Saturday, January 8, 2011


My oldest daughter, Megan, went through a number of animal-crazy stages when she was little.  During preschool she was her school's resident dinosaur expert, which then morphed into a dragon passion by kindergarten.  The next logical step was a love of unicorns, and of course that could only lead to one infatuation.  About this time, the animated movie, Spirit, came out and I enthusiastically accompanied my young daughters to view it on the big screen.  Well, that was it - we were all hooked! 

Recoginizing that this might just be my ticket back into the equine world, I agreed to sign Megan up for a few riding lessons when she was seven years old.  We found a good local instructor and got started.  She loved the lessons and took to it quickly, but after a few months I couldn't help but think, "I could teach her all that if we had our own horse"!  Now, knowing what the long-term responsibilities of horse ownership entail, I decided it might be best to start with a lease and see where this took us before making a bigger commitment.  Enter Belle.

A friend saw a flyer at her daughter's elementary school for a partial lease on an older Quarter Horse mare named Belle.  For just $100 a month, we could visit Belle's Boulder stable, groom her, ride her, and love her 3 days a week while the current owner fed her, cleaned her stall and continued paying all the other bills.  Sounded like a great next step on our equine journey.  We signed on and for the next year or so, enjoyed establishing a relationship with Belle with a minimal time, money and energy commitment.  It was perfect.

But good things rarely last, and so when the day came that the owner announced they were moving to Ft. Collins and taking Belle with them, I wasn't too surprised.  I offered to buy Belle from them, but she wasn't for sale and so we sadly said goodbye with the understanding that we could visit her any time we wanted to.  We did make the drive up to see her several times over the next year, while we continued to look for another lease horse for Megan.  But Belle was a tough act to follow and we couldn't find a horse or stable that felt as right as our situation with her had.

About this time, my husband and I were weighing the idea of  making this major move to a small farm.  We'd gone back and forth for months, but it had finally just clicked that it was now or never.  We had found a small property of interest and had decided to make a verbal offer on it one chilly January day.  That very same day, I got a call from Belle's owner with the news that his family was finding it hard to make time for her and if I was interested, they'd like to just give her to us!  Call it fate, kismet, destiny...we knew we were on the right track.

The offer we made on the initial property didn't go through, but it was the step we needed to take to know we were now committed.  Within a month, we had found another suitable property and had a contract in place.  We weren't going to move until June so that the girls could finish out the school year where they were, so we had to find a local boarding stable for Belle until we could move her to our own farm.  It took a couple of months to get everything set, but finally in early April, we hired a horse transporter and went up to get her.

It was a humbling sight when we arrived at her boarding stable.  The once shiny, plump black mare was noticeably thinner and her coat was dull and badly in need of brushing.  She's been in a group feeding situation and had been pushed around by the younger, more dominant horses, so had dropped quite a bit of weight and was obviously in need of some serious TLC.  What seemed like an amazing gift horse soon felt more like a horse rescue.

But thanks to lots of good senior grain and alfalfa hay along with daily nurturing visits and grooming, Belle soon got back to her sleek, healthy weight and the softness of her kind eye returned.  Then and there, we made the commitment to her that she would live out her twighlight years in peace and harmony in her new forever home at our very own farm.  As she approches her 27th birthday, she is doing just that.

Life Lesson:  Some Things are Just Meant to Be

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