At 58, I was at a point in my life where I had time to dream. Children grown and out in the world, husband off “putzing” in the garage or the barn, and working 2 jobs to make ends meet. One day at work, we got a new Accountant. She would flit off every evening to go ride her horse. As we became friends, she encouraged me to come with her to the barn and perhaps ride a school horse. That was about 3 years ago.
I hopped back into the saddle like I had never left it. I had owned my own horse in high school (about a hundred years ago!) and it felt natural to be back in the saddle again. The pain in my old limbs and the realization that I was never more than a trail hacker.. came quickly. So I took riding lessons twice a week and often just went to the barn on non lesson days to just “be there”. You see… the horse barn is the only place where I think of nothing else but what I am doing at the moment. I love everything about it! I thought about buying my own horse, and came close a couple times. But I always found a reason not to go through with it. Turns out… there was a reason.
There was a horse in need of rescue and my friend was going to Ohio to get her. She was so excited and there was much planning to be done as well as hoops to jump through. “What’s her name? Where is she? When is she coming? How old is she? What’s her story? What are you going to do with her? Can I help?” I was full of enthusiasm and ready to help my friend in whatever way she needed.
Enter “Hope”… a 16 year old OTTB: I waited at the barn that late October evening in 2012. I had been instructed to have lights ready to assist in Hope’s transition out of the trailer on onto the grounds of her new home.
As the Suburban and trailer lights could be seen approaching down the long back road to the barn… I got choked up. I’m a sap by nature and I was thinking of how frightened this poor mare must be. Seven years of being a winning Race Horse… Sixteen years of faithful duty in how many places? For how many “owners”? And then to wind up in a kill pen? What had her life been like? How were we to make her understand she was really “HOME” this time?
The trailer pulled up and the gate was opened… inside stood one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen on the face of this planet; a 16.3 hh dark bay Thoroughbred mare, towering above my head, eyes wide and with nostrils flared, blowing at the new surroundings. My heart melted in that instant! I took her lead rope; Hope stood tall, her head high, snorting and blowing in her nervousness..
I wiped the tears from my eyes and placed my hand on her neck. That was it… our lives were both changed in that instant. She dropped her head and relaxed as much as she dared. And in the next hour and a half, as we walked round and round the lighted arena to stretch off the long trip, Hope and I decided to trust each other.. my friend saw it first and commented ... “Don’t go falling in love with my horse! You can play with her but she’s mine! ” And she laughed. But it was too late…
Within 2 weeks, Hope fell victim to a bad fence accident and injured both of her back legs horribly. I rushed to the barn when called and told what had happened. I held Hope’s head in my arms as the Vet tried to make repairs. I cried and stroked her while whispering that everything would be ok and begging her to relax… Suddenly, I felt her lean her face firmly into my body for comfort. And she stood like a trooper as the vet tended to her painful wounds. The Vet pointed out the long process of healing combined with diligent daily care of the wounds and several vet visits to make her whole again. She said it may take two years to heal and I volunteered to take the lead as long as I had someone to give me proper instructions.
For the past 10 months, I have made the daily trek to love her up and tend to her even throughout the harsh winter months of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Hope’s legs are weeks away from being totally healed, look fantastic, and she is sound!
Hope and I have developed a strong bond. A bond so special that I have to admit it is stronger than the bond I had with my own horse all those years ago. Hope decided she is my horse (or more likely that I belong to her). She comes to greet me when she sees me in the pasture and when she is nervous or scared (horses are nervous and scared about everything!) she looks to me for confidence. I am putty in her hands and couldn’t be more devoted to her.
My friend has relented months ago that Hope belongs to me. And while things may not have turned out the way she planned… she knows they turned out the way they were supposed to. Hope has successfully integrated into a herd and she is a real horse again. She has found a home for life with a “girl” who loves and cares for her.