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Madelyn and her sisters Sofia and Greta arrived at the ranch for their first session as participants in our 2013Horsemanship program. Their visit began with the regular greetings and information. Sessions always start with a chore and today they would be working on the Green Thumb Team. Grabbing their tools the girls and their mentors headed to the vegetable garden.
Weeding, talking and giggling are some of my favorite ways to get to know a new friend. With Madelyn, it didn’t take long to discover that everything about horses caught her attention.
After chores were finished, we headed over to barn to be fitted with riding helmets, and to grab the grooming buckets, saddles, bridles and lead ropes that we’d need for the day. Madelyn, ready to ‘cowboy up,’ carried her own gear, or at least most of it.
Before today, Madelyn’s love of horses had been bound up in the books she read and the dreams she dreamed. But this day, she would ride. She would be paired with a horse that would be hers for the summer,
After several laps in the riding pen, Madelyn let out a long audible sigh, loud enough to cause both her mentor Candice and I to turn around. We saw a relaxed Madelyn, with a smile as big as Texas. “Today is a good day!” Madelyn said, with a quite, thoughtful voice. Reaching down the soft neck of her new friend, she whispered, “I love you Taz.”
Taz, a 16 + hand (that means REALLY tall), striking Appaloosa was partnered with Madelyn. He’s as sweet as he is fun to look at. Spotted, speckled, full of color and sporting a full blaze. Taz is handsome and an absolute treasure.
His registration papers and conformation seemed to assure him a place in the ‘good life’. His first owners made every effort and spared no expenses in his care and training. His competitive life started early and to no one’s surprise Taz was amazing.
As is common in life, change was coming for Taz. An injury disqualified him from competition, and with a full recovery unlikely, Taz was sold.
At first, his new family seemed to be an answer to prayer, but they lacked experience and time. Before long, Taz found himself alone, no caring hand to groom him, no loving friend to lead him, no partner to ride him.
The lack of attention evolved into lack of care and before long Taz was in trouble. His hooves had grown grotesquely long, flaring up and curling backwards towards his knees. Standing was uncomfortable and walking was more and more painful as this treatable condition grew worse.
The staff at the stables where he lived were saddened by his situation, they hoped for a change and worked to facilitate a sale. This is where our story and Taz’s intertwine.
The day Ben and I met Taz was unforgettable. He stumbled out of his stall and with great effort walked to the center of the arena. His eyes focused on the ground in front of him, his head dropping low with every step. His suffering was undeniable. Later that week, we loaded Taz into our trailer and he began a new life chapter. The injury that pulled him out of competition is still troublesome for Taz, but he no longer stands or moves in pain.
Taz has served Stable Days Youth Ranch from the very beginning, being the second horse to call this ranch his home. This year, he loved and partnered with 17 kiddos, making each one feel as special as he did with Madelyn.
Nearing the end of the season Madelyn was sitting high and happy on her horse. Knowing she had only a few sessions left to be with her beloved Taz, she looked down at me. With a thoughtful and serious expression she said,,“Caryl, when I’m old enough to have my own horse, Taz will be old. He’ll be too old to have kids like me ride him. Can I buy him then? Can I take care of him when he’s old? Can Taz be my horse?”
I swallowed hard, not wanting tears to come, but so touched by how life had now come full circle for Taz. He once was sold because he couldn’t perform. Today he so strongly touched the heart of a child that she wanted nothing more than to provide for him, to love Taz in his older years when he had little left to give. Madelyn simply wanted to love him and be by his side.
Madelyn’s words were so beautiful, with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes I replied, “Oh, what a sweet idea Madelyn, will have to see about that when the time comes.”