Posted on

Building Strong Connections

Aiden’s Story

Getting his hands warm

Because our donors gave, they provided Aiden, a 6-year-old child with Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy, and who is non-verbal, an opportunity to ride at the barn and participate in activities at the barn. Ziggy helped to loosen and stretch Aiden’s tight muscles so he could gain better control over them. And because of the opportunity to ride on Ziggy, Aiden is more verbal after lessons and overall happier.

“The Red Barn provides so much more than riding lessons for kids. It provides them a safe place to explore their capabilities, a place for good socialization, and a place to be happy. All of Aiden’s doctor appointments can weigh on him, and for The Red Barn to be able to provide a place that never seems like a chore is an absolute blessing.” – Aiden’s Mom

Posted on

“He Learned He Is Capable of More”

Generous donations helped fund the Job Skills program which teaches students life-changing skills!

Generous gifts from our donors provided Peter with essential life-changing skills to help him in future jobs. When students like Peter start in the Job Skills class, they must be willing to learn, participate in class activities, and work with moderate supervision. These are just some of the requirements for this hands-on educational class. During class, students learn time management, money management, communication skills, building relationships, learn how to supervise others, and materials management. And after learning these essential skills are able to do tasks at the barn to enhance their hands-on experience.

“The class required him to step up and work with his peers and put him in real-world situations where compromise was required to meet a goal while being a space safe for him to fail and learn from the experience. He has learned he is capable of more than he thought, and he realized while he enjoys some things as a hobby, they are a lot of work when you have to maintain them!” – Peter’s Mom

Funding from our donors is instrumental in providing this class to students. So many students coming to the barn have the ability and desire to learn these essential skills but are unable to afford the class. Compassionate gifts open the door to many possibilities for students and their families. Peter and other students like him have the tools needed to create a brighter future for themselves thanks to our donors!

Posted on

A Blooming Friendship- Thanks to Our Donors!

The first time coming to the barn is one of the most exciting, nervous, and happiest times a child can experience. And that was what Lindsey experienced when she went to the barn.

A couple of years ago, Lindsey met Tusker, a 23-year-old retired show horse. For those of you who do not know Tusker’s history, he is one of the most decorated show horses to work at the barn. He is even on YouTube! Tusker is playful, can teach any student no matter the skill level, and is very attentive to his student’s needs. In addition, he is so intuitive that he can adapt to a student’s needs. That is pretty incredible!

And that was precisely the kind of interaction Lindsey needed when she started working with Tusker. Since her first day at the barn, Lindsey was able to build a friendship with the horses, other students, barn staff, and volunteers. Because our donors gave so generously to the barn, Lindsey received a scholarship to learn from and be challenged by Tusker. Their gift to the barn also meant we could provide the best care possible for Tusker. Their gift has been instrumental in providing Tusker, and other horses like him, with nutritional feed and ensuring they received extraordinary care. Thanks to our amazing donors, Tusker is happy, healthy, and well-fed! And students like Lindsey have a place where they can build strong relationships and learn from the friendliest horses! Thank you, donors!


Posted on

Near and Far

I Love The Red Barn

Grace, left, and Shannon, right

I love The Red Barn. I’m sure that you do too, but I REALLY love The Red Barn. I love the people, the property, the organizational structure, the organization, the inner workings, the mission, the children, the horses, the cats. I LOVE The Red Barn. Everything in my life brought me here and prepared me to contribute to the success of the barn. 

As a child, empathy was my downfall. I felt everything that I thought everyone else was feeling, and I felt it deeply and sometimes to my detriment. Other people’s struggles became my very own. Anxiety and depression became my constant companions, and I was not okay. The worry was absolutely never-ending- worry about my parents, my siblings, my safety, my pets, my friends, my grades, my home, my extended family, the WHOLE world and all of its problems. 

Experiencing trauma as a young teen catapulted me into new depths of despair. An eating disorder, suicidal thoughts, prescription drug abuse, and moral decay brought me to rock bottom. Finally, therapy and medication became my new constant companions, and I survived high school and college. 

During college, my husband and I decided that we could not wait to get married. So, we didn’t wait. We married at 20, I continued on to graduate from UAB in 2002, and suddenly we were expecting a baby! Gabriel Michael was born on July 9, 2003 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in downtown Birmingham. Becoming a mother changed my future career plans because I absolutely could not handle crime scenes, forensic evidence, or the details of people hurting each other anymore. That Criminal Justice degree wasn’t going to cut it! 

