Monday, July 1, 2013

Modern Day Miracles

A shetland pony


   Miracles do occasionally happy in the present day.  I have been a witness to many of them over my lifetime myself.    Some are of the dramatic variety. A person is admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and the trauma surgeon has told the family that the patient has only a five percent chance of survival, but a week later, the person is sitting up, complaining about all night lighting in the ICU and is transferred to a regular hospital floor a week later. He will not only survive, but will recover much more rapidly than was anticipated.  Most miracles in our lives are much smaller less dramatic events, but they are there, if we pay attention, nonetheless.  I think some of them simply occur because God is telling us that our lives are not meaningless and that He does care about our challenges and sorrows.  Sometimes, there are miracles which confirm our direction in our lives.
                 This is a small miracle I have chosen to tell you about here.  When Daniel was four and five and for a few years after that, our entire family used to travel quite a distance to attend the annual "Celtic Festival".   Both my husband and I have some Scottish, English and some Irish ancestry, and we thought this would be an excellent way for our children, especially as homeschoolers to learn something of this ancestry. It was an expensive trip for a family of six.  Parking, entry fees, and then additional charges to eat, and do some of the additional activities were large for six, but we would budget for this well in advance.  The entire family would dress in Scottish gear, including all of boys in kilts.   We would watch the Irish dancing, sword demonstrations, musical performances by Celtic artists etc.  We would eat fish and chips and homemade lemonade.  We would shop for British groceries and sweets and visit with friends who had stalls there.   It was during one of these days that Daniel and Matthew had a chance, in kilts to ride some ponies.  I remember well the chocolate colored young Shetland who would rather have been grazing, but who begrudgingly carried Daniel in his kilt and a turtleneck down the length of a field while being led by a teen girl with a giant rope.  I remember the wind blowing on that November day, blowing both the mane on the horse, and Daniel's hair as well.    Matthew followed on a taller horse, also being led in similar fashion.  We took photographs and these became special memories to me.
                 Over time, the Celtic Festival changed locations and became even more expensive. The younger boys also didn't want to dress us in kilts again and there came many other interests.  Eventually, our older kids went together when they got driver's licenses, but my husband and I, and Matthew and Daniel never went again.
                Of course, as you know, this November, Daniel will have been gone from the Earth five years.  He came, enjoyed his time on Earth and his studies, and then passed at 12 1/2.  There were many things I wish he'd stayed longer to do.  I am therefore very grateful for the things he did have a chance to do, and for the pictures that help us remember them.
               A couple of months ago, I noticed that local papers, Craigslist,  Freecycle, and other sources have an abundance of really wonderful horses available for relatively low prices.  Many people who like horses take on a greater number than they can afford, or find over time that between feed, hay, veterinary care, shelter, farrier care, boarding if you don't have room at home or are zoned for such, becomes expensive.  Consequently, there are Freisians, Thoroughbreds, Clydesdales, Arabians, miniature horses, Welsh ponies, and Shetland ponies all for sale.  I have always wanted a horse here on the farm and so I read them carefully.  I decided to buy a miniature horse who needed a home, in part because I was concerned I would be injured as my accomplished horsemen paternal family were, and also because I thought a mini would be a great place for me to learn.   I saw an ad without a picture for a miniature horse being sold by a woman who does horse rescue.   I went to see the horse right away.   I liked this beautifully proportioned bay gelding very much despite the fact that he could use some training and some handling. His original owner had become ill and was unable to care for him. Consequently, he was skittish and quick to spook and needed a lot of handling.  It also took me no time to see how bonded he was to another horse who was housed with him.  The horse housed with him was a chocolate Shetland pony who was muscular and stocky and had a long tuft of fetlock hair which curled.  He looked familiar.  I made no promises that first visit and told the owner I would need to go home to discuss the purchase with my husband.
              It took me several days to convince my husband who didn't remember telling me that I could get a horse if I did 100% of its care. During this time I also felt guilty about removing the miniature horse from his friend the Shetland, to whom he was bonded.   Animals are never happy on a farm being the only one of their species.  When I spoke to the woman again, I asked her how much she would charge for both the miniature and the Shetland.  She told me that the Shetland would be more money as he'd had a career giving rides to children at birthday parties, bank openings, and festivals etc.  Finally, she settled on a price, I paid it, and she delivered "the boys" to the farm.
            The first few weeks were challenging as I learned to muck stalls, and led them out to graze.  We had an equine veterinarian out a couple of times.  He taught me how to identify landmarks in order to do all the immunizations myself in future.  The vet determined the age of both horses based on their teeth.  The sweet miniature bay gelding is about seven, and the Shetland gelding is about nineteen.  Not long after, the farrier came, and I could see that both horses enjoyed having their hooves trimmed and were very cooperative.
            Within several weeks both horses were very gentle, easily cared for, loving. and since I feed them, are thrilled to see me, each time I make my way to the stables.  They are indeed bonded and play with one another in the corral.  They play a version of what looks a good deal like tag.
             This week, with much of the horse chores being done and the hot weather here, I have worked on some indoor chores.  I wanted to clear some space downstairs so that I could better access some of the many albums of pictures of the kids when they were younger.  Thank Heaven, I thought, that we took so many pictures of Daniel when we did things.  They are so important especially since he has passed.  We are lucky that we have so much to remember, and so many pictures also.  I decided to look through some of the photograph albums from about 2000.    There was Daniel in a turtleneck and kilt as a boy of four riding a horse that looked just like my nineteen year old Shetland pony !    It can't be, I thought.  I studied the pictures carefully.  It did look just like our Shetland, but his mane and tail were slightly lighter in color than the horse I have now.  It can't be, I thought.
             This morning I was looking up something unrelated with regard to horse care and I came upon some information I did not know prior.  Apparently, many times, chocolate colored horses, particularly Shetlands have manes and tails which darken as they age.  My Shetland is nineteen.  If he were the horse that Daniel is riding then he would have been about five years old at the time.  I now remember commenting to the young woman who told us about the horses as Matt and Daniel rode, that Daniel was the same age as his horse.
            I truly believe that the chocolate Shetland pony that Daniel rode at the Celtic festival in 2000, is indeed the Shetland pony that we quite accidentally acquired this year !    What are the chances that we accidentally purchased simply as a companion to another horse, the horse that Daniel rode ?   What are the chances that this horse would be made available to us when he simply needed a home now ?  So many things had to line up perfectly in order for this to have happened.
            Perhaps placing the horse Daniel rode is God's way of ensuring this older Shetland gets excellent care as he ages.  Perhaps this is God's way of telling us that He and Daniel have not forgotten all the incredible times we spent together.  Perhaps this little miracle is Daniel's way of saying hello, and that he knows of things that happen here on Earth, and on the farm.
            Both horses are happy and healthy, and are a great joy to me, whether I have met the older of the two before, or not.

Update:  About six weeks after getting these first two ponies, we rescued another two horses who are true miniature horses