Some people make extravagant plans on Valentine’s Day. Some people get surprises. On February 14, 2019, I headed to pick up what would ultimately be the best Valentine’s Day surprise I have ever received. I answered a call from local law enforcement about an emaciated horse that needed help. They weren’t sure if he was going to make it.
Those eyes. I remember the second I saw him. The only white in a sea of mud. Sweet little sparkling eyes that hadn’t given up even though you could tell the rest of his body was trying to. I was honestly worried that the stress of the trailer trip might do him in, so I drove half speed all the way home. When I opened the trailer door he was shaking and feeble, but he happily followed me into the barn where I immediately started tending to him. He stood quietly while I started cleaning up sores on his abdomen and legs and started to brush away the dirt. As I brushed him, his white hair just fell off in chunks attached to dead skin. Rain rot, skin infections, lice… you name it. As he was standing there letting me fuss over him, he collapsed. I immediately called some friends who rushed to our aid. They helped me get him back on his feet in a makeshift sling. For the next two weeks, Cupid spent 99% of his time in a sling. He was unable to hold his own weight more than 20-30 minutes at a time. The first time we had to get him up he seemed like he had lost all hope. Completely defeated. His body was giving up. But each time he fell, we were there to help him up. And each time we helped him up, he seemed a little less convinced that he should give up.
After two weeks, his once feeble legs seemed to be determined. His skin and hair were starting to recover and to our surprise, he was a Medicine Hat horse! He had beautiful flea-bitten gray spots all over his body and a perfect circle around both his ears. Medicine Hat horses are widely respected in Native American culture as special horses. Chiefs often chose them as their mounts. It was fitting that this horse would have the heart of a fighter.
By the fourth week, Cupid could go on short walks around the barn and graze. Short walks turned into supervised turnout while I was there cleaning stalls and working other horses.
One day a friend of mine and previous adopter, Ryan Hardison, and her two boys stopped by the farm. Although they had no intentions of adopting a new horse, they changed their mind after spotting Cupid. They immediately fell in love with his eyes, the same way I had. He seemed to shoot love arrows through everyone he met. Cupid was so sweet and loved the boys who gave all their attention to him. Despite his condition, he harbored no distrust from the neglect he suffered and took any chance to get love from someone new. His trusting eyes called to Ryan and she knew he was meant to be part of their family.
This sweet family offered to foster Cupid as soon as he was stable enough to be turned out unsupervised. A few short weeks later, Cupid arrived at the Hardison residence where he was smothered with love and treats. He was ready to be fattened up!
Slowly we began to see Cupid gaining weight and showing more of his lively character. Early one morning a couple months later, Ryan was going to feed him and he came running down a hill in the pasture to meet her. That was the first time either of us had seen him run and it brought her to happy tears! Knowing he was on the verge of giving up and making it to that point where he felt the wind in his mane was the best feeling. Seeing Cupid change from skin and bones to the confident horse he had become was worth it.
Fast forward to now, and he goes from one end of the pasture to the other, always running! He is strong, stout, and so very confident in himself. The Hardison family was fairly new to the horse world when we started this journey and Ryan expected to learn a lot from their experience with Cupid. His fighting spirit and unconditional trust taught her more than she ever expected to learn from a horse.
Now, two years later, Cupid is fully rehabilitated and back at Bits & Peaces for training. The saying it takes a village is so true. So many people other than Ryan had a hand in bringing this horse back to life and I am so grateful to have such amazing support for these animals. Every time I run my fingers through his mane or across his silky coat, I think back to how rough and brittle his skin was the day I brought him home. Those same sores that I tended to are smooth and covered in beautiful white hair. Saddling and riding him for the first time was a dream come true and Ryan cannot wait to be able to ride the horse that stole her heart as well. I hope we have given him the opportunity to live many happy years.
I am sure those little sparkling eyes will always be a reminder to fight the hard fight because every little Cupid out there is worth it.
Bits and Peaces
Bits and Peaces is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and training of equine in need. Our organization also provides educational, emergency response, therapeutic and outreach services to the surrounding community.
A Home For Every Horse
This content was provided by A Home For Every Horse, a resource for nonprofit horse rescues, sanctuaries, and care facilities. Rescue organizations involved with A Home For Every Horse are eligible for many benefits from program sponsors. Learn more at ahomeforeveryhorse.com.
It’s only thanks to our generous sponsors—Purina Horse Feed, Absorbine, WeatherBeeta, and Tractor Supply Co.—that A Home For Every Horse is able to provide necessary resources to more than 600 horse rescues per year.