Entering the Nonprofit World

The Master’s of Public Administration program at UAB drew me in as the dreams of helping people in an administrative capacity unfolded in my mind. Not direct service, not counseling, not too close to the hurt and pain, but still doing my part to make the world a better place. 

God surely knew what He was doing guiding me here! I began graduate school and quickly started interning for nonprofit organizations. A short stint with a large, international nonprofit solidified for me that a small nonprofit was the way for me to go. Pretty quickly, I was placed in an internship with a small nonprofit in Birmingham, an agency that served homeless women and their children. Right where I was supposed to be.

That internship turned into a full-time job and a career in nonprofit. While managing volunteers, working intensely with fundraising, writing grant proposals, organizing events, and managing donor data, I learned so much about nonprofit work and myself. I also met Joy O’Neal. 

Joy served as an active board member for this organization, and thankfully we had lots of dealings with each other. A professional acquaintance grew into a friendship. I had an enormous amount of respect for Joy and her contributions to the work.

Funny fact: Somehow, Joy and I have managed to know each other for 18 years and don’t have a single picture of just the two of us!

Miracles Still Happen

When her family opened the barn, she invited me out to a ladies night. For the first time, I got to be close to a horse. Wow! I fell apart! Apparently, as I was grooming and painting Glory, my heart rate slowed to match hers, my defenses came down, and I began to unravel as I relaxed and processed life. Parenthood was hard, bringing an unbelievable amount of anxiety and worry to my mama heart. 

Then, my son began riding at the barn. He was struggling with some of the same issues I had as a child, and riding really gave him another focus, something to be successful at, and time away from all that he was carrying. Being at the barn was an effective outlet for him, even though he didn’t follow directions and got stepped on the first time he came to the barn! 

Alaina, left, and Gabe, right

In 2012, my husband and I decided that it was time for a change of pace. Slower, closer to home, and less stressful were the goals. We also wanted to eventually homeschool our children. I wanted to be more “at home” if that makes sense. Lofty goals that we had not been able to reach for a couple of years due to financial responsibilities. Well, the stars aligned, and we paid off all of our debt almost simultaneously with Joy’s family opening The Red Barn. 

Seriously, it was a miracle. It was “supposed to” take 7 years for us to pay off our debt (making it 2017 when we were done). Instead, it took 26 months! Joy asked me to come and work at The Red Barn. To say that I jumped at the opportunity would be the understatement of the century. The barn was 9 miles from home. It was small, beautiful, peaceful, serene, special, and had an amazing mission. It was perfect. AND Joy was running it. Bingo! I hit the job lottery!

I Am Grateful

Over the past nine years, our lives have changed drastically. My best friend, Grace, joined the team as I transitioned to working part-time to be at home more. Yes, this means that I get to work with my best friend. We did start homeschooling our kiddos in 2013. The Horsley family no longer lives in Alabama but instead in Gulfport, Mississippi. Almost all that I do can be done from home, so I am still on the bus, as we often say thanks to Joy’s fondness for Jim Collins’ books!

Working from home with that homeschool map in the background!

Working from home 5 hours away from the barn is challenging. Virtual meetings are just not the same as being in-person, face-to-face, eating meals together and chatting about small things that end up being big things. I miss the camaraderie, seeing the pristine property every day, petting Xena and having her hiss at me, meeting the new horses, watching them graze, seeing the kids’ faces light up as they achieve something new, driving up in the morning and seeing deer in the pasture with the horses. It cannot be wonderful for everyone at the barn for me to be so far away either, not as quick to handle things as I could be if in the office. Yet, we all make it work.

I am so grateful that my experiences as a child gave me an understanding and compassion for the kids we serve. I am so grateful that college pushed me to the nonprofit field. I am so grateful that I get to serve such amazing people with such amazing people. I am so grateful that I get to continue learning how to do this nonprofit thing from a leader like Joy. I am so grateful that I get to watch, from the inside, how a nonprofit can grow, adapting to the needs of the community and the climate of the culture. 

I am so grateful, and I LOVE The Red Barn.

