Dee Dee Golberg lassoes her passion by working with rescued horses
Her son, Josh, was involved in a car crash that killed two people when he was 18.
Her husband, Jeff, had a recurrence of melanoma that put him in the fight of his life.
And her sister-in-law's sister was murdered.
What gave her the strength to get through these challenging times?
"I allowed myself to think about other possibilities in life. For the first time since I was a child, I allowed time to think about what I really wanted to do with my life."
Golberg also was empowered by poet Mary Oliver's quote: "Tell me what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life."
She knew she wanted to do something professionally with horses.
"They had been my first love," Golberg said.
Golberg decided to become a natural horsemanship teacher and trainer more commonly known as a horse whisperer.
She attended a UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine seminar in 1994 featuring horse whisperer Pat Parelli.
She explored the idea of starting a dude ranch and taught horsemanship lessons, focusing on the mental, emotional and physical health of damaged and wild horses. Then she wrote and published a book and quit teaching after 27 years.
After working at a thoroughbred farm in Kentucky, Golberg considered working at a nearby horse rescue. When she and one of her horsemanship students, Anna Baines, visited, they decided they needed to rescue the horses from the rescue.
So in spring 2008, Golberg founded the nonprofit Spirit Horse Equine Rescue and Education Center.
Since then, the organization and its 100 members—who have committed time, money or both along with Golberg—have rescued 63 horses, ponies, mules, miniatures and draft horses.
"This was it. This is what I was paddling around hoping to find," she said.
Golberg devotes time to her rescue every day and a minimum of 70 hours a week.
"There's always something to do," she said, including updating the web page, cleaning stalls, buying or picking up hay, grooming the horses and maintaining the facilities.
"I could spend more time than that, but at some point I have to go to bed," Golberg said.
Of 34 horses currently in the rescue, some are on the Golbergs' 15 acres just west of Janesville, where they have access to a barn and another shed. The others are at foster sites, she said.
Baines, a Spirit Horse Equine Rescue Board member, considers Golberg a mentor.
"I was really impressed with Dee Dee's training abilities after she let me shadow her," said the 22-year-old UW-Madison zoology major.
"There would be a horse someone couldn't touch or a horse that was somewhat dangerous or scared, and she'd go in and work with the horse for an hour, and at the end, the horse would be following her around. I would watch and be amazed. I'd never seen anyone do that before. She's very good," Baines said.
Friend Susan Peterson also praised Golberg.
"She works tirelessly to care for and rehabilitate the horses, ponies and mules that come into the rescue. Her gifts as a trainer in natural horsemanship have made a profound difference in their lives, preparing them for adoption."
Golberg finds it gratifying to save and improve the lives of horses that stay in foster care until they are ready for adoption in qualified homes.
Now she works toward fulfilling her next dream—an equine center with enough land so Spirit Horse can operate out of one location.