world.”

To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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