The scrambling sounds of tiny hooves scraping my wooden kitchen floor jarred me awake. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I donned my slippers and pattered down the stairs. I flipped on the kitchen light. The three-day-old, lanky, brown mule foal stood in the kitchen inside a small area I’d fenced off. With her long ears pointed straight toward me, she squinted and blinked her long, black eyelashes.
I grinned. “Good morning, Little Girl. You get to see your mama today.”
The day before, when the foal had been playing on the rolling hills of the grassy pasture, she’d been accidentally kicked in the head by another horse. The impact had shattered her jaw. Her mother, Amy, had been sure her baby was dead and had abandoned her. At feeding time, the mare came in without the foal so a search followed. The foal was discovered a half mile away lying in a heap under a clump of sagebrush. I scooped her up, put her in the car, and hauled her to the veterinarian clinic. I assisted the doctor in cleaning her up, putting a pin in her jaw, and then wiring her jaw shut. It was well after dark when I pulled the car into the driveway and carried the foal into the kitchen. I quickly set up a little enclosed area to keep her warm and safe until I could reunite her with her mom.
What happened the next day shocked me so much I’ve never forgotten it. On that blustery May morning I went out to the pasture and haltered Little Girl’s mom, a gray Percheron mare. While walking Amy to the barn, her steps seemed unsure. Her eyes were glazed over, her head hung low, and her lips drooped. She was mourning her baby. I couldn’t wait to show her that her baby was alive. I walked her into the yard and tied her to a tree outside the kitchen door.
I skipped up the steps, walked into the kitchen, and gathered the baby into my arms. Waddling from the awkward weight, I carried her outside and shuffled next to the mare. Grunting, I lifted the 85-pound foal toward the mare’s nose so she could smell her, hoping the scent would register in her brain.
Amy recoiled violently. She reared, and the muscles in her powerful body rippled. Pop! The halter broke. She pivoted on her hind legs and raced down the road back to the pasture. I stood with my jaw dropped. What is she thinking? I wondered. The biggest blessing of Amy’s life was right in front of her, and she didn’t even see it!
Later that day, I confined the tall, dapple-gray mare inside a small lean-to shed that was built into a hill behind the house. I scooted the foal down the grassy slope and through the narrow wooden doorway. Amy had her head buried in the manger full of hay. When we entered, she raised her head and glanced at us. Gently I pushed the foal toward her.
The foal recognized her mom and whickered.
Amy’s eyes grew wide, almost like she’d seen a ghost. She buried her nose in the baby’s coat and drew in a long breath. Hesitantly she whispered in a low voice.
Little Girl answered with a little squeal as if saying, “Yes, Mom! It really is me.”
For the next half hour Amy licked her foal from her head to her hooves and chortled to her. The mare finally recognized her great blessing was alive and standing by her side!
When I remember Amy’s inability to see the blessing I held in front of her, I’m reminded that oftentimes I’m as blind as she was. I forget the good things that surround me—even the simple things.
How can I forget that I’m so blessed? It happens slowly. When I focus on the disappointments in life, my vision gets cloudy. Just like Amy not being able to see through her grief of losing her baby, a dark veil of oppression envelops me until it feels like nothing else exists.
I counted my blessings every two hours around the clock as I milked Amy, poured the liquid into a bottle, and hand-fed Little Girl. What a wonder to see the change in Amy. In those moments in the barn when she recognized her baby, her whole countenance changed. She proved to be an incredible and happy mother to Little Girl.
The foal that looked like Frankenstein grew into a strong and healthy mule that carried my gear and provisions when I worked in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. Now she’s a senior who enjoys life as she and her companions eat grass in the pasture. Every day she reminds me that the key to a blessed life is cultivating a grateful heart.
Questions for You: Have disappointments in life ever hung over you like a dark cloud? When your focus is on them, you’re not able to fully experience the blessings of God. How can you cultivate a grateful heart?
Excerpted from Great Horse Stories by Rebecca Ondov
Read another inspirational horse story from Rebecca about resting in the Lord.
Rebecca Ondov spent 15 years doing ranch work, helping and guiding pack trips, and working as a wilderness ranger. She’s the author of The Once in a Blue Moon Boot Bus picture book and has won writing competitions at Guideposts. She founded Blazing Ink, Inc., and currently works in lumber. She lives in western Montana and enjoys her menagerie of 3 horses, 2 mules, some barn cats, and a dog. Connect with Rebecca and learn more about her inspirational horse stories at www.rebeccaondov.com.