Nancy Hohmann and Mistel are contemplating their move out of the Oxford Hills. (Jason Trask)

Nancy Hohmann was born in 1946 and lived in Park Ridge, New Jersey, until she moved to Wilton, Connecticut, at age 13. It was at Bates College that her connection to Maine began. Upon graduating with a B.A. in French, she attended Harvard, receiving an M.A. in education. Her 25-year career as a teacher in the Oxford Hills was divided among the high school, middle school, and Rowe School. After retiring in 2006, she spent 10 years teaching therapeutic horseback riding to children with special needs. Now she is moving to Falmouth to be near her daughter and two of her grandchildren.

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Park Ridge was a very friendly, small community. I grew up walking everywhere. We played in the neighborhood, walked to school, walked to church, and rode our bikes to friends’ houses. There was a group of us whose parents got together and took us to a stable where we could get riding lessons. Those were the days when there were no helmets. We rode in a circle, and sometimes we got to brush a horse. One day, no one else came and I was turned loose with a horse on the outside track to ride by myself. Can you imagine a stable allowing that today?

From kindergarten to seventh grade, I was with the same group of friends in a school with only two classes per grade. Then we moved to Connecticut. Thirteen is a tough time to move. Suddenly I’m in a rural community, and we’re living in the country away from everyone. Sure, on the one hand, that was lovely. I could play in the woods, ice skate on the river, swim in the river, and hunt for wildflowers. The thing is, I felt isolated. Within a year it was fine, and eventually, it proved to be a very good move. The school was better and there were more opportunities.

Until I saw a comment by a teacher that said I was shy, I never thought of myself that way. Shy or not, during a vacation in Hatteras, North Carolina, nothing stopped me from asking a kid I saw riding a Banker pony [feral horses on the Outer Banks], “Hey, can I ride your horse?”

He said, “Sure.”

So okay, picture this: shorts, T-shirt, barefoot, no helmet, nothing, and I just rode down the beach to where my parents were staying. There’s this great picture of me in the sand dunes, hair blowing, no saddle, a cobbled-together bridle, and I had a 6- or 8-inch rope in one hand and a smile on my face that could not be contained. That was about the greatest day of my early life – tearing around in the sand on that Banker pony. I was in heaven. I could have said, “Okay, that’s it; I’ve done it all.”

I didn’t get a horse until my early 20s. I’m very connected to Mistel – she’s my current horse – but the horse I connected to most was a Morgan. I had him in my life for 26 years. I used to, quote, talk to him all the time. I told him what was going on and why this or that was happening and we became extraordinarily close. But if you’d asked me, “Are you communicating with him on another level?” I’d have said, “What are you talking about?”

As he got older, he started having issues. A friend suggested that I call a woman who talked to animals. I said, “What does that mean?” I thought it was a bunch of baloney. My daughter Alden said, “Mom, just call her.”

I thought it was crazy, but I was so concerned about the horse, I called anyway with several questions I had. One of them was “Why’s he dumping his food on the floor?” Two days later the woman called back and said, “He wants the apples and carrots to be on top.” I hadn’t even told her how I’d been feeding him. The next day I put the apples and carrots on top and from that day forward, he never dumped his food again.

She answered other questions, too. I decided there was something to this, so I took her animal communication workshop. She believed we all have the capacity to communicate with animals, but that our culture knocks it down. We are so minuscule in the big picture, but we can be connected to it all if we choose to be. I choose to be, and my connection to animals is part of that. It’s been a thread running through my life.

But that’s not the only thread. I didn’t know I wanted to teach French until I had this crazy French teacher from Paris, but I always knew I wanted to teach. I loved school. I loved learning. I loved reading. I would line up my dolls and teach them things – play school. I would play house with them, too. I always wanted kids and I had three – two boys and a girl. Shortly after our youngest was born, my husband and I got divorced, which made it difficult, but I’ve loved having children, and now, I have five grandchildren.

I’ve been incredibly lucky. I have loved my life and continue to love it. And now I’m moving to Falmouth. My house got too big. The winter got too hard. One day, water was pouring down the driveway and I said, “This is ridiculous. What am I trying to prove?” You have to get beyond yourself. It’s okay. I can acknowledge that I’m a certain age and I’d rather not deal with this stuff.

I find myself thinking, “Now what are my goals?” I’m so goal-oriented. Get the job. Do the job. Get the kids raised. Now, it’s different. I’m in a transition and I feel good about it.

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