A Tribute to Playboy

With a heavy heart I need to share that Playboy, my incredible equine partner, is no longer with us, in physical form. Due to health complications, he made his transition while I stroked his forelock and sobbed goodbye.

He was an integral part of my life and a beloved member of Beyond the Arena and Unbridled Retreats.

Playboy was one in a million. 

He was a healer, steadfast friend, and coaching partner. More than a horse, he was an angel in equine form who blessed countless people’s lives with his unwavering strength, trusting nature, and gentle spirit.

He was family.

When he wasn’t helping people heal in the arena, he was in high demand for clients’ celebratory moments beyond the arena. Forever patient in front of a camera, his sweet face graced Facebook profile pictures, Christmas cards, senior high school pictures, and horse-themed baby announcements.

He was a safe presence.

One client, who battled an eating disorder, would lie on him bareback to feel more connected to her body. She felt safe with Playboy.

He was a life saver.

“Playboy was truly special and saved my life. I am so blessed I was able to have the bond with him that I did. I will never forget him and all that he taught me. He taught me how to trust again.”

He was a pillar of strength. 

When a woman came out for a two-day retreat with her sister, mom and three best friends, she was in the throes of grieving. Her 21-year-old son had committed suicide.

Standing next to Playboy, I invited her to hug his neck, share her pain, and lean on him for support. As she wrapped her hands around him, she began to wail while Playboy stood still as a statue and didn’t flinch. When she needed it the most, he gave her unwavering strength.

A year ago, a sweet, sensitive young boy came to see Playboy. He was being bullied by his older brother and needed comfort and strength. As he reached up to stroke Playboy’s soft muzzle, he lowered his face down to the ground for the boy. In that moment, that boy leaned his forehead against Playboy’s face and said in a soft voice, “My parents don’t understand but Playboy knows…he understands.”

At that moment, I couldn’t help but cry. Playboy had an invaluable gift for helping people feel safe, heard, and understood.

I’m grateful for the sacred time I had with Playboy and to witness the difference he made in people’s lives. He left hoofprints on many hearts.

“There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings and walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.” – Suzanne Clothier

If you knew Playboy, it would mean a lot to me if you’d leave a comment below and share a few words or a fond memory to honor him and celebrate his life.

He is and will forever be deeply missed.

Remembering a beloved friend who helped so many,


26 replies
  1. Brit
    Brit says:

    I was just looking at all the pics of Playboy letting me feed him. My first and only time feeding a horse, in fact. Messy!!! Haha!! Messy, snotty, slobbery palm of Love, I tell ya!! I will cherish that brief but powerful moment forever. We had just wrapped up my first equine coaching session, where there were many tears…but feeding Playboy brought me so much joy…made me laugh so hard. I loved that I got to experience his presence, and have been so honored to hear ALL the stories. Sending you the biggest hug and wishing you continued healing. Here for you, girl.

  2. Michelle H
    Michelle H says:

    I’m so sorry for your broken heart, Devon. Such a tremendous loss. Playboy was definitely an angel and he gave so much to so many. I know you are hurting right now and I’m sending you so much love. ((HUGS)) ????????

  3. Jen Vertanen
    Jen Vertanen says:

    Devon…my heart is so heavy right now. I know just how much Playboy means/meant to you and just how many people’s lives he touched including mine and Sawyer’s. I am so sorry to hear of his passing…much love to you, lady. I love you.

  4. Kara
    Kara says:

    Oh Devon, my heart goes out to you. Such a huge loss. He’s now with Namo and I hope they are running and playing on the other side. I never met Playboy, but have heard about him and seen photos of him for years. Just over the weekend, I was searching your website as I hadn’t “seen” him in a while. I will keep you and Detail and Playboy in my thoughts and prayers as you grieve this loss. Much love to you my friend <3

  5. Aileen w
    Aileen w says:

    I had never had the opportunity to meet Playboy, but through this touching tribute I can certainly say that it feels like I knew him. So sorry for your loss Devon, that is a tough one. hugs!

  6. lynette
    lynette says:

    Sweet, sweet boy. He just wanted to run when I rode him and his spirit just coursed through me. Bodies fail, but the spirit never does and that will go on forever. I look forward to riding him again on the other side. I’m so sorry you’ve lost two loves so close together. Thinking of you and Detail with heavy a heart.

  7. brenda nesbitt
    brenda nesbitt says:

    I loved the moment when Playboy decided the best thing he could do in response to what was going on in our group was to fold himself to the ground and have a delicious full-body dust massage. While he wriggled and rolled with pleasure, we all broke into laughter. Clearly he was demonstrating that “exfoliating” can remove all that gets in our way and that renewal can come in many forms. Dry brushing anyone? Playboy was a lover and a wisdom teacher. Weren’t we lucky to know him?