“When I am in town, I LOVE cooking for the staff! Kale chips are my specialty but I’ll cook anything they like.”


Posted on

Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 14


Everything in creation runs in cycles and seasons. A cycle is a period of beginning and ending, and then beginning again, or a circle. It is evident in things as diverse as the operation of our bodies, to the solar system and the financial system to the working of an engine. There are cycles within cycles in every aspect of life. Youth follows childhood, manhood follows youth, and then old age precedes death, which precedes the Resurrection!! Fall follows summer with its glorious color and crystal clear atmosphere celebrating the end to Summer, the time of growth, and readying the creation and our lives for the pruning and strengthening by the tests of winter, which prepares us for the resurrection of Spring. Each cycle is preparing for the next. Around the throne of God, Ezekiel saw “wheels within wheels.” The Bible said that as long as the earth exists there will be seedtime and harvest. Then there is the much greater circle of time in eternity.

When Summer fades into Fall and Fall into Winter, God prepares his creatures on earth for the coming cold. The summer coats have become dry and sunburned and it is time for a change. The waning light causes the outside animals to grow long wooly coats. The long hairs have beneath them shorter hair that frizzes up and forms a wind and water barrier and traps the body’s heat. When the winter wind ruffles the long hairy coats of the horses they scarcely resemble the sleek creatures of summer. Long hair hangs from their chins and sometimes icicles clatter from their fetlocks as they walk. 

In many ways, winter is testing time. A rest comes to the growing things and the weak things are pruned away. Perspective is gained as we compare the quietness of winter with the warmth of Spring’s resurrection and the peace of summer.

On the farm, we agonized over the vanishing strands of winter rye that we had over seeded our brown pastures. It grew so slowly or not at all. In fact, it retreated before the grazing animals. It seemed impossible that soon, in another season, this vanishing carpet of green would come leaping from the earth again. It could not be held in check by the grazing horses and we would have to attack it with the tractor and bush hog. Life on the farm was hard in the winter. Often water pipes froze and we would have to haul water from the river in garbage cans in the back of the truck. It seemed so futile as much of it would splash out as the truck lurched over the frozen road on its way back to the barn, but it would be so nice to sit by the fire and warm our icy fingers. Life went on and we knew Spring was coming!

Soon the dead black limbs of the trees would burst forth in flowering glory, rejoicing that the night of winter was over. The mares would drop their hairy coats for sleek and shiny ones of spring. Little colts and calves would pop up everywhere. The barren mares would take new hope that now even they could recreate themselves.

As we walked the long distance from the barn back to the house on many a cold winter’s night we could see the lights beckoning in the distant windows of our beautiful house. No matter how long and hard and cold the day, there was hope in our hearts for the house held warmth, nourishment and rest. It was a promise to me that at the end of the winter of old age here on earth that we will see the lights of our heavenly home beckoning to us. At the end of every winter season in our lives, there is Spring, or home, or the Resurrection and finally entering our eternal home and the fulfillment of all the promises of God. The cycle of life is completed again!

Posted on

Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 13


One of the wonders of creation that has never grown old to me is the birth of a foal. It speaks of design by a master engineer. It is a wonder and an awe that increases as you consider all the aspects of the miracle of life. On afar where this event occurs so frequently one is privileged by increasing exposure to these wonders of the creation and the time to ponder their significance, for the creation is ever preaching the glory of God if we will just take time to listen!

The foal, like all animals, begins from a microscopic cell that contains the code of the characteristics of all the generations of horses who have gone before it. The breeder’s job is to try to combine the genetic codes as they are expressed in the appearance and abilities of both parents in a way that the desired characteristics of each will combine in the foal that they have bred. There are infinite possibilities, but by continually sifting and sorting the genes by breeding together the individuals that come forth with the most of the desired traits and discarding the others, man can partner with God to bring into being an animal closely resembling a certain set picture in the eyes of the breeder.

What a wonderful thought and worthy of much meditation! God the creator, though He made every species to bring forth after its kind, put within the kind so many possibilities of variety that we were given the privilege of joining Him in the role of the Creator. Breeding is very much like painting a picture with genes!

