Losing Elena

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~Helen Keller

On Sunday, my dear friend Ingrid sent me a text that her beloved horse Elena was sick and had been taken to a vet clinic. She had an infection and her vitals were not good. Throughout the week I prayed often for both of them, believing with my whole heart that Elena would pull through and make a full recovery. 

Elena fought hard and there were moments of hope, but in the end, the infection was too much and Ingrid had to make the heart-wrenching decision to let her sweet, beautiful mare go. 

When I heard the news, I cried, my heart broken for Ingrid’s loss. Anyone who has deeply loved an animal and then had to let them go knows, it’s one of the most painful experiences we will have in this life.

Elena has held a special place in my heart because in 2015 when I was learning how to do video, I put out a call for a good equine story to film. Ingrid responded to that call and I made a video about her relationship with Elena. That project sparked a friendship between Ingrid and I that I treasure. I have Elena to thank for that. 

My prayers now turn to Ingrid as she grieves the loss of this beautiful mare who stole her heart over a decade ago. We had a special photo session in 2017 with both of Ingrid’s horses because her other horse is older and may not have a lot of years left. I’m so glad we did the session…how could we have known Elena would be gone so soon? 

What I will always remember about Elena are her soft eyes and her big heart. ❤️
















  1. Ani

    March 29, 2019

    What a beautiful love story, thank you for sharing!

    • Deena Helminiak

      March 29, 2019

      Beautiful video and what a wonderful treasure for Ingrid to have to remember this great mare.

      • Shelley Paulson

        March 29, 2019

        Thank you both so much for taking the time to watch and read about their beautiful friendship!

  2. Louise Kampmann

    March 29, 2019

    So beautiful my heart breaks for Ingrid. I now want to have photos of my new best friend.

    • Shelley Paulson

      March 29, 2019

      I’ve been feeling the same way about my horses. I have photos with them, but I want more. I know when they are gone, I will wish I had a million to remember them by.

  3. Christy

    March 29, 2019

    Shelley, you have given Ingrid the most beautiful, amazing gift in these photos, videos, and your words. I am so grateful she has these. I can’t keep the tears at bay either. I just keep staring in disbelief. Thank you so much for sharing your talent in capturing real emotions and relationships, and for taking the time to post this. ❤️

    • Shelley Paulson

      March 29, 2019

      Thank you, Christy. ❤️When things like this happen, it makes me want to photograph every. single. horse owner with their horse. I believe photos are an integral part of grieving the loss of someone we love.

      I share your disbelief. I just cannot even fathom Ingrid without Elena. They were a team and part of each other’s soul. Thank YOU for giving her the time she’s needed to not only be with Elena during this past week but also now as she needs time and space to grieve. You are a true friend.

  4. Shelley S

    March 29, 2019

    Oh, how my heart breaks for Ingrid. I hope she can relive her memories via your beautiful photos and film. Having lost horses over the years, one of them my second lifetime heart and soul horse to a freak accident, I wish I’d had more pictures. But I was heavy and had body shame issues for most of my life until recently, so I literally have no pictures of myself with most of my horses.

    Shelley, your work is lovely and I enjoy your blog.

    Ingrid, you have my condolences and I’m sending virtual hugs from Northern Michigan.

    • Shelley Paulson

      March 29, 2019

      Thank you for such kind words, Shelley. I’m so sad you don’t have photos with your heart horse. I know it can be hard to step in front of the camera if you aren’t in a place of self-acceptance. I would say most people can identify with that, including me. I hope you are able to get some photos with your horses this summer. ❤️

  5. Geoff Kuchera

    March 30, 2019

    Beautiful. video and images, Shelly! I wish I had done something like this for mjy folks and shadow who they lost recently.. What a great rememberance of a long but cut too short friendship..

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    April 9, 2019

    […] I was missing out on important events in the life of my friends. I did have one friend experience a tragic loss, but she remembered I wasn’t on social media and we communicated by text and through phone calls. […]

  7. Lori McLaughlin

    April 19, 2019

    What a beautiful story! I am in tears. Thank your friend for sharing the story of her and her beautiful girl.

  8. Ingrid, Aria and Kaleidoscope - Shelley Paulson

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    […] If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will recognize my friend, Ingrid. I shared a post last year about how she lost her heart horse, Elena. […]

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