Each morning I carry one bucket of feed out into the chilly morning air. The sun is still sleeping on the east coast, so my path is pitch black without the moon’s light. I can hear a nicker. It’s soft at first, and as I make my way through the tall grass, it gets louder and louder until Mojo’s sweet nose reaches over the horse panel to touch mine. I hoist the bucket over the panel where he dives in with fervent pleasure to eat his morning feed.
Mojo aka Vallier was a thoroughbred racehorse. When I decided to start the fundraiser to bring him here, I looked at his race record real quick. I didn’t care if he won or lost, if he was considered a war horse, or how much money he won. I wanted to see where he had been, and one place stuck out for me; Oaklawn. I’ve never been there, but my grandparents went there many years ago. They eloped to Hot Springs, so they could go to the races afterwards. This is how long horse racing has been in my blood, and seeing Oaklawn in his chart, I felt like my grandparents had a hand in all of this.
I put up the GoFundMe not expecting much support or help at all only to be more than surprised. Right after I put it up, my husband and I drove to Norwood, which is a small town south of us. To get there you wind your way through mountains, valleys and canyons. My signal is spotty the whole way, however somehow my mom kept getting through. “Did you see someone donated $250? $200? $500? “
I thought my mom was wrong somehow. I can never raise money for anything, and suddenly I’m able to for this horse that somehow landed in a kill pen in Oklahoma? I finally got a decent signal, and lo and behold several donations came in from people I knew and people I’ve never met. Each and every one brought tears to my eyes when I realized I was going to be able to save this horse and give him a home. One donation really got to me. It came from one of his former trainers. People bad mouth horse racing a lot nowadays with good reason, but they don’t know the people like I do. I grew up learning from each and every one of them….they taught me how to love and care for a horse, and Ron Moquett continues doing that. He had Vallier for a short time, but he came forward and helped him out.
I called the kill pen and finalized the deal. I sent the money via Paypal, and I called a man by the name of Brandon, a horse shipper, that agreed to bring him to me. He’d pick him up first thing the following morning.
Now Mojo is here. He has a routine that I diligently stick to. His life was upended and now more than ever he needs a routine to help him feel safe and secure, so I walk out in the dark each morning to feed him. I take him hay, and then I go feed the other three. When I’m done there, I go back to him, and we spend some time together before I head in to eat my breakfast. After doing work and chores, I head out around 11am to take him for his walk.
We go on a walk each day to bring back his muscles along with his weight gain. They have atrophied away, his neck is so narrow that it seems to not even belong to him at times. So, we go for gentle walks at his pace each day to try and nurture them back to strength. Sometimes he is with me mentally, and other times the shade is down. He walks with me, but he isn’t really there. The kill pen took a toll on him mentally and emotionally, so I flow with whatever he needs to present to me at the time. Today he was spry. He had pep in his step, he kept nudging me with his nose, and he walked along side me instead of behind me. We were companions today, and I loved how it felt.
Each time I’ve taken in a horse there is a moment when I’ve truly connected with the horse for the first time. With my horse Shandoka it was when he let me gently rub my fingters around an old wound, with Chaco it was when I brought him back from the hospital after his arthroscopic surgery, with Harley it was pretty much immediate, and with Dulce it was in the pasture when we fell asleep side by side. Each one of them absolutely special, unique, and never forgotten.
I didn’t expect to have that kind of moment with Mojo for awhile. You see there are so many times he looks at me, and I see the horse that he is. I want to reach out to him and bring that horse forward fully and completely, but the moment I feel that he retreats. He pulls this invisible shade down over his eyes hiding what I saw only moments ago.
I brought him back to his corral after our walk. I usually walk back to the porch and get his second feeding for the day, but Mojo stopped me. He tilted his head in a way to say, “Please scratch right behind my ear.” I did, and he loved it. I scratched in a wider area when he lifted his head over mine and rested his head on my shoulder. His eyes looked into mine. I held my breath for a second expecting him to pull that shade down and disappear, but he didn’t. I slowly exhaled and synchronized my breath with his. We kept looking into each other’s eyes when he relaxed even more. I reached up with my other hand, and I gently massaged around his poll. He let out a long sigh deeply resting on my shoulder. I’ll admit that my shoulder hurt. His head is heavy, and even though I have strong shoulders, his head was heavy. Did I say that? I didn’t care about the pain. I’d gladly experience it each and every time he chooses to rest his head on my shoulder, because this was the sweetest moment. In that moment, he trusted me completely, and in that moment he let go of all the bad that had fallen upon him the past year. His eyes almost completely closed, I let out a sigh of relief, because in that moment I found him.