It was in the beginning of all things earthly, in the Garden itself, that God made man in His own image. The greatest aspect of this is the creative genius He put in our hearts and the authority to use this gift when He also gave to man dominion over the creation. What a thought to consider! Throughout all eternity we will partner with God in creating. I am so thankful for this truth because I used to think Heaven was just a place where you sat and played a harp, or walked around golden streets. To me that seemed like it would get awfully boring. But the plan laid out in the creation for us to see is that God is the author of infinite variety. To know God is to have an eternity of ideas and goals to pursue. Each creation of His is totally unique, consider that everyone’s fingerprint is different. What a miracle that within the tiny surface of the tip of a finger a few circular lines can have such infinite variety that the trillions of people who have been born since the beginning of time never come out the same!! Each one of His children is that special to Him, and created for a special unique purpose. Oh – the infinite possibilities that lay ahead of us!

It is also interesting to me that again we see how high God has put man above the rest of the animals in that none of the animals have creative ability. The animal only does that which was programmed into its genes in the beginning. The beaver who cut down the trees on Heathermoor Farm dragged them to the proper place to dam up Dry Branch, a wet weather spring, to make a lake for us arranging the logs in such a remarkable fashion so that his underwater house would hold air that the beaver was designed to breathe. Yet this beaver never made a better dam than his father or grandfather. The plan for this dam, the understanding of the spot to put it to collect the water, the ability to cut down the trees and drag them to the building site, and the ability to engineer the building of the dam, was programmed into Mr. Beaver’s genes at creation and he is still building the same dam as the Adam and Eve of all beavers built all those that preceded from them.

These are glimpses of the creation that helps me to understand why God first put man in a garden and told him to work the garden and gave him dominion over all the earth. With all this He gave Adam the privilege of eating of the tree of life which would give him all the riches of true life with all its resources. Alas, the devil deceived him into desiring knowledge apart from God, and he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil which God had said would be certain death and turned his back on the tree of life. From this moment the whole creation became terribly bent and twisted from its intended purpose. Yet so great was the Father’s plan for His whole creation that the incarnation happened and the great Creator died in the person of His son Jesus and rose again to testify to the incredible redemption that was ahead, not only for man, His supreme creation made in His image, but for the earth and all its creatures.

No wonder the Bible says the whole creation is on tiptoe waiting for the restoration of all things to be set free from bondage to death and decay! Again, man will be in full charge of the garden. Can you even begin to imagine what glorious things await us, His redeemed children, together with the redeemed creation?!?

Posted on

Reid’s Own Words


We asked our longest-attending student Reid Pickett, who has been riding at the Red Barn since 2011, to explain what the barn means to him in his own words. His mother, Gretchen, interviewed him.

Gretchen: “What have you learned at The Red Barn?”

Reid: “Well I have learned trotting, but also how to use my words to instruct the horses.”

Gretchen: “What does The Red Barn do?”  

Reid: “They teach lessons… but it’s really a place for kids to have fun.”

Gretchen: “Do you use what Miss Alexis has taught you at home?” 

Reid: “I’ve learned how to take care of things like grooming. And I’ve learned to ask about unfamiliar situations like how it feels to ride a different horse.”

Gretchen: “What does Miss Alexis mean to you?”  

Reid: “Well, she’s my person and she’s made me better.”

Gretchen: “Tell me about the horses.”  

Reid: “They have frogs on their feet! And it’s cool that you can ride on them.”

Gretchen: “How do you feel when you go to the barn?”

Reid: “Happy and safe.”

Gretchen: “One thing that is neat about where Reid is in his Red Barn journey is that he’s very interested in the history of the barn/property. He’s gotten some information from Miss Alexis and he likes to tell people about what it was before the lower barn was built and how people used to live in the Red House. He’s also come home and researched a bit on his own, such as finding old pictures of the property online. Very cool!”

Posted on

Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 12


Heathemoor Farm had come about in a very supernatural way. We had started desiring a larger farm than our cozy five acres in the middle of someone else’s two hundred acres. The desire increased continually. We had no money to buy a bigger farm, but I remembered a verse my seventh grade Bible teacher had taught us:

Delight thyself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

“If God is first in your life,” she had said, “He will give you the desire itself as well as the object.” John and I asked God to take away this desire if it was not from Him. If He had truly put this longing in our hearts, He would have to bring it about.

