Story written by Courtney Thompson, submitted by Hope’s Legacy Rescue
History of Horses
I started riding horses when I was just five years old. At age nine, I started asking my parents for a horse of my own. My dad, who grew up on a dairy farm, suggested we get cows instead when well-meaning friends told him this horse-craziness was “just a phase.” (HA! Sorry, Dad!) I began taking lessons at a local riding stable and got involved in an amazing 4-H Horse Club. The leader, Judy, was incredibly influential in
my life and my horsemanship education. After about a year of that, she took my dad aside and told him I was more than ready for a horse of my own. (Thanks, Judy! Sorry again, Dad!)
By the time I was 11 years old, I had two horses, including the one that would become my “heart horse”- Cisco, an incredible Paint gelding. He was truly my best friend- I ended up owning him for 23 years until his unexpected death in 2014 at the age of 28. During my teen years, I was so fortunate to also end up owning a beautiful Quarter Horse gelding named Snoopy, who I showed competitively through high school and the first part of college. I sold him when I went away to college (heartbreaking, but it was the best thing for him. Cisco was leased to some good friends during that time). Through some really incredible circumstances, I was reunited with Snoopy in 2005 and had BOTH my boys at home with me to live out their retirement years.
Heartbreak turns to Hope
As I said, I lost Cisco on February 26, 2014. I was heartbroken- I still miss him. Snoopy adjusted well to being the “only child” (he lived with our cows, who constantly amused him) and lived a wonderful life until he passed away in November 2018, just a couple months shy of his 31st birthday. For the first time in 27 years, I was horse-less. Friends were sending me ads for horses for sale and links to adoption sites. My heart just wasn’t ready to fill those empty stalls.
I had heard of Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue but had never visited or volunteered. During the spring of 2019, I was into running 5Ks (luckily, a short-lived interest) and a Facebook ad for their upcoming “Hoofin’ It For Horses Trail Run” in May caught my eye. The farm is located close to my home, so I signed up, happy to support a great cause. During the FIRST MILE of the run, I twisted my ankle on a rock (I can still show you the spot where it happened!) and almost slid down a muddy hill into one of the volunteers (sorry, Carolyn!). Despite my less than enjoyable run, two things happened:
1) I was majorly impressed by the farm and how friendly and excited the volunteers were; and
2)… I saw HIM. In one of the fields, three geldings were joyously running and playing. HE was a gorgeous, shiny chestnut guy with the cutest face.
It was a rainy day, so I didn’t stick around after the race, but I immediately went home and filled out the volunteer application. Fast forward a few weeks and I came back for my orientation (which turned out to be a story in itself). That beautiful chestnut horse wasn’t in that field, and I wasn’t sure how to ask where he was without sounding like a stalker. Eventually, we came to another field and THERE HE WAS- Windcries, a five-year old Thoroughbred gelding who had been retired from a fairly successful racing career due to a minor injury. We locked eyes- I’m not kidding- and I knew he was special and meant to be mine. (Funny backstory, my husband was not a big fan of my “hayburners” and thought since my horses had passed away that we were out of the horse biz. Bless his heart.)
I played it casual that day, did my orientation and signed up to volunteer. I came back several times over the next few weeks and loved every minute of it! Until one day I arrived and Windcries wasn’t there. I immediately texted another volunteer and found out he was spending the summer at a riding camp nearby. Whew. I still hadn’t thought of a good way to approach the subject of getting more horses with my husband.
Fast forward to later in the summer- Windcries was unfortunately injured at the riding camp (a ligament sprain, basically). It meant he needed to be on pretty strict stall rest for a few months while he recovered. He started that at Castle Rock Farm, but it was before the medical barn was built, so I convinced my husband to let me bring him to our house, where he could be on true stall rest and I could help rehab him. (Again, bless his heart. He really should have seen this coming- there was no scenario in which that horse was EVER leaving my possession.) He totally fell for it, I mean, he agreed, and on July 27, 2019, Windcries and Mae (who I agreed to foster so he’d have a buddy) arrived at my home.
One Horse Just Wasn’t Enough
As I got to know him, our bond deepened and deepened. He is just so special- he’s silly, and sweet, and goofy, and entirely lovable. I also found out his birthday is February 27, 2014- he was born the DAY AFTER my heart horse, Cisco, died. That is no coincidence. We bonded during his rehab- lots of cold hosing, lots of grooming, lots of walks. He was cleared by the vet in late fall 2019 and I officially adopted him in December 2019.
Since then, we’ve done lots of riding, some time with a local trainer to work on our skills, and he’s become even more special to me. We truly have a bond and it may sound silly to some, but he came at the just the right time to fill the horse-sized hole in my heart! I will always miss Cisco and Snoopy, but how lucky I am to have found THREE heart horses in my lifetime.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve adopted two other wonderful horses from HLER- Duke, an adorable Quarter Horse in his late teens (who has an amazing story of his own!), and Takoma, a gorgeous, super sweet Paint horse in his early 20s. The three of them are such a joy and I love nothing more than watching them graze peacefully in the field. I am so thankful to Hope’s Legacy and love giving back as a volunteer.
Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue was founded in 2008 when we took in our first donkey. Since then they have taken in over 450 horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys.