Saturday, March 12, 2016



Originally published in Horse Directory, March/ April 2016

By Tom Gumbrecht

Dave was an artist whose medium was music

Dave Jensen had a gift. He had the ability to take what was going on in his mind, heart and soul and put it into an art form to share with us. He was an artist whose medium was music. 

The first time I saw him perform it was at a coffeehouse on the South Shore of Long Island. I arranged to meet Samantha there, who was in her early twenties at the time, back from college, and we weren't always seeing eye to eye. She agreed, somewhat reluctantly, which was understandable for a child who felt obligated to be in the company of a parent whose attitude had not been endearing. 

By the end of Dave’s two sets, we were beginning to get back on track; we were connecting. 
My heart was becoming light and I felt it opening. Dave’s gift was bringing people together, 
and he did so with his music. He made a connection with every person in that room, and in 
doing so connected us all.

Dave had bipolar disorder. He was very open about it, and used it as neither an excuse nor a
Dave's personality brought out the best
in people and horses.

free pass but rather to attempt to get others similarly afflicted to identify with him. He spoke of his illness, and how he dealt with it, in a matter-of-fact way, like we riders might speak of a broken finger and how we adapted our riding to it. It wasn't a complaint; it was an exchange of 

Bipolar disorder is not curable, but its symptoms are treated with medication and therapy. After Dave and I became friends, we discovered another way: horses. He responded to them, and they responded to him. We know that mental illness can carry a stigma, and as humans we 
can become judgmental of those that suffer even if we don't want to. Horses don't respond to stigma because they don't know what it is. They respond to the soul of the person standing next to them, in Dave's case the soul of a person who had the ability to channel life's beauty 
into the language of the heart. That language is exactly what horses understand! We humans got to appreciate it through his music; the horses got it just by being around him. 

Bella is very choosy about her humans, and she
chose Dave.
Many of us are initially attracted to horses through their beauty and power; then if we pursue riding, by what they can do for us. Eventually if we work at it long enough and have it in our hearts, a partnership may evolve and we might be have the privilege of working as teammates toward a common goal. Ultimately, if we are lucky enough, a true relationship might evolve where we can appreciate our horses for who they are rather than what they can do for us.

Dave seemed to never have to evolve like that. From the first day, he appreciated our horses for who they were and was content with merely being in their presence. He immediately “got” what the horses had to offer, an awareness that had taken me years to develop. 

Dave passed away recently and left a hole in our close-knit barn family. Early one recent 
morning I was out in the barn in the company of our horses, making sure that they were fed 
and warm enough to brave the new year's first major snowstorm. Like many days since I got 
the sad news, I was thinking of Dave. He loved it here.

Without meaning any disrespect, that day in the barn I was sad but not devastated. As I 
attempt in my mind to explain myself... my feeling that although I am very sad, I feel he is still 
very much with us and the best parts of him will never leave this barn.... I picture Dave flashing 
a smile and waving me off: "I get it, bro... I get it!" That’s the thing: if you were a person whose 
life was touched by Dave, you know that he made it safe to be and to express exactly who you 
were and what you were feeling at that moment. It was a gift every bit as beautiful as his music.

The world was not always a safe place for Dave but he went out there and faced it anyway
DannyBoy was Dave's favorite horse. He
responded to horses and horses
 responded to him.

because that's what he had to do in order to share his gifts. By his unflinching acceptance, he made it a safer place for those of us who struggle with such things, to be ourselves.

What do we call a person who faces danger and in so doing makes things less dangerous for others? Around this barn we call him an inspiration. Dave Jensen will continue to be an inspiration here for as long we have challenges to face and need a beacon of hope. The fuel 
that warms this barn is love, and Dave left our tanks full. 

Explore Dave’s music at

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