True to His word, He did not remove the desire and He worked it out with no money from us. We had also asked for a story that would be so unique that the telling of it would prove to people that the God of the Bible was still doing the same things today as He did in the Bible days. That is how we got this beautiful farm, but that’s a different story.

In the midst of these happy times there was ever a great burden hovering over our shoulders. The Heavenly Father was testing us, instructing us, stretching us. It was not His intent to save us from problems, but to teach us to trust in the midst of them, to trust Him to bring us through them. We had much to learn, not only about the horse business and the business of trusting God, but also about ourselves. We had been led into the horse business by some remarkable sign posts, but now we owned some fine young colts we could not sell. Untrained colts were not in demand in our part of the country; in fact, finished show horses themselves were not worth much here. The center of the horse business was around Lexington, Kentucky, and we were far from there and had no name that drew people from other parts of the country. How could we sell them? How could we train them?

It seemed we had come to a vast, dry desert. The miracles had stopped. Our story had never reached a climax. It appeared that the Heavenly Father had led us to a dead end, no one would be inspired. And, that was not all; I knew nothing about our finances at that time. Then, one evening I learned that all of our earthly assets were gone. John’s monthly salary was all that stood between us and disaster. I was devastated. That night I could not sleep. I got out of bed, put on my robe, and went for a walk. I walked out into the wide plain of the front pasture, where there were no trees or buildings to detract from the vastness of the sky. I sat down in the damp sweet grass and looked at the unfathomable black dome above me which twinkled with a million stars.

I got a small glimpse of the hugeness of the universe and the relative insignificance of man. In the past, such glimpses used to give me a sense of loneliness, of a lostness in this vast sea. Yet strangely there had never been that feeling of loneliness since we had moved to the country. Rather, there was a definite sense of a friendly Presence that permeated the entire atmosphere.

As I gazed up at the starry heavens, I thought of Abraham in the Bible. God called him out also to wonder at such a sky. He, too, was facing a broad desert for he was an old man and God had told him to try to count those uncountable stars. He told him that even though he had not a single child then, he would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. It seemed to me the same God that spoke to Abraham so long ago spoke to me that night. “Look all around you,” He seemed to say. “Are you not living in a miracle? Is not all this faith made sight?” I looked at the expanse of pastures stretching all around me, the dark forms of the mares grazing, the beautiful house in the distance, silvery white and silent against the dark background of the trees and the starry brilliance of the sky. Not one of us could have dreamed only a few years before that all this could ever be ours, that I should be mistress of this farm and these fine horses. It had come about in ways so out of the ordinary. It was a miracle! I was standing in the middle of a miracle! “If I could bring this to pass, if I could turn that shadowy dream into this substance, can’t you trust me to finish the story?” the voice seemed to say. I remembered the Biblical definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith was believing when you could not see.

The next step seemed clear to me that night. I had to wrench my grip away from all earthly security and with the arms of faith grab on literally for dear life to the promises of God. Although my only other choice was despair, it took a violent effort to make the switch, to reach out into the darkness and take hold of God, but the evidence of Him being there was all around me. From that point on I was almost afraid to have anything earthly to cling to, for fear I would have to make that leap again.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It is the vehicle necessary to bring the promises of God into this natural creation. Without faith we cannot please God. By faith Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. I pray the same for me.

Posted on

Take the Reins

On a sunny day in Leeds, a group of veterans gather around the glistening pond where the property begins. They are here to participate in our Take the Reins program, which invites veterans and their families to come out for various activities at the barn. They congregate together today to do activities with the horses and to learn how to relax and cope with their PTSD. This program they are participating in is called “Take the Reins,” a metaphor for the veterans learning how to take the reins of life after war. 

The group walks from the pond to the upper barn. Two horses stand in the cross-ties while the veterans gather around to learn about their first activity – painting the horses. They can paint anything they want on the horses, whether the strokes have meaning or not. The goal is to allow them the artistic canvas while also reaping the benefits of interacting with the horse. As they begin, a strong, blonde-haired woman named Shelley paints on Black Flight with her neighbor, best friend, and fellow vet Pat. As Shelley paints, her markings come alive with colors and images that resemble memories: 

Here, near the front, I’ve painted the heart and stripes to show my love for my country. Those years of service will stay with me. On the horse’s rump, I’ve painted the United States Navy anchor with some pink, because I love pink and it should be more widely accepted in the military. On her front leg, I’ve painted vines and leaves growing up and wrapping around to show that my roots will always be on United States soil, no matter where I am. The yellow line painted on the horse’s spine is the yellow line of fear. Bravery is overcoming that fear.

