Ask any child, sometimes parents make mistakes. One of mine was to be a parent that wanted to give my children their heart’s desire. On a limited budget, this was all but impossible. At my husbands demand to move out of a comfortable tract home on a city cul de sac street without a proper proper budget to do so, his demands were met with a 1 acer ranch that added a great deal of work to our lives.
On one of the hottest days in the summer of 77, our family of four moved to a small acreage on Rincon Avenue. We were surrounded by small 1 acre ranches and beautiful horses with smartly dressed youth riding up and down our road. We did not realize we had purchased a home near a competition horse ring and riding club. The girls were 8 and 11 and our little one acre spread had a horse corral and fences. We had been there only a week when the girls began asking for a horse of their own.
When their dad would arrive home from work, They would ask, “Can we have a horse - please, please!”. He, of course, met them with a stone wall of silence for many days and as time wore on, he would say, “Some Day”. The girls continued with their request with me. I would shake my head no.
By the time school began that fall, Anne 12 and Lynn, 8 did a final push on the subject. Out of frustration, I declared, ”With the bills we have moving onto this property, it will be a long time before we can get you girls a horse. Probably the only way you are going to get horses ... is to pray for one!
Ohh that really made a mark, and a goal for their actions. Raised in the United Methodist Sunday School classes and our home … They knew how to pray. Every night as they went to bed, their prayers began to include, “Please give me a horse to love and to ride.”
I certainly did not hear a prayer for horse feed, saddles and vet bills. It was a keep it simple prayer, “a horse to love and ride.”
We had moved in July, it was now August as they began praying and our schools were to begin in September that year. Around the third week of school, Anne our eleven year old came home from her sixth grade class exclaiming one of the girls in her class had a horse to give away. I looked at her doubtfully and said, Anne, honey, you need to understand sometimes kids tease one another. She may just be saying this because you have voiced your desire for a horse. (I was very suspicious of this offering). Why don’t you ask her for her mother’s phone number and we will call and find out what is going on.
Even though I thought this would stop the free horse joy in her voice, I figured this would put a stop to the children being cruel to her.
Not to be daunted by her mother, Anne came home the the following day with the phone number and mother’s name on a piece of paper. After much begging, Anne and I called the number. The mother informed us that the quarter horse, trained in Gymkhana had injured her foreleg, she and her husband were getting a divorce and there was no money to pay the vet bill. The best thing was to give the horse to someone who could take care of the horse and who could pay the vet bill. (What made me think we could take care of an injury or pay a vet bill?) The mother and owner of the horse gave us the vet name and number to clarify the bill. The next step was to present this to my husband. Anyone with common sense knows a free horse is not really a “free horse”. Proper fencing, hay, oats, health up keep, emergency vet bills, shoeing, saddle and riding gear, plus ... all adds up to huge sums of money.
The last thing we needed was another mouth to feed that could not contribute.
This took a lot of discussions and a long look at the budget. My husband and I spoke with our neighbor’s trainer regarding the horse. He knew the horse and family very well and declared her a great horse with top horse skills, and with a huge leg problem that … might not get well.
We called the vet and he told us the amount of the bill, and he stated the horse’s leg was curable with specific care. After the leg healed, it would then need TLC and special shoes that cost a little more with each shoeing. Otherwise, the horse was a very healthy and well trained quarter horse.
The girl’s father and I discussed at great length the possibilities and the Problems… Being a Biology teacher, my husband felt he could handle the tender loving care, and we then we dove in. We got the stall ready in back of the shed. Had our neighbor come over and help us put in a significant electric fence that would hold the horse and finally with the girls more than excited, they went to claim the horse with a signed agreement. They then walked the horse very slowly to our property, a short a half a mile. It took several hours, resting her often with her hoof problem. From then on, the girls and their dad spent time cleaning and wrapping that horse’s leg to help it heal. Sympathy came with the biology teacher and he understood and followed everything the vet instructed him on.
October flew by, Samantha the horse fought off the infection and became well. We had no saddle, but Anne and Lynn went to her every day, brushed her, talked to her, and fed her. Eventually Samantha began walking around the pasture. Anne was ecstatic, she had a horse to look at and talk to, brush and feed, and not quite ride yet….
Lynn was another story at eleven... even tho she was included in the care and time spent with the horse, she knew this was Anne’s horse and not hers to claim . At night when I would tuck her into bed, she would say, “Anne got a horse and I don’t have one.” This became a real test of faith on all our parts as my faith also stumbled. I worried, often feeling guilty, and thought what a huge mistake I had put before this child’s faith. How could I have done this to my own loving child.
