It's Meant To Be

By Cindy Richards

As with so many of us who love horses, it started for me when I was four. And for me, it was always Palominos. First ponies, then horses, and then schooling shows; Mom and Dad always waiting in the wings. This led to more lessons, learning to jump, and more horses, horses, horses. However, for me it never led to a horse of my own.

I was convinced that I was the only person in the world without her own horse. I was sure that the same parents who took me to three lessons a week and stood in the rain at all those shows surely hated me for some unknown reason. Otherwise they would buy me a horse. My childhood and teen years were filled riding schooling horses. Ah! But my dreams, my dreams were filled with riding a golden Palomino with a flowing white mane and jumping the perfect cross country course.

She finally came into my life when I was 26. Her name was Navar, which means "Golden Wind" in some language, but I can't remember which. It took a long time for me to realize she really was just a dream. She was a 16.3 hand golden palomino and she was everything I had dreamed of since I was four years old. When I rode her I felt like I was living in a fairy tale and all my pain and worries and the void that surrounded me went away.

Honey Girl   

Photo by Connie Sanocki

Riding her was unreal. I can still feel her underneath me as we surge up a hill, warm froth spraying off her sides. We head for a water jump at the top of a knoll; she holds her breath and jumps, raw power moves under my legs. Approaching the last jump, I do everything wrong, I'm too far forward, my timing is off, she stumbles, I fall forward onto her neck, she continues and surges forward and jumps from her heart; she alone gets us over. We cross the finish line, we slow down to a walk, I pat her neck and hug her.

I still feel Navar breathing; I smell horse sweat. Then I gasp, cough and draw in a huge breath. I reach my hand up and I wipe the sweat from my eyes. I blink repeatedly, the sun seems very bright. As I look up I realize it's not sun, its some kind of large overhead lamp. I'm a little confused; my parents are there with tears in their eyes; I can smell antiseptic. Looking up at my Mom and Dad a shy smile crosses my face. Then my weak voice whispers "Mommy, Daddy, you finally got me my Palomino and we rode like the wind." They look at me perplexed. "Honey girl, there are no horses here; you just woke up from a 4-month coma."

The last thing I remember is that I could see clearly in the rear view mirror as the semi approached. I knew long before impact that it would never stop in time. I heard truck brakes scream. Or was it me? Then my car was sliced in half. I was surprised how quiet it had all been. In less than an instant, the life I had been living was shattered. Then it was doctors and specialists, and pain. More doctors, conflicting diagnoses, and still more pain. Then frustration consumed everything. I was now a closed-head-injured victim; I was disabled.

We'll skip along through four years of rehab and therapy because frankly it's boring and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Let's just say I didn't adjust well to being disabled. A very smart occupational therapist took me to a therapeutic riding program with the idea that I would write them a brochure as part of my occupational therapy. She knew I would never go to the program to participate because as I would say "I'm not one of those disabled people."

Honey Girl and Taffy, American Cream Draft Horses    

Photo by Connie Sanocki

When the car door opened at the therapeutic riding barn, the smell of horses swept through my body and I felt like I was back home. Within an hour they had me back on a horse, and within a few months I was coming out of a four-year depression and thinking maybe my life wasn't over. You must understand, I was no longer jumping fences or winning blue ribbons; I was not cantering, trotting or even walking by myself. I was being led around a small ring by a volunteer and had 2 volunteer side-walkers alongside to help me stay on, but by God I was riding a horse again.

Long-term therapeutic riding increased my ability to walk, improved my balance, helped me relearn how to process information, and more than anything else, gave me back my will to live. I spent the next four years in therapeutic riding with a certified instructor. Thanks to this amazing instructor, who became my best friend, many dedicated volunteers, and a special horse named Justin I could now walk, trot and canter on my own.

I finally decided it was time to find my own first horse. I had a huge number of problems due to my head injury, and of course I still wanted a palomino; my trainer kept telling me color was the last thing we cared about. "I understand," I'd say, but I'd still keep hoping in the back of my mind. Oh! And there was one other little problem: I now weighed almost 400 pounds. And I would never want to ride if I thought my weight would harm a horse. Two years passed slowly as our search continued.

Then running errands one day in my own hometown, I turned down a dirt road I'd never been on before and stopped dead in the middle of the road when I saw six of the most massive Palominos I'd ever seen. I drove into the driveway. The man that answered the door was not all that surprised; he said his horses were so unusual people stopped all the time. These beautiful animals were called American Cream Draft horses. He explained that they were the only draft horse originating in the United States, they were on the endangered breed list, there were less than 200 left in the world. And it would be very hard to find one to buy. So this of course was the horse I had to have.

A yearlong search leads me to almost every Cream owner in the country. Then, about to give up, I got a phone call from the man I originally met with the Creams, he found out about a pregnant mare about 30 miles from our home. We got there and found an emaciated, filthy animal with broken hooves and a mane and tale that were solid mats, she sure didn't look like the golden Palomino

I had imagined all my life. I of course bought her and took her home.

After a month, the mats were gone and the coat was starting to shed out. You could almost tell she was a Palomino. After three months, her cheeks started filling in and she could now stand solidly on her repaired feet. She would come forward willingly for apples and carrots. After five months, her ribs started to be covered with flesh. At six months the vet said he thought she would make it.

I came down to the barn one morning, opened her stall door, and a beautiful newborn filly greeted me. Since the mother hadn't made milk in advance and we had no idea when the baby was conceived, we really were not expecting the baby so soon. The vet pronounced both mother and baby healthy.

I sat down on the stall floor and she laid her head in my lap. Her fur was soft and golden, her mane was a mass of white curls and a perfect white blaze graced her face. With tears filling my eyes, I reached down and ran my hand down her white blaze. "Oh honey girl; you're amazing." Her amber eyes met mine and we stared at each other for a long time. She fell asleep with her head in my lap and two souls somehow melded together. I new this was the horse I had dreamed of. I'll turn 40 in a week. I know now that all life has a plan and this was meant to be mine. And "Honey Girl" was worth the wait.


 

About the author:

Cindy Richards is a freelance writer and co-owner of Wildwind Equestrian Center in South Lyon, MI. Contact her by e-mail at Wildwind96@aol.com

For information on Therapeutic Riding (outside of Michigan) contact North American Riding for the Handicapped Association at 303-452-1212. For more information on American Cream Draft Horses, contact that association at Rt.1, Box 30, Charles City, Iowa 50616.

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