The sense of relief and relaxation as she talks about her artwork on Black Flight is tangible. Black Flight exudes equal relaxation as she drops her head and breathes deeper with every brush stroke. Shiloh stands across from Black Flight. Shiloh is smaller than Black Flight, allowing a more comfortable option for those who are intimidated by larger horses. There are always options at The Red Barn, which finds people’s strengths and places them in positions that promote the opportunity to shine.

After finishing their exercises at the upper barn, they head back down to the pond where the original “Red Barn” building stands. This allows time for the veterans to reflect in a more open, natural space. As the geese float on the pond and the surrounding birds chirp, the group gathers around the amphitheater in between the Red Barn and the pond. The group breathes together and interacts with their surroundings. The veterans then engage in more art, writing, and acting sessions. 

During one of the writing sessions, Shelley’s friend Pat reads what she would tell her twenty-year-old self. Pat’s voice quivers as she reads aloud:

I was scared for the future, so I would have wanted to give my twenty-year-old self encouragement. I would tell her to trust in the Lord to show her the way, and to not fear the war. Recently, I have been attending grief counseling because my husband died in August. I’m giving my troubles and releasing my worries during these hours in counseling. Today has helped me so much. My parting words to my twenty-year-old self would be that you are going to go through hard times, but to be encouraged because God will help you and take you through them.

Pat’s powerful testimony shows how The Red Barn creates a space where participants can finally let go of their struggles. The horses’ calming attitudes have a way of tearing down emotional walls and helping create a sense of release. The atmosphere at The Red Barn naturally allows for people to not feel judged or pressured. The participants are encouraged and allowed to feel free of their burdens, even if just for a moment. Those that arrive on the property are  welcomed back with open arms. This is their place to belong.

Posted on

Mrs. Cowart’s Stories- Chapter 11

The Curse- Vicky

Vicky was a chestnut mare that I had eyes on since she was a colt playing in the field of a farm in Tennessee. She grew up to be very much like her dam, a famous show horse since her yearling days. Her dam, Denmark’s Vixen, was well named because she was almost vicious toward anyone except for her owner and our good friend, Bob Smith. The elder Vixen, a royally bred lady herself, had been mated with Blanchita’s Society Rex, who was later to become our miracle stallion. Their young daughter, therefore, was heiress to the best that royal blood could promise. It seemed that fate was jealous of something as especially endowed as young Vixen and determined to even the score with the chestnut filly Vicky. In her first two years she was dealt a series of devastating blows, but the trials only proved the gold of Vicky’s brave spirit, and she overcame them all. Her first bout was with a severe case of colitis. The veterinarian who attended her gave Vicky up for dead. When she struggled back to life, he declared she was the only horse he ever knew to survive the terrible disease.

Later she was left for dead by sunstroke only to miraculously recover. The doctor declared she would be so weakened by the assaults on her health that she could never stand the strain of traveling to a horse show. So, fairly early in her life, Vicky became a broodmare. We were happy indeed when circumstances caused our paths and Vicky’s to cross again when she was six years old and came to live at Heathermoor Farm to join Denmark’s harem.

We eagerly, somewhat nervously, awaited Vicky’s foaling time in the spring for we remembered the vet’s gloomy prophecy about the delicateness of her constitution. One overcast morning I noticed Vicky lying down in the paddock that surrounded the barn. At first I gave it no thought as I went about my duties, but an hour went by and Vicky got up and moved but once. I looked at her closely to see if any of the immediate signs of foaling had appeared and they hadn’t. She didn’t seem upset. And, she was not going through the usual pre-foaling routine of nervously walking and constantly getting up and down. She just lay quietly. Later that morning it became apparent that Vicky was having some sort of trouble and I called the vet.

We had seen many foals born in our experience, or at least we had been around when they were expected and then safely delivered by their dams. Yet, only once had we encountered a difficult birth among our mares or even our neighbors’ mares. Mares usually foal quite easily and efficiently by themselves. But, all the books warned that when trouble struck with a mare it was nearly always fatal to mare or foal, and the quickest of action was necessary.

