How My Mentor Taught Me to Overcome Fear

Elli Milan standing next to her horse Beau

This is my mentor, Beau. He was a rescue horse that came to me neglected and half-starved. Once he was healthy I started riding him, but he was easily spooked and incredibly fearful. He was afraid of cacti, blowing plastic bags, anything that was white, and sometimes his own shadow. He needed a lot of care and someone patient to build trust with him. I rode Beau nearly every day and slowly he became more civilized.

My Mentor Taught Me to Become a Fear Expert

He taught me to guard carefully, not just my words, but even my thoughts. I already knew that words were a power that created the world around us, but Beau taught me that thoughts were just as important. He always knew what I was thinking. If I saw balloons tied to a mailbox and thought, Oh God he’s going to freak out and run, guess what would happen? As soon as I thought it, Beau would start to shake and snort and then bolt away. I learned when I saw a potential threat, to visualize alfalfa pastures and Beau calmly walking through them. When I did this, he would glance at the balloons but remained calm. This was a challenge for me but I was able to control my thoughts at will. I was able to hold fear captive.

I became a Fear Expert in those early years with Beau. I could sense fear coming before it got there. I knew its sneaky, subversive tactics and all the places it could hide. I understood that fear mostly lives in our imaginations; Beau taught me how to use my imagination to create courage. I became proficient at visualizing the very best outcomes. I started applying this to the rest of my life outside of trail rides with Beau. When fear came, I visualized my business being successful, my art selling off gallery walls, a love-filled marriage, and deep relationships with my children.

Beau Taught Me The Heart and Value of Service

Elli Milan riding her horse Beau in a pasture

As Beau’s confidence and trust grew, he taught me the essential value of service. He aimed above all else to please me and serve me wholeheartedly. No matter how hot or cold or early I would throw on his saddle, Beau was ready for a good ride and stood like a still soldier waiting as I groomed him. He would forge onward no matter how tired he was or how many miles he had already gone. Though drenched in sweat, with the salty sands of the Arizona desert stuck in his fur and rubbing against his skin and saddle, he never slowed down or refused forward movement. He would go over any obstacle and trustingly ride through water even up to his belly. Anything I asked of him he gladly did because he truly loved me and wanted to make me proud.

He knew my thoughts and anticipated what I wanted. If I looked left, he would move left. If I thought about going faster, he would quicken his steps. He was constantly tuned in to my thoughts and desires; while under saddle he existed to do my will. He found his boldness and might and welcomed each adventure. When we were finished for the day, I’d take off his saddle and give him treats; we both melted into mutual gratitude. Beau showed me what the heart of a true servant looked like.

I started to see my relationship with God differently and even more deeply. I saw how I was like Beau in relation to God — I was the horse and He was the rider. I could comprehend a glimpse of God’s feelings towards me as I thought about how much I adored Beau and would do anything to help him or make his life better. I started to look at my role towards artists differently and that service was a joy and honor. I wanted to serve the artist community the way Beau served me.

Turning Beau's Twilight Years into New Beginnings 

Once he hit twenty-nine years of age, I retired Beau from his service — his heart wanted to continue, but his legs could no longer hold up. He spent this last year in green pastures with many other horse friends. He would watch me saddle up my new horse, Solomon, and tell me he could go too. He missed being ridden but, instead, we walked together. I took him on walks through the forest and I would often cry with pure gratitude of our years together. I knew his days were limited and the moment was coming when I would have to say goodbye. When I thought about that imminent heartbreak, I wondered if I could bear it.

Early on Valentine’s Day morning, as I went out to feed the now thirty-year-old Beau, I could see that he wasn't well. He hadn't eaten or drank. His face and belly looked gaunt and shriveled. He could no longer see or even hear. He swayed and rocked trying to hold himself up. He pierced his lips tight and flared his nostrils, enduring unknown pain. I knew this would be his last day on Earth. My heart broke open and the flood of my sorrow gushed forth. I couldn't conceal my thoughts from him this time. I wasn't strong enough to visualize alfalfa pastures framed by a rainbow. I held Beau’s face and we breathed each other’s breath through his nostrils and wept. I offered my deepest gratitude for his life in mine and said goodbye. As I backed away, Beau dropped his head low and held it there for a while as though he were offering me the most regal and noble bow I could never forget. It was gut-wrenching and beautiful all at once.

I walked Beau to his favorite field and he stood next to the mound of dirt where his friend Carmella crossed over earlier that year. For the first and only time, Beau looked tired.

Turning my Grief Into Gratitude and Hope

Elli Milan embracing her horse beau in the forest

I said goodbye and couldn't bear to watch the rest. I walked up to the barn and swept the floor — waiting. The vet was there in the field with Beau to help him pass. As I watched the dust move across the payment under my broom, I felt the moment Beau’s soul left. I leaned on the broom crushed and wet with tears. It was final. It couldn't be undone. In that horrible moment of grief and loss, suddenly I saw something. I knew it came from outside of myself. My own thoughts were tethered to only loss and that he would no longer be in my life. But yet this picture came to me. I could see a beautiful sunlit field of alfalfa, ripe with purple flowers, encased in a full rainbow. Beau came gaiting through with his head high, ears forward, neck arched with honor. It was so real and so incredibly beautiful. I knew I was sent this picture just like I had sent Beau a picture many times when he started to feel afraid. My tears of grief turned to tears of gratitude and hope. I had hope that I would ride Beau again one day again.

Beau is with his best horse friends in an endless field, strong and fearless.

Who is your mentor? What did they teach you throughout your life or professional career?

Share in the comments below! 


8 comments


  • Doris Thomas

    Thank you for sharing your story, your grief, your growth it comes in many forms.


  • Brenda Liekhus

    Thank you first of for always sharing your faith of God and this beautiful love story of strength, wisdom and the fortitude to take this journey and the devotion to this wonderful soul! I love horses and all animals to the depth you do and I feel all the pain and love of your precious memories and the knowledge you perceive through them and turn into something good to share with others.


  • Lynn Hurley

    Elli, Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. It touched my soul!


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