The Proposal


The Proposal

by Ann Jamieson


Gemma, a Norwegian Fjord mare, has a mind of her own. If there are greener pastures available, she will find them, whether they are in her paddock…or outside of it. But sometimes, going your own way can get you in trouble.

Gemma, who was stabled at Saddle Rock Stables in Redmond, Washington for training, was deemed among the missing one May morning when she failed to come in from her pasture for breakfast. An outer fence was found broken, and the search for Gemma was on.

Nikki Elin, who owns the Norwegian Fjord mare, called in friends and alerted neighbors that her horse was missing. Searchers looked for hours down a logging road, with no sign of Gemma. Finally, at nightfall, they realized they had to change their tactics. It was so frustrating; there was just no sign of the mare anywhere. Had she been stolen? If she was lost, where was she? She had simply disappeared, as though she'd been plucked from the earth.
They weren't even sure how long she’d been gone. Had she disappeared early in the night, or sometime in the morning just before she was due to come in for breakfast? Desperate and at a loss for ideas, the horse's breeder called Joan Ranquet, a well-known animal communicator from Carnation, Washington.

Joan, who normally works weekends, was relishing some time off on the Memorial Day weekend. When the phone rang, she knew right away what it was. “If the phone rings on a holiday, it's because of a lost animal.”
Besides helping people find their lost animals, Joan helps people deal with training and behavioral issues, health issues, aging and transition issues, and just making sure that your communication with your companion animal is on track. She believes that we are all animal communicators, all capable of telepathy; it's just a matter of believing it and working to develop and practice it. Joan has appeared on “The Today Show,” “Dateline NBC,” and “Good Morning America,” as well as “Animal Planet.” Her favorite animal communication events so far have been talking to the horses at the Kentucky Derby and talking to Hunsa the elephant at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Joan knew Saddle Rock Stables, a big three-day event farm in the area. Horses come and go, leaving for shows, coming in for training, going out on trail, so it was hard to pin down just when Gemma might have gone missing. But it was dinner time now, and Gemma had still not been found. The searchers had looked all day.

Joan asked for a photo of the horse, which was sent to her. She got into her quiet space to allow communication with the pony, and did a quick phone session with Gemma. She didn't get a lot of information, but she found out that Gemma was “worried but otherwise OK.” Joan sensed initially a muddy paddock with grass nibbled at the edges outside of the fence, and felt that the pony had slipped out of her paddock in search of more grass. She got a sense of her surrounded by greenery, and that she was “in a small enclosed place, where there was a sound of rushing water. I wasn't sure if it was traffic or water, but I felt like it was water, it almost sounded like she was going through a car wash.”

Describing the process of communicating with Gemma, Joan says, “I just got pictures and words and feelings: I got a sense of where she was. It's the process of telepathy; it's something we all do. But I got good at it. I didn't hear a lot of words. It was more just a sense of those pictures and the sounds.”

She adds, “It's not necessarily giving a lot of information; it's giving just a little bit of information that will save an animal's life. I couldn't stress enough the presence of rushing water.”

Saddle Rock's manager, Barbara Lindstedt, said she immediately knew where to look. “Oh my gosh, follow me,” she told rescue workers, leading them to a steep ravine. The breeder's husband, a complete cynic about animal communication, was one of the searchers. Despite his cynicism, he heeded Joan's advice, following a stream until it became a waterfall. There was Gemma.
His cynicism was gone. He thought, “Wow! Here she is!” Going from not having a clue to where to look for Gemma, to knowing just where to go to find her was life changing for all involved.

Gemma had fallen over a downed tree and dropped 48', landing on a 4' x 6' ledge. Had she not landed on that ledge, she would have fallen an additional 40'! Although she had been found, rescue workers declared that it was too dark to rescue her at night, and they would have to wait until morning light. Nikki hiked down to spend the night with her horse. “I have no idea how she survived, let alone didn't break a couple legs,” she says.
When Joan called to see how the search was going, she was gratified to find that Gemma had been found right after the horse's breeder had spoken with her. She learned that the pony needed help to be extricated from where she was stuck, but she didn't know just how much help it would take!

In the morning over 60 rescue workers from eight different state agencies and non-profits came to pull Gemma up from the ledge back to solid ground. Led by the Washington State Animal Response Team, they placed a helmet and harness on the mare, and set up a pulley system to haul her up. A special team member was called in who had more experience with rigging to help set it up.
Gemma weighs approximately 800 pounds. Pulling an 800 pound pony from a 70 foot ravine is no easy feat. First she was sedated by veterinarian Tom Hansen to ensure that she would not thrash and injure herself while she was being lifted. Next she was fitted with fire hoses that formed a harness to lift her. Fire hose is strong and flat, which helps distribute the weight of a large animal, keeping it comfortable and secure.

More than a day after falling down the ravine Gemma was safely home, suffering nothing more than some scratches. “I cannot even put it into words right now, I am just so happy.” said Barbara. “I am so thankful. It's amazing. It's an absolute miracle that we found her and got her out.”
Although Joan has never before gone to see an animal she has rescued, something made her head over to Saddle Rock that day. She was on her way to get kitty litter, in a thrown together outfit with no makeup, and she detoured to see how the rescue was proceeding.

She was amazed at what she drove into. Vehicles were everywhere. New crews, rescue people, volunteers swarmed the area. While she was there she got a text from a TV station asking if they could interview her about the amazing rescue. She texted back, “I think I'm standing right behind you.”
She ended up being on every news station in the area.

Joan had never been involved with such an extensive rescue effort before. “One woman told me, 'I truly believe you saved Gemma. Thank you!' This honestly makes me want to cry in the greatest way.” She adds, “I always feel really good when they find the animal. It still moves me every time.”

Gretchen McCallum, the spokeswoman for WASART, said “We're pleased with the outcome for this horse, and especially the rescuers. This was a technically difficult situation and safety is always our priority. We are grateful to everyone who helped. We are fortunate to have such great partners.”

The extent of the rescue effort, and the publicity generated by it, has proved to be a huge boost to the animal communication field. The airtime being given to the whole miraculous part of the story moved animal communication to a much bigger playing field. Joan is still being interviewed about it. Although she certainly would not wish falling down a ravine on any animal, the fact that Gemma miraculously survived with absolutely no injury, and that the event brought so much national attention to animal communication, makes her wonder if this was all part of God's plan to help us take animal communication seriously and make talking to our own animals a daily part of our lives.

Perhaps Gemma knew just what she was doing when she decided to go on her walkabout.

(To have Joan communicate with your animals, or to take a class to learn to do it yourself, contact Joan at

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