  8. Nichole Srott
    Nichole Srott says:

    Playboy’s easy going nature and furry touch were just two of the things I adored about him. He was always such a strong, gentle presence and I felt happier just standing next to him. I’m so sorry to hear about this huge loss Devon. My heart aches for you and Detail. Sending lots of love and tears.

  9. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    I will forever treasure my memory of riding Playboy in the snow while pregnant with my first baby boy. It was such a joy to share my love of riding with my unborn child and Playboy kept us both totally safe.

  10. Cherie Bredal
    Cherie Bredal says:

    My heart goes out to you Devon, I’m sorry for you loss. Playboy touched so many hearts, and healed many, including mine. I will keep you in my prayers with much love to you.

  11. kelly cregan
    kelly cregan says:

    No!!! Oh, Devon, I am so heartbroken for you. I have such a special place in my heart for Playboy. After the Women’s Retreat, Playboy took me on a wild gallop through the Colorado countryside. I felt so free and safe on him. My time with Playboy led me to a deepening relationship with horses that ultimately led to adopting Gracie. Thank you, Playboy, for introducing me to the powerful horse-human bond. I am lighting a candle for Playboy and for you, dear Devon.

  12. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Getting to ride Playboy Dancer was a highlight of mine. He glided. I feel he and I bonded in a special way due to us both experiencing thyroid issues. I remember him as a gentle servant, humble, soft, and sweet-natured. I will surely never forget him. My thoughts are with you Devon.

  13. Karen
    Karen says:

    I feel so honored to have gotten to meet and work with Playboy (and you, Devon). It was my first experience with equine coaching and meant so much to me that I cannot even describe. My first chance to ride bareback in decades. The experience reconnected me with myself in ways not experienced for, again, decades. We rode out into the Colorado countryside and I was re-introduced to my intuition and inner sensitivity when I felt within that Playboy wasn’t feeling his best. He was feeling wobbly, and we walked him back home. But not because he asked. He was giving his best without complaining. I go to meet Namo, too. I am so thankful and appreciative that I got to meet the three of you. Sending love…..

  14. Kristi Blanco
    Kristi Blanco says:

    What a beautiful spirit Playboy was… such a sweet and gentle being. I loved photographing him at the ranch…. Sending love and prayers to you Devon- you have lost two wonderful best friends in animals in a very short time. Lots of love to you… ????

  15. susanne
    susanne says:

    Devon, So sorry to hear that such a giving, caring gentle horse has taken his leave, it surely was a life well lived. May we all aspire to leave such a legacy of healing and love…

    gABRIELLE says:

    Playboy was my first back-in-the-saddle after a long time away from riding. I love horses, and love riding but was hesitant, and of nothing more than my own self-doubt. As I walked Playboy out, I quietly whispered to him my reservations, and he softly nickered in reply. It was at that moment I knew he understood and if he could’ve taken my hand, he would have. As we rode I was reminded of the magic that is being on horseback – freedom. He was so gentle and reassuring, and kindly let me know (coaching, Playboy style) if I wasn’t fully present in the moment. At one point he decided he wanted to trot, so we did for a very brief moment. I commented to Devon on how smooth his gait was and she said that his breed was the “Cadillac” for gaits. That is what Playboy was the Cadillac of horses, an equine of the highest caliber.

    I knew and got to work with Playboy for only a short time. He helped me move through some life challenges with grace and strength. My heart breaks at this news and for you Devon.

    Here is to you Playboy! A celebration of your life and all the hearts you touched.

  17. Mary Hicks
    Mary Hicks says:

    I keep thinking I’m ready to write here–then I realize I never will be.
    To my beautiful friend Playboy. You opened the door to my understanding of what/who horses truly are–and a path opened before me. I am forever grateful.
    You accepted my first attempts at Equine Reiki–and then opened your whole, huge heart to embrace me.
    I am forever grateful.
    From you, the gentlest of all teachers, I learned courage.
    And I am beyond grateful.
    To my beautiful friend Devon, I am sending love. Pure unadulterated love. Many, including me, call it Reiki. But for tonight, we’ll name it for who it really is.
    Hello my friend, PB. We see you. We know you. WE love you.

  18. Patty
    Patty says:

    I knew Playboy thru you Rachel and what a savior he was for and to you. You always were excited to tell me about your rides and time spent with him. I to have given birth and layed down with my steed at their end of life. It’s trully a love that only a special kind or person knows.
    RIP Playboy and thank you for being my dear friends Rachel’s savior.

    • Rachel Shaw
      Rachel Shaw says:

      Oh Patty this made me cry. Thank you for sharing that. I have been trying to read through the comments and havent been able to get far as I am always sobbing. Wanting to think it’s not true.

  19. Heather kiRby
    Heather kiRby says:

    A couple of fondest memories about PlayBoy… he was such a rock star in the Unbridled retreat in CO a few years ago. Born to be an equine coach and intimately connected to you, Devon, as a coaching partner. My other memory is of riding PlayBoy bare back through the hills at the old place with you and Detail . His steady, smooth gait, his pulsing energy, the sheer power in his small frame and his clear thrill in being able to run full out. What a thrill for me. Undoubtedly among the best rides of my life. And the completely dirty jeans at the end of the ride!!! He is running free with wild abandon in the green hills beyond the arena and he will nicker in your heart forever.

  20. margaret wilson
    margaret wilson says:

    Dear Devon, my deepest condolences to you and the herd…..Playboy was a dear sweet boy and I know changed so many lives during the past few years as your number 1 go-to guy. Thank you for sharing him with me early on in our coaching careers as we learned how to partner with horses and heal our clients. He was always a favorite of mine for his big heart, solid shoulder to lean on and happy go-lucky temperament. He was a real joy to work with and I am so sorry to hear of his passing. May you find some peace in knowing that he touched so many lives.

  21. Kaelen
    Kaelen says:

    Oh Devon! We are so, so, sorry for your loss. May Playboy forever run in the sun through fields of gold. Hugs from Kaelen, Steele, Kaden & the rest of our 4-legged gang…

  22. Laura Poff
    Laura Poff says:

    Devon, I am so very sorry about dear Playboy! I feel so honored that I had the privilege of meeting him. He was so kind and patient and such a beautiful soul. Dear sweet Devon, my heart aches for you and the loss of your boy. Sending you lots of love and healing thoughts!

  23. Rachel Shaw
    Rachel Shaw says:

    I keep thinking over and over again about my favorite memory with him and I can’t. Why? Because every time I was with Playboy is a memory that I will hold onto and cherish forever. I never thought after struggling with an eating disorder for so long and losing trust in everyone, that PB would play the biggest role in my recovery. He became my best friend, my rock, my stone. It has been the hard to believe it is actually real which is why it has taken me awhile to process it. I could sit and talk about everything he taught me and the memories for days. I had very little horse experience and thought I had left the country life behind, however, PB and the whole Beyond the Arena when in Larkspur changed my life. I remember going down a complete rocky spot thinking what am I doing on this 1200lbs horse going down these rocks, we are not going to make it. That was the first moment I told him I am trusting you and if you get me down safely I will get you a few treats. Of course he got me down safe and sound, at the end of the session I hugged him telling him I trusted him and would never ever doubt him again. I kept true to my promise and for the first time in a long time he taught me how to trust again, slowly I was able to take that beyond and trust others. Even after riding him so many times, he taught me it is true: When you fall off, just get back on. After falling I remember jumping up and was ready to get back on him and continue riding. I am so blessed that he was in my life, but I am even more grateful that T got to meet him and be on him. I am heartbroken and miss him so much. He was a huge part of my life (heck he SAVED my life), I don’t know literally where I would be without him. You both helped save my life and making my dreams come true. We planned starting my own in home day care, and worked through adoption together. I cried so many times into his furry body telling him how much my heart ached not being a mother. He kept pushing me along and wow it came true. T loved him, and I will forever cherish the pictures of T, myself and him taken by Kristi, that was a great day. I could go on and on but as the tears fall and my heart aches, I can’t imagine Devon the pain you are going through. I will have more memories to share with you in private too. But we were very lucky to have him in our lives. I am praying for you, Charlie, and Detail. And will forever hold special places in my heart for PB and Namo.

  24. Aidan SnelliNg
    Aidan SnelliNg says:

    Losing a dearly loved one is easily the greatest form of human suffering that exists. It’s always difficult to adapt and function when such a beloved and crucial part of your life is suddenly taken away from you. Life can be horribly ironic and unpleasant, but it can also be beautiful and full of light, love, and hope. During my lowest points, Playboy was one of the only things that gave me hope and the will to keep on fighting, even though I was so ready to give up and die. He was quite literally a guardian angel and a ray of life in my life. He saved my life on multiple occasions and gave me just that little amount of strength that gave me the will to keep on living. Playboy was simply something special. Something truly authentic and beautiful that is far too rare these days and it is tragic to see him go. Despite all of the sadness, he will always be in our hearts and especially your heart, Devon. He will always be watching over you as an angel. Never forget that. I want to personally thank you, Devon, for everything that you have done for me. You have saved my life. I’m so sorry for your loss but don’t lose hope. Sending my love and support,

    Aidan Snelling.


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