Angel, the skeletal horse we rescued from the New Holland Sales Stable on a freezing November day quickly became everyone’s favorite on my social media feed. The video of her tied outside the auction in sub freezing temps, thin, wet and shivering. The first time she touched my hand and walked towards me, the stories of her jumping out of paddocks to get to where she wanted to be. Her spunk and resilience inspired people! This tenacious horse who had been through hell blossomed into a beauty and watching her story unfold was captivating.
When she was healthy enough, we hired a trainer to work with her. We had to be able to handle her to address her basic care, administer vaccines, and trim her feet. It was shocking how quickly she came around. In no time, she was under saddle, being ridden on the trails and even bathed regularly. We put her up for adoption and had a lot of interest. And then one day, something scared her and she became uncatchable again, running from anyone who tried to approach her, including me. We were back to ground zero. It was heartbreaking.
As luck would have it, the morning she was running from me, I had scheduled Katie Davilli to do a bodywork session for Angel. When Katie arrived, I apologized that this may be a complete waste of time since I couldn't even catch Angel. Katie was calm and she spent almost an hour quietly approaching Angel until she could get a rope onto her halter. Angel followed her with soft eyes. Through this experience, we learned that although Angel was being handled and ridden regularly, she had been mentally shutting down so there was no real learning or trust, just tolerance of what was required of her. After Katie’s visit, I sat in the field with Angel for hours, day after day, and she would touch my hand, but quickly turn away. We needed Katie’s help. Just two months prior, Katie's horse, Sweetie, who was 29 had passed away so she had room for Angel and was able to take her into full training at her home barn, which she shares with her parents. The facility is small and quiet with a predictable routine. Katie would work with her daily on the basics of learning to trust and actually accept and enjoy human interaction.
Under Katie’s care, Angel transformed. Her personality started to shine, revealing a smart, kind, and curious horse who was eager to trust and learn. She even looked different as the muscles in her face relaxed. Katie's mom and dad quickly developed a soft spot for Angel, and Katie's dad even won Angel's trust. After several months, we started the search for her “person”, but we had to find someone like Katie. Someone with A LOT of experience with natural horsemanship and no agenda. Someone who just wanted to build a lifelong bond with Angel. Not an easy ask! I screened dozens of people until I finally spoke to someone who seemed like a potential fit. We planned a visit and we watched as this man quickly gained Angel's trust. She seemed taken with him! He had the perfect gentle demeaner and a life-time of experience working with horses. We couldn’t imagine a better fit. We all cried. It was more than just an answered prayer, it was a miracle!
And then, just days before the adoption, he learned he needed back surgery and would be unable to care for Angel. His heart was broken. My faith was rocked. WHY, God?! What was the point of that? I worried we would never find a person for her and we couldn’t afford to keep her in training forever. If we brought her back to Nalani, the trust Katie worked so hard to build could be lost. About that time, I received a check from a generous donor and decided to use it for five more months with Katie, praying and trusting that somehow it would all work out.
Meanwhile, in the months that Angel had been with Katie, a beautiful friendship was budding between Angel and Katie’s horse, Juliet. At 25, Juliet had never had an easy time making horse friends, and when she lost Sweetie, she went into a deep depression. Angel's arrival brought Juliet completely out of her shell and Juliet's personality came out ten-fold. They are always side by side, often even preferring to share the same hay net. As a former show horse, Juliet has seen and done it all and has taught Angel that fly spray and baths are great things! Because of Angel, Juliet is learning to truly be a horse and have horse friends for the first time. And because of Juliet, Angel is learning that humans are kind and interacting with them can be wonderful. Watching them together, Katie started thinking about how Juliet would be devastated if Angel left.
Adding to that, this summer, tragedy struck Katie’s barn. Her horse, Forest, had to undergo emergency colic surgery. She survived, but then died from complications a few weeks later. The loss changed the dynamic of the herd as the horses grieved along with Katie, and and she started to think more about what would happen if Angel left. And that’s when Katie asked about the possibility of becoming a long term foster for Angel, essentially taking on most of the financial burden for Angel so she can stay with Katie.
When I think about how I was thanking God for a miracle one day and then how I felt so bewildered when it evaporated, this verse comes to mind. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5 Based on everything I knew and could see before me, it made no sense. I cried, questioned God, and in the end decided to keep believing for the best.
Now, looking backwards, I can see the thread that weaves through this story. Sweetie's passing made it possible for Angel to go to Katie's barn. Meeting the “perfect adopter” forced Katie to think about Angel leaving Juliet. And when Forest died, it solidified how much losing one horse changed the herd and opened up space for Katie to keep Angel longer term. I’m not denying that there is pain and loss in this story. For Angel, for Juliet, for Katie, for the man who wanted to give Angel a loving home. Although I wouldn't say God causes bad things to happen, I will say that He can always bring good things out of bad situations. The very thing that made no sense to me has made it possible for me to write this story today.
There are parts of my life that are confusing, prayers that have yet to be answered even after years of praying faithfully. And then there are so many stories like this, where I am reminded to trust the bigger plan at work. God's timing is always perfect. The exact timing of events led to a better outcome for Angel than I could have ever hoped for. And a new door opens for Nalani as a precedent is set for future foster situations. As for Katie, I couldn’t be more grateful to her for opening her heart and home to Angel as a fitting tribute to Forest. 💫