I grew up with a chestnut mare named Miss Becky who was the center of my world. Horse people understand other horse people. We love the soft noise of a stomped hoof in a warm barn in the winter. We crave the smell of liniment and leather, of that unique blending of manure and hay, and the feel of coats gone slightly fuzzy with the change of seasons.
We’re admittedly weird.
But I have also taken crap for rescuing horses. There are “so many other things” on which money could be spent. Starving children, for crying out loud.
There are a lot of ways to starve, and food is only one of them.
So nowadays my horse-fix is no longer out my back door, because I simply can’t care for a stable full of horses any longer by myself. But I do still ride when I can, and the love has never left me. So I have a private boarding arrangement with one of my oldest and closest friends, and Ahmed indulges my horse fix. We have two rescues. “Briggs," Brigadier General Preston, is a Suffolk Punch draft stallion who eats the gross national product of a small country yearly. His breed is down to very few numbers in the world, so we do get stud fees for him. “Mo,” Mosaic Dreams, is an appaloosa cutting horse gelding. Riding him is like taking a nap in a LaZBoy, while cantering. Briggs happily does hayrides and other volunteer work for kids—some with cancer, others who just need a special day. Mo works with children who have socialization problems, and as a therapy horse.
They earn their keep. They earn their respect. And they occasionally perform miracles.
Case in point: a young woman named Laura (who will otherwise be anonymous for the purposes of this blog post), began riding out on Mo to re-connect with her body’s center of gravity. She was 13 when we began lending her Mo for this therapy, and had lost the use of her lower body in a car accident. My god-daughter Isolde (her family is our stable-host) made friends with Laura, and often joined her for rides. After about four months, Issy was watching Laura from the ground and noticed something remarkable.
The girl who was paralyzed from the waist down wasn’t just learning to center her upper body while in the saddle. This big, gentle giant of a cutting horse was turning BEFORE she reined him. Issy watched. A very slight movement in her friend’s knees astonished her: Laura was using her legs to guide him without realizing it. Without alerting her friend, she called Laura’s mom and the physical therapist over to point it out. After a few minutes it was agreed—Laura was definitely using her legs… the legs that weren’t supposed to work any longer. Over the coming weeks and months Laura began tentatively exploring more therapy, including pool therapy, to see where this would lead. She continued her work with Mo.
That was last year. Last week Laura, who is now 14, stood up. She took two steps without the aid of crutches, bars, or canes, into her mother’s waiting arms. No doctors or therapists can tell us if this is all Laura will ever do, because Laura’s not supposed to be doing it. She should not have use of her legs. She should not be seeing spinal repair, either, but tests show that she is.
I couldn’t do it. He was not, the vet said, in pain, but would most likely eat through a huge amount of money, with no promise of a lasting chance. But in spite of all he’d been through, he was incredibly gentle, loving, and eager to please. He took treatment to his feet and legs that was painful without complaint. His ears always pricked for a whistle, and he would lean into my shoulder every time I came close. I looked at Ahmed, sobbing, and begged him for permission to blow the money on a fragile chance.
So for those who have criticized that choice, and have done some armchair quarter-backing about wasting money on an animal— take a moment to think. I believe every living thing deserves a chance. I’ve helped people in my time, too, and can’t think of one who has done more than Mosaic Dreams. His name, now, seems so incredibly fitting. A beautiful whole made up of broken pieces—a dream made flesh and miraculous.
I doubt Laura’s mom, when her daughter took those two steps into her arms, begrudged him a single penny spent on grain, hay, and love. She is keeping mostly quiet about her daughter’s miracle. I think all of us keep waiting for it to vanish, yet Laura makes progress weekly that no medical professional thought possible or can explain. Spinal injuries are like that, they say.
No, I do not regret money spent, heartbreak risked, time given, or choices made saving that big, wonderful horse. He was the bargaining chip that got a great kid with cancer to do her chemo—she is in remission. He was there the day an autistic girl said her first words, arms locked around his velvet-nose. He has wrenched smiles from kids in agony, fear, and misery. Shattered dreams have been made whole.
Miracles are never laid out in wrapping paper. They are hidden. Look past the broken pieces, see the whole, celebrate life in all its forms… and shut up about how I decide to spend my time, money, and love.