The Miracle of George
By Betsy Kelleher
“There is always a reason a horse appears in a woman’s life.” When I read this quote on Facebook, taken from “If I Had a Horse,” by Melissa Sovey-Nelson, I knew I had to share the story of the woman who posted the quote.
I will call her Ann, but that is not her real name. My first contact with her was her purchase of my book, Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse in 2008. We have become Facebook friends since then, which is how I learned of her miraculous acquisition of George. And I share her touching story with her happy permission.
In February of 2010, Ann saw an online video advertising George for sale. She fell in love at first sight with this beautiful black five-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse gelding, but he was three hundred miles away and out of her price range. She remembers posting a comment on March 2nd on the seller’s Facebook page. When she learned he was sold, she prayed for him to have a good home. But she still couldn’t get this horse out of her mind, and she admits watching his sale video, on Facebook and YouTube, maybe a thousand times!
A year later, she was amazed to see an ad on Craigslist for this very same George, an hour away and within her price range. After she called and left a message, the owner called her back a few minutes later. She went to see him the next day, excited about getting “her” George, but she was not prepared for what she found. This owner was inexperienced with horses, and George was in a dirt lot with no water or shelter, only some black moldy hay. George had a bad skin fungus over 85% of his body, and he obviously needed worming. He was so thin and weak he could hardly walk, and his eyes were dull and lifeless.
Ann says she sensed a feeling of utter despair in him when they first arrived, but even as they talked to his owner, his eyes began to look hopeful. She cried over his condition and prayed that he would survive the trip that brought him home to her on March 1, 2011. Their vet came the next day and told them George might not have survived a few more days where he had been, and cautioned that the next three to five days would be critical. Ann says the fifth day was the worst.
During the first few weeks, while George was still weak, he would press his head against Ann’s chest and just stand there, sometimes with a sigh. He would be standing nearby as she filled his water bucket, and she would feel an unbelievable thirst. She gets other strong impressions from him now and then, confirming that George had not enjoyed the best of care over the past year.
His excessive drinking at first was a great concern. When a horse has been starved and then goes back to eating and drinking, it can be a great shock to his system and kidney failure is a very real possibility. Food must be given in small amounts at first, and even worming too soon could be fatal. Their vet repeatedly stressed how important it was to go very slowly with everything.
Since Ann has owned George, he has steadily gained weight and strength and his hair is growing back. Ann started out with gentle, easy groundwork, and says he seemed to need constant reassurance. When she stands beside him now and leans into him, he bends his neck around her like he is hugging her. She holds his halter out and says, “Put your halter on, George,” and he pokes his head into it. When she holds out the ear net and says, “Put your ears on, George,” he does. She finally began riding him lightly for short periods at a walk. They now enjoy a beautiful, peaceful trail by the river, three or four times a week. She says he has a calming presence that helps her spooky mare. “He is everything I hoped he would be. His sweet, silly personality touches everyone who meets him.” He is learning to trust people again, and shows an uncanny sympathy and sensitivity to the feelings and needs of humans who need encouragement. Ann and her husband say that “this horse knows things.” She still watches his old sale video, remembering all the times she dreamed of owning him. “All the time I was wishing he was mine, he was needing me just as much!”
I believe with all my heart that a horse knows how we feel about him. And I find myself wondering—did Ann establish some kind of telepathic kinship with this horse from all that time watching his video and loving him from afar? There is definitely a special connection, and George shows his gratitude.
Ann says, “I love him more everyday! I am so emotional over this horse. I have never been so firmly touched by God before in my life. I know in my heart God sent this special horse to me. I still have a hard time believing he is here, safe with me for the rest of his life. Dreams do come true!” One of her Facebook posts ended with “God bless the broken road that led him straight to me!” I read those posts on George’s progress with interest until I decided her story should be shared. I am convinced that God has His hand on this relationship and I am eager to hear future developments.
George was the victim of an inexperienced owner who perhaps had the wrong advice from friends. He was not the first person to buy a horse without knowing how much is involved in ownership! He told Ann that George was perfect at first, but he didn’t know what to do when things started going wrong. It often happens that new owners do not understand the needs of an animal of this majestic but fragile nature. I am glad George found the owner who both wanted him and knew how to care for him. Many horses never have that.
If you want a horse, please take the time to learn how to take good care of it. Find out a horse’s needs regarding proper shelter, food and water, and be willing to spend time grooming and exercising and working through any problems. There are countless DVD’s and videos and books available on every issue a horse owner might face, plus online sources of information, not to mention professional veterinarians. Ownership of an equine partner can be a precious treasure. Don’t let it become a nightmare for an innocent animal! And if you know some new horse owner, please do what you can to help.
God gave man dominion over His creation, but horses should not have to fear those who are supposed to take care of them. There is a difference between ignorance and cruelty—and we need to find ways to end both! Not everyone is meant to own a horse; but instead of judging, let us remember that we were once first time owners ourselves. And as we learned through the years, with help, others deserve the same chance! There is meaning in our love of horses, as a friend once told me, “I think God puts these things in our hearts for a reason.” That love itself becomes a responsibility for a precious life.
(Originally published in the July 2011 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)