Following a “calling” isn’t supposed to be easy. It often requires you to step into something that is at best uncomfortable and in many cases downright terrifying. When I felt God calling me to rescue horses, there was nothing about it that made sense. To leave my “safe” bubble of financial comfort and a predictable life to step into the unknown when I was brand new to the horse world took a massive leap of faith. And that wasn't even considering physical safety.
I have always said that I wondered how people weren’t hurt or killed at the horse auction I attend. Horses tied up, scared, kicking, some getting loose and running down the aisles as we walk through. Liz and I have a running joke when we walk into the auction house. “Let’s try not to die today!”
Typically when I’m planning to go to the auction, I am filled with a sense of nervous excitement. I would compare it to giving birth. I know there is pain ahead, but I’m excited about the horse I have yet to meet and welcome to Nalani. This time around, the days leading up to the auction felt different. Every time I pictured myself turning onto the road and seeing the New Holland Sales Stable sign on the building, my stomach cramped and anxiety rose in my chest. I told a couple of friends how I felt and they said it’s only natural given what I expect to see there.
The closer we got to the date, the more intense my anxiety got. It was overshadowing any excitement at all about being able to save a horse and I had every reason to be excited because I was planning to start a sanctuary for older horses with this rescue mission. The day before the auction, as I ate brunch in the local diner, I heard my name. “Cherry…is that you?” It was the wife of a board member who I hadn’t seen in a few months. She and I have shared so much and I know she has what I call “spidey senses” so I asked her if she had any “feeling” about the auction. The look on her face said it all. Uh oh. I told her that I had a lot of anxiety and she confessed that she had a sense of trepidation, but she comforted me and said it must be because of the sanctuary angle. It’s just a different kind of mission.
That night as I set my clothes out and prepared for an early start, I texted Liz to see what her gut was saying. Liz has an incredible gut instinct. A couple years ago, she told me it was going to be "CRAZY" and we rescued three horses that day, including one that was declared unfit to go through the auction. It was, indeed, a crazy day. I told her I had a really bad feeling and advised her to check her phone in the morning. If I still felt this strongly, I planned to call it off.
Before going to bed that night, I reached out to a few of my closest friends asking for prayers for the auction. I barely slept and when my alarm went off at 4:45, I was already awake. I felt nothing. No dread, no worry. I texted Liz and said “We’re on”. Our road trip to Lancaster, PA went more smoothly than any other year. We made record time and walked in the door with plenty of time to check out the horses before the bidding began.
The first horse that caught my eye broke my heart. A middle-aged standardbred, llikely an Amish carthorse. He looked so scared. We walked down the line and took in the sad eyes, the despair, the worry. Some horses were kicking and fighting while others hung their heads. We came upon two grey horses whose hip bones were jutting out. They seemed so hopeless. One had goopy eyes and when Liz took a look in his mouth, his teeth were just gone. He had wounds on the back of his legs and it appeared he had fallen. His buddy stood next to him and the two took comfort from each other.
One of the women who works the auction was riding horses down the aisle way where we were standing. These horses were amped up and Liz and I kept darting out of the way so we wouldn’t get run over. At one point we ducked into a passthrough to get out of the aisle. It was then I heard “Watch out! Coming through” and a man ducked under the dropped ceiling as he rode his horse through the passthrough right towards us. Liz jumped out of the way, but I couldn’t move quickly enough so I pushed myself up against the wall and thought please don’t let this horse kick me. And just as I was exhaling from him passing by without incident, TWO horses rushed through that same skinny aisle towards me. I pressed myself against the wall again and when the horse bumped into me, I was steamrolled, my body being pushed against the wall. As I rolled, I felt myself falling and was able to grab onto a rail and hold myself up, but with the pressure, I couldn’t hold on. I lost my grip and felt myself falling again and then suddenly I felt something holding me up. I turned and saw a man’s face. He had pushed me up in the knick of time or I would have fallen beneath the horse and been trampled.
It happened in the blink of an eye and when it was over I ran to where Liz was standing not believing what she just witnessed. We kind of laughed it off, acknowledging that now we understood where that bad feeling came from. We both wanted out of that aisle way so we found a spot on the bleachers where we could wait for the horses to go through. Once there, I forgot about what had just happened and focused on the auction. We were able to rescue the two grey horses and get them onto Nancy's trailer so they could be taken to her quarantine barn. We were both so happy with the outcome of the day. It was only when we were on our way home that we talked about what had happened and how bad it could have been.
The story doesn’t end there. I later found out that the board member’s wife had been having nightmares for weeks about someone being crushed by a horse against a wall. After that “chance” meeting in the diner, she lit a candle and wrote my name beside it, prayed for me and let the candle burn all night.
There is no doubt that following my calling has put me in harm's way on many occasions, with too many near misses to count, including a near fatal accident when I was trampled seven years ago. I have certainly been given every reason to want to quit. I've been called brave, but I'm not sure that I am. It’s only because of my faith that I can continue down this path without feeling afraid. It turns out that going out on a limb with God and following where He leads me is actually the safest place to be. And honestly, the thought of NOT being on this journey is scarier to me than any alternative. 💫