I tried to explain to her, that sometimes it takes time for the Lord to answer prayers and sometimes answers come in a better way than we anticipate. Her older sister, so confident now with her horse, kept saying, “Lynn keep praying and I’ll pray that you get one too. Lynn never did not stop her prayers for her own horse
Samantha’s leg was healed, and we were ready to have her shod. We called the recommended horseshoer and he came out while everyone was away from the house at school. He praised my husband’s healing of her leg and asked how we happened to get the horse. I told him the story of how we had one little girl with a prayer horse, and the other was still praying for one.
The horse shoer told me he had a very wealthy client that had a horse she wanted to loan out to a family. He was an older cross country champion with a trunk full of blue ribbons. The horse was very trainable and smart. The horse in a prior year brought a young man to equestrian awards plus he was in excellent health. His name was Sheikh ( a very notable name), and he also had some gymkhana skills. Being a wife before mother, I did not say a word to Lynn about this. It was not worth getting too overly excited, After the girls were in bed, I informed my husband of the horse mentioned by the horse shoers.
My husband looked tormented, how will we afford to feed and shoe two horses.
I said I would take on more work. After a few days of back and forth discussions, he called the owner and we all went to visit the horse in Sheiks’ barn. The owner Angela had a great many horses, and when we got to Sheikh’s stall, there he stood a magnificent roan standard arabian with a cream colored main and tail. He was huge. So huge I worried about how Lynn was going to fit on a sixteen hand Horse?
Angela joined us in the barn. I voiced my concerns over such a big animal and she looked at Lynn and simply stated the young boy who took Sheik to the finals in The California Equestrian Championships last year was smaller than Lynn. She spoke of her love of this horse, how he had a great personality and brought her many blue ribbons. She needed to approve of our pasture, fencing and stalls before she would allow him to come over on a trial basis. She was also concerned that our first horse was a male and they would fight. We said no, she is a mare.
Angela came to our home address and made her recommendations on improvements. We hurried through the repairs and raised the stall floor with strong beams. No horse should have their feet in mud during the winter months. Lynn’s prayers were now filled with Thank You’s. Her continued prayers had paid off. We all made ready for the Saturday in December when the horse trailer was backed onto our driveway and Sheikh walked out proudly with a big red ribbon pinned on his cream colored forelock. Lynn was beyond happy as she walked the horse back to the corral and opened the gate to introduce the horses.
Angela hurried along as she was very concerned about the introduction of the two animals. We were all startled as Sheikh let out a loud whiny and Samantha, our quarter horse ran up to him. We were in awe as they began nuzzling one another. She exclaimed, I thought I recognized your horse when I come out to the property earlier. Our horses already know one another !!. Samantha’s prior owner and I used to ride and work out our horses at the fairground race track. Angela smiled happily and reassured us that we did not need to worry about them getting along.
On Christmas morning we opened our drapes to the pasture facing patio window and there they both were, Sheikh and Samantha standing side by side with heads hanging over the nearby fence… waiting for their breakfast hay they greeted us with low whiny sounds and kicked the fence. Under the Christmas tree was the first of many pairs of cowboy boots to come. Horse Prayers were answered for both the girls, and their prayers turned to thanking God for their horses that gave them years of enjoyment and responsibility. They enjoyed trail riding with 4-H. We joined the local gymkhana ring, and the girls rode and competed in gymkhana. Years later they were part of the color guard for the city’s Rose Parades and were trailered down to the Cow Palace in San Francisco to be the horse color guard. Their 4-H obligations grew with bunny rabbits and pigs.
Indeed we never worried about the horses being together, they were a happy pair. They housed, ate, competed at the horse ring and trailered together for many happy years. The horses had very few vet bills. Sheikh went down on us once in all those years and Samantha was always a bright healthy horse once the leg healed. Angela would come by and visit Sheikh occasionally and we were pleased that she was happy about her prized horse being with us.
As the years went by, and the girls went off to college, Anne decided her horse, Samantha should move on to new owners. We carefully interviewed people to own Samantha and finally decided on the best person. It was a good setting and a light weight rider. With Sheikh it was hard on Lynn to say goodby, yet, it was easy to make certain of his health and well being. We called Angela. She had said when we saw symptoms on Sheikh’ faltering ( he was 35 years old), she would take him to a lovely property where he could be turned out to pasture for the rest of his life.
Lynn and her dad proudly moved Sheikh into Angela’s horse van. It was an emotionally charged moment as Lynn, her dad and I shed a few tears of goodbye. This was indeed - quite a horse! Angela informed us several years later that Sheik had lived to over 40 before he passed on.
We sometimes questioned… was it worth the investment, the feed bills, the time, the chores of keeping horses and the volunteer hours at the ring? We could have said NO. Looking back, this was indeed an immersion, a commitment, and a challenge filled with valuable learning experiences that taught us… there were two brown eyed horses counting on our commitment to their health and well-being, and the girls learned how to be up to the task.
Copyright 1995, JR Publications, Judith Rivers