Our vet, Barbara Benhart, arrived. She was quite unlike the stereotypical idea of a “horse-doctor” and this small, pretty, lady-like person limited her practice to only horses. Small and delicate as she appeared, she was an able doctor. She seemed afraid of nothing and able to handle any horse with the help of her black bag of magical tranquilizers and anesthetics. On examining Vicky, she announced that Vicky was indeed in trouble. Her foal’s head was bent backwards instead of lying on the front legs and pointed out the birth canal as it should be. It was a very difficult presentation. By now Vicky was in hard labor. The bog of water had burst and the two little feet were in view. Vicky was now down, stretched out on her side, in the typical position of a foaling mare. Barbara stretched out on her, stomach on the ground behind the mare and tried to push the foal back between the contractions so that she could find and grasp its nostrils with her fingers and pull the bent head around. A neighboring farmer came to help, but the contractions of the mare fought against all efforts to push her foal back enough to straighten its neck. In a little while it became evident that the foal’s neck was broken by the hard muscular contractions that battered it against the mare’s pelvic bones. By now Vicky had gone into shock and had lost consciousness. It seemed fate had finally overcome the promise of her illustrious heritage. Then with the help of a calf-pulling winch and another vet and Barbara, Vicky delivered a beautiful filly – its future already erased by death.

We administered glucose intravenously to the unconscious mare. As I sat there on the tender spring grass by her unconscious body and held the glucose bottle as it dripped slowly into her veins, I was overcome with depression. It seemed a sickening waste. All that was involved in producing that little dead body which lay on the ground behind me came to me; the mating of the mare and stallion at just the right time, the miracle of contraception that had produced in eleven months from two microscopic cells the fully formed young horse. Not only had it grown but it had been packaged so beautifully for safety during the incubation period in a shock absorbent waterbed with padding around the little hooves lest they poke a hole in the cellophane bag this miracle package was wrapped in. The wonderful timing system that had begun the birth process and filled the mare’s udder with colostrum that would immunize the colt against any diseases. There was warm pale milk waiting behind the colostrum and the wonderful, knowing instincts that should tell the mare to turn and lick this strange little wet body and love it and endure the first ticklish torment while it poked its head around her ticklish belly looking for the teat it knew would be there. And, there was the fierce maternal instinct that would turn the mare into a fighting machine if any other creature approached the foal’s rubber legged body which she’d never seen before. All these miracles and countless more could only speak of a designer, an engineer, a chemist, a physicist and even more because all these mechanisms that made up the horse was Life itself. A part of this life was love, the warm and almost bewildered excitement this mare would have for her baby.

But, even with all this perfect planning, something had gone terribly wrong. This mare lay unconscious scarcely breathing, and this foal so marvelously produced was dead. There could be no moral judgment on this animal. Vicky was just a helpless victim of some cosmic mistake. But, whose mistake was it? If God made the plan, had he also made the mistake? For indeed something had gone so very wrong. Then I remembered Romans 8:22 which I had learned years ago:

The whole creation is groaning in travail together with us. For we know that the things of nature like plants and animals suffer, in sickness and death as they await the great event. On that day thorn’s thistles, sin, death, and decay will disappear.

What I was seeing in Vicky’s fate was the result of the age-old curse brought on by man’s sin. For the whole universe had become violently bent, twisted from its original perfect purpose when man first wrenched himself from God and gave ear to the devil’s lies. It was to undo this curse that the Redeemer had died. The creation I loved so well was waiting on tiptoe with me for the great day when “death and decay would disappear” and we would share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children will enjoy. Another piece of the puzzle of life suddenly slipped into place.

The glucose bottle had dripped empty and there was still no stir from Vicky. We covered her body with a sheet to protect it from the immense heat as the sun headed for high noon. There was nothing else we could do so we headed towards the house. After a meal, we went to check on Vicky, but the sheet-draped mound was not on the ground where we left it! To our amazement Vicky was across the pasture grazing with the other mares! Since we had removed the dead foal’s body and Vicky had never seen it, her maternal instincts had not been set into motion and the tragedy for her did not even exist. Another of the Creator’s miracles. Once again Vicky had faced death and won. She broke the curse and through the years three other foals arrived with beautiful ease to mother and child.