Lady arrived at Cedar Bluff Ranch a condemned horse. “Unrideable,” declared her previous owner, a seasoned equestrian. The owner told Monty and Cheri Brenner that if their ranch adopted Lady, they would be saving the Arabian mare from death. The Brenners agreed. They were a generous couple who spent all their spare time and money rescuing horses. They rehabilitated the horses and then matched them with new owners.
It was the first week of vacation before my freshman year of high school, and I was looking forward to another summer of working at Cedar Bluff. I was delighted to meet the new horse. Lady was white and graceful and I fell in love immediately. However, she was terrified of me. Cheri explained that Lady was originally from a polo stable. It was clear that Lady didn’t have the right personality for such an aggressive sport. There was a scar on her mouth from some severe bit, the underside of her neck bulged with resistant muscles and her back was slightly swayed from heavy riding.
The ranch trainer asked me if I wanted to work with Lady. Lady was not aggressive, but she would gallop away uncontrollably whenever she became frightened of her rider. The trainer showed me how to keep my reins slack and my stomach tight whenever Lady bolted in panic. Lady taught me not to wiggle my toes, flap my elbows or touch my helmet, so she wouldn’t bolt in the first place.
I had had other experiences with training, but never had I felt as sensitive to a horse’s character as I did with Lady. Soon she let me post to her trot. Then I could slow her down after cantering up a hill. Eventually, I could ride her around without a saddle or a bridle.
The Brenners, however, were ready to sell Lady as soon as she was rideable. They could not afford to keep every horse they rescued. Unfortunately, I could not afford to buy her. I was devastated.
I spent every chance I had at the ranch with Lady. From her pasture, she would see me walking to the barn and would take off cantering to meet me at the door. I fed her carrots, untangled her mane and gave her baths so that I could take pictures of her rolling in the dirt afterward. I tried to record memories.
Then, during the last week of vacation, I was approached by a boarder at Cedar Bluff. I knew nothing about the woman except that she was not particularly wealthy. She said she had watched me riding Lady and had a question. “Would you let me purchase that horse and give her to you?”
It took me a few days to recover from the generosity of this stranger’s offer. When I accepted it, I asked her how I could ever thank her for buying me my dearest friend. She looked me in the eye and said, “Just pass it forward.”
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