Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Amanda Marsh: fellow horse photographer, local Prescottonian, Horse Rescuer and widow of the late firefighter, Eric Marsh whose life perished along with 18 others in the infamous Yarnell Hill Fire. Amanda strives every day to not just be known as Eric’s widow, which is a valiant title, but rather someone who helps to improve the lives of those around her, both human and horse!
The Yarnell Hill Fire…
The Yarnell Hill Fire was a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona, ignited by lightning on June 28, 2013. On June 30, it overran and killed 19 City of Prescott firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Here, Amanda shares a bit of her story of how Horses help her heal and how they continue to play such an important role in her life.
Un-break my Heart, a lesson how Horses help Heal us
I was sitting on the fold out couch in my cousin’s daughter’s bedroom. I was physically in Alphen aan den Rijn, a beautiful village in the Netherlands, but I was on Facebook, and my heart was back in Arizona. I was scrolling through my friends posts, thinking about why I had left Arizona the month before. I was aching, actually, just hurting so much because my husband Eric was buried along with 18 of his fellow crew members in the Pioneer’s Home Cemetery back home in Prescott. After burying so many beautiful young men, I could not work, I could not function well at all. I was stressed out, grieving and just sad all the way to the center of my cells. I had been a barefoot natural hoof trimmer with what was a thriving business.
Everything had been about growing my business and improving my skills until the Yarnell Hill Fire took everything away and I could not deal. I had tried to return to work after my husband died, but some of my experiences were not good. I had been fired from a job just three weeks after the fire because the horse owner started talking about my husband’s death. I was bent under her huge gelding working on his hoof, sobbing uncontrollably and trying to finish the job. She just wouldn’t stop talking about it. Later she texted me and told me I was just too emotional and she did not think I was capable of working for her anymore. The next day I quit my business, all 140 horses I had worked so hard to cultivate. I was grieving for the loss of myself, too. I didn’t know what to do. Never a person to let the grass grow under my feet, I was suddenly without a husband and without my business, a business that had become my identity. I couldn’t stay in bed all day, I couldn’t lie around on the couch, I couldn’t spend anymore time at the cemetery. I had to do something drastically different. My dad suggested I travel to Holland to spend time with our family there. He suggested leaving for an extended amount of time, just to be sad somewhere far away from Prescott. I had always wanted to travel, to see other cultures and to become enmeshed in something other than my comfort zone. I bought a plane ticket, packed my duffel bag and got the heck out.
Which brings me back to the moment I was sitting on the fold out couch, scrolling through Facebook. I saw a post by my friend Angel. She was looking for financial assistance to help cover the expenses of having two colts and a filly trailered from Fallon, Nevada to Prescott. Her equine rescue had raised the funds necessary to save these three horses from slaughter, but they were short their travel expenses. My heart just jumped into my throat and I started shaking. I knew I was meant to help her and the horses. I sent her a Facebook message letting her know I would help out. I was so anxious for these babies to get to Angel’s. I kept checking Facebook, watching to see if they made it to Prescott. I was rejoicing about a week later when I saw her post photos of the three horses safe in her pasture. It was a moment of pure joy, one of the first I had felt since Eric had died. I knew I wanted to do more. If helping those babies lifted me up as much as it did, I knew I was on the right track. I felt I was aligned with the universal desire for life to succeed. I couldn’t stand more death, more senseless death.
It has been three and a half years since the Yarnell Hill Fire destroyed the life…
When I returned home a month or so later I continued my journey of rescuing horses from slaughter. In total I rescued close to 40 horses from slaughter in 2013 and 2014, including five other colts. It became my life’s mission. It gave me direction and purpose. I re-homed several of the horses, but 12 are turned out on thousand acre pastures in the Verde Valley. They are living as wild and free as they can on my friend’s cattle ranch. I love knowing they are safe and living as horses should. One of the 12 horses is the filly I helped Angel rescue. I named her Carolina after Eric’s home state of North Carolina. She is a gorgeous palomino. She was never able to be adopted through Angel’s rescue because she never trusted humans. I could relate and I turned her out on the ranch to give her the life she deserves. A life where she is running free, surrounded by her band. It has been three and a half years since the Yarnell Hill Fire destroyed the life I had been living with Eric. In that time I have learned many lessons, I have been so low at times I thought I would never resurface, but I know there is a plan. Its when I can allow that knowledge to wash over me that I live in the greatest peace and grace. Rescuing the slaughter horses was in God’s plan for me and I have treasured them all because they saved me as much as I saved them.
Amanda operates the Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters. You can learn more about this foundation and how you can help by visiting http://www.ericmarshfoundation.org/
We are committed to serving those directly affected by wildland line-of-duty deaths and living wildland firefighters and their families.
You can also follow along as Amanda develops her new love for Horse Photography, Horse Art website
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at these Arizona Galleries: Arts Prescott Gallery, Sedona’s Village Gallery , Easy Street Galleria in Carefree and Dragonfly Arts in Cottonwood.