Somebody’s Favorite Horse

 

Somebody’s Favorite Horse
By Jeanne M. Mirabito

Soft, butterfly nickers greet me in the pre dawn chill as I make my way across the pasture to the barn. The old mare’s warm breath against my cheek and slow footsteps behind me let me know that, at this very moment, all is right with the world.

To have Our Mims content and happy in my pasture… is like a dream come true. She is everything a Thoroughbred should be: graceful and confident… courageous and eager to please. Beyond all that is a quality of soul few humans possess. It is evident in the tilt of her head and in those deep brown eyes.

Just over 23 years ago, thousands of screaming fans urged her to victory after victory on the racetrack. She was Queen. I remember seeing her in a news clip after winning a race. She glowed with athletic fitness. I thought she was the most beautiful horse that ever lived. But like so many great champions, as soon as the news crews stopped following Mims, she passed quietly into a memory. Twenty years passed before thoughts of her resurfaced.

I am not sure whether to call it luck, fate or a predetermined destiny… but somehow after years of travel Mims and I ended up living on the same farm. Our first meeting consisted of her aiming a full-blown kick at my head as my co-worker lead her buddy mare away. It wasn’t until after I was told her name that I looked closely enough to recognize the great filly inside the old mare. The days of fans and doting grooms were a thing of the past, and time had taken its toll. She was no longer anybody’s favorite horse but the champion was still there.

I found myself visiting the old gal several times a day with small amounts of grain, carrots and other offerings. She eagerly accepted the food but otherwise would have nothing to do with me. After eating she would pin her ears back, scowl and shuffle off. My heart nearly broke at her situation. Her legs, once so strong and sure, were arthritic. The cold winter air had an obvious effect. Her coat, once shiny and soft, needed a stiff brush and lots of TLC. I’d sit there in the pasture watching her and wondering how such a great mare had landed in such a dismal predicament.

Then one day, she started watching me. Something in her eyes, her whole demeanor, was different. On the next visit, I carried grooming tools along with the feed bucket. She trotted over, and I continued my effort to create a bond. I had always thought she did not care for human contact, but, much to my surprise, she loved to be groomed. After our first few grooming sessions she began to greet me at the gate.

I left employ at the farm in the early spring of 1999 but kept tabs on my friend through a neighbor. During the drought the following summer, the old girl aged rapidly and her health took a downward plunge. She was a high maintenance kind of gal in a low maintenance environment. Without daily care, and a great deal of it, the outcome did not look favorable for the old champion.

For all that could have been better about her care, we must not forget that her owner donated her to a local horse rescue when it became obvious she needed more than she was getting. There was still time for the mare to recover. Mims was lucky. She did not fall into equine oblivion. That organization called on their friends at TURF (Thoroughbred United Retirement Fund) for sponsorship. It is because of these rescue groups Mims made the astounding comeback she has.

Then somehow, maybe because God knew I needed her, Our Mims came to my farm. She was mine and I was hers.

Now I watch the old mare graze quietly in my own pasture. She is a life lesson for me. She tells me even the mighty can fall, but she is also a reminder that no matter how bleak things look, there is a chance for better days. She reminds me to be grateful for the little things in life… like a warm place to sleep, a full belly and love… those are the important things. She tells me perseverance pays off.

I am not sure how long Our Mims will live, but I know what she has given the world. As a racehorse she gave us excitement and joy. As a brood mare she gave us a vision for the future. She has lived through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I am determined she will leave this life on a high.

Cherished and loved. Somebody’s favorite horse.

 

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