There are many who would say that our best childhood friend was a horse. Even now, as adults, our eyes light up as we recall our first pony and, we drift off for a brief moment as we recall that sacred friendship. Yet, if they could talk, how many horses would say their best friend was a human?
Walter Winchell (famed newspaper writer and radio commentator) quoted as saying, “A friend is that person who is walking in when everyone else is walking out.” If we use that as a measuring stick, perhaps our list of true comrades for our four-legged friends becomes somewhat shortened.
Pepper Fewel is a cowgirl from Zillah, Washington. She, too, could tell stories of how her best friends growing up were of the four-legged variety. Wife, mom, businessperson, friend, and social activist, Pepper’s passion oozes into everything that she takes on. She has designed her life around horses and, the cowgirl way of life. Pepper and her family run Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast, and BARN in the middle of Washington Wine Country. Her beautiful Teepee tents, with their luxury bedding and home-away-from home – appeal, dot her property and immediately take you back to a different time.
As beautiful, and as successful as it is, the Bed, and Breakfast at Cherry Wood is not what drives her. What drives her is her unrelenting love for horses. Her dedication is palpable and her commitment un-yielding. Until now, those that did not know her personally may not have known that Pepper rescue horses marked for slaughter. Talk about “walking in, when everyone else is walking out.”
Many of the horses that come to Pepper have huge people problems; mistreated, neglected, and in some cases abused. It is “no easy task” to get these animals to trust again. Yet, it is a beautiful thing to see, once they do. While Pepper knows not all horses can be saved (or rehabilitated), it is her goal to get to as many of them as she can. While, Pepper is an above average rider, and trainer, when asked she offers, “For me, the learning never stops, just as in any good relationship (human or horse), the work never stops; there are always new issues to address.”
Once Cherry Wood takes ownership of the horses, they go back to the ranch where Pepper and daughter Tiffany Fewel, begin the rehabilitation process (*), which varies in length due to the needs of the animal. Once healing has taken place, the next step is to determine which horses will stay on the ranch, and which ones will be better served, by matching them up with another deserving owner.
Terry Fewel, Pepper’s husband, is easily Pepper’s biggest supporter. Even after years of marriage, it is almost breath taking to watch him, as he watches Pepper with her horses. “Taking care of these horses is Pepper,” Terry says. “It isn’t something that she does; it is at the very heart of who she is.”
In the world of Natural Horsemanship, attention is given to help the horse understand what the rider is asking of them, it is the ability to work with the horse in a way in which they feel safe and respected. “As different as we people are, each horse is equally as unique. There is no “one size fits all” when dealing with horses,” instructs Pepper, “each one come with specific personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.
The challenge is in getting to know the animal, and allowing them to get to know you,” says Fewel.
Cherry Wood describes their horses like this: “Many have come to us from desperate or abusive situations. Some found in feedlots, the last stop before slaughter. Others simply discarded for a younger model. A few have come from loving homes that could no longer care for them, and one or two are here because their owners just knew they would be happier at Cherry Wood. Whatever the reason, whatever their past, happy or sad, they are all living the good life now. The life they deserve.”
While the Bed and Breakfast aspect of Cherry Wood is not the driving passion for either Pepper or Tiffany, it serves as a way for them to be able to do what they do for their beloved horses. Visitors of Cherry Wood state they are blessed by the down-home hospitality as well as the amazing vineyard and orchard views. As stated so eloquently by Pepper, “Our horse rehabilitation and re-homing program is supported solely by our wine rides and Bunkhouse Boutique sales. So every ride you take, and every purchase you make, is helping save horses.”
Can you think of a better reason to visit Cherry Wood?
(*)Cherry Wood BBandB has hosted Joe Wolter clinics for a number of years each clinic is designed to address specific needs for both horse and rider. Wolter is a leader in the Natural Horsemanship “arena,” having been trained under the great Ray Hunt. Wolter says this of that time in his life, “I was fortunate to be around a few truly great horsemen who were generous enough to share their knowledge and understanding of horses with me, I feel I owe it to them to pass on what was given to me.” In an attempt to help both rider and horse on a deeper level, Cherry Wood has also added clinics and classes using Tiffany Fewel’s Natural Connection techniques, which include the Feldenkrais Method. One of the benefits of the Feldenkrais Method is to strengthen the rider’s body awareness, and what messages, the way we sit in the saddle – for example – sends to the horse. Both Natural Horsemanship and Feldenkrais play an important role in the work done to rehabilitate the horses that are lucky enough to cross through Cherry Wood and Pepper Fewel.