First published by Angel Animals Story of the Week, January 9, 2010. Reprinted with permission. To subscribe to the Angel Animals Story of the Week Newsletter, send a blank message to AngelAnimalsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A HORSE NAMED FREEDOM
By Kathe Campbell
A horse’s shocking year, as told to me by loving animal sanctuary folks in Montana — his ominous days before mending at my mountain ranch.
The young Mustang’s life was unruffled, his fodder and spring graze lush, while he contemplated his prime and lived near kin. The fields and pastures were seasonally green, and the rancher forked up two squares a day, lending belly comfort and warmth to the horse’s life even through winter’s chill. Then some folks arrived on the scene to take the youngster away. He left his ma and sidekicks while being prodded into a tiny horse trailer.
Life was now simpler for the gelding, no long green valleys, nobody to run the rivers with. The hard case that bought the horse was unkind, jerking the youngin’ around while breaking him to saddle, and forcing that cussed bit.
Horse, as the new person called the Mustang, had never known about newfangled shouts, curses, and whippings that he was getting from the man’s leather quirt. The youngster’s fare dissipated into mostly weeds and dandelions, stale ditch water, and nary one sweet handful of oats. Worse, he stood afire under summer’s fierce rays while ogling grazing cattle across the fence.
The lady crawled upon Horse’s back for a spell, seemingly content with her new pony as they walked along the dirt road on fair afternoons. But for an occasional cake of grass hay tossed over his rails by a kind neighbor, Horse was left to languish in the bare and dusty pen. By summer’s end, his once sleek sorrel coat became pocked and dull, and his raw-boned hips and neck were bit through by a range of pesky chiggers.
Come evening, the man and lady screeched and hollered so loud as to make Horse’s ears twitch. Sometimes the lady came flying off the back porch, only to lay bellerin’ in the dirt. Often, the man became so angry, he swore and threw his fist through the window of their unholy little weather-beaten shack.
Autumn came, and the man left the place in his old rusty pickup. The weeds in Horse’s pen were done for, and yet seldom did a soul come with a cake of fodder. Now and then the offish lady fetched a few handfuls of bunch grass from the yard, always carrying that rank bottle of lightening. If she’d only offer to take Horse for a ride, he could easily harvest a meal from the dusty grass alongside the road, but it wasn’t to be.
The first snows saw the woman leaving early in the mornings, never seen till after dark throughout blizzards and hard freeze. She emerged nightly from her little car plumb full as a tick, mumbling nonsense as she weaved her way to the house. Horse whinnied, cribbed on the rails, and kicked the boards, but the lady never turned the lights on or gave him a thought. Crowbait now, and a layer of snow covering his back, icicles hung long and heavy from the Mustang’s mane.
Looking as though the half dead animal was ready for the bone orchard, a lady from the local animal sanctuary appeared. She opened Horse’s pen and ran gentle hands over his sorry body, murmuring soft sounds of love and reassurance.
Soon a horse trailer arrived, and Horse threaded his thin and weary legs up the ramp. But his knees collapsed, leaving him a crippled heap of filthy flesh and bone. Kind folks helped him walk into a warm stall where he bedded for days with hay, oats, and fresh water. At only three years old, his way of going seemed lost, and unless salvaged, he’d be put out of his misery.
Weeks passed, and another horse trailer pulled alongside Horse’s stall. Other folks blanketed his emaciated carcass before escorting him inside. After a long journey the doors opened to the scent of green sprouts in a field and the loping hooves of donkeys rushing to greet the pitiful wretch. He was turned loose to the glory of it all — a barn, alfalfa hay, and clean running water when he thirsted. Horse was free.
Shivering and gasping at the sight, I saw Horse’s scrawny neck schmoozing my donkeys across the fence one early morn. “So you’re our rescue baby, you sorrowful thing,” I tearfully whispered, caressing his head against my chest. “We’ll bring you about.”
Horse was made welcome in a clean, straw-filled stall when he needed comfort and seclusion. I brushed his coat daily, clipped and filed his split hooves, shared carrots, and assured him he had a home if he was a mind to stay.
He was high maintenance in the beginning and stayed for a goodly time at our ranch, high in the Montana mountains. When we saddled up and rode the hills and forests on our big champion donkeys, Horse trailed along until he amassed the sleek coat, bulk, and muscle he was born with.
The day came when we shook hands and hugged a dear old friend as he and his small Indian grandson emerged from their truck. Horse had never seen a shave tail before and seemed taken with the boy’s tawny skin, shiny black hair, and winning smile.
The lad crawled up on Horse bareback, pulled gently on the reins, and spoke kind words as they rode the acres. This was surely the best birthday present the youngster ever had, as the Mustang walked easily into their trailer to go home. They called him “Freedom.”
Kathe lives on a Montana mountain with her mammoth donkeys, a Keeshond, and a few kitties. She is a prolific writer on Alzheimer’s, and her stories are found on many ezines. Kathe is a contributing author to the Chicken Soup For The Soul and Cup of Comfort series, numerous anthologies, RX for Writers, and medical journals. Email her at <kathe @ wildblue.net>
SOMETHING TO THING ABOUT:
Who has believed in your potential when no one else could see it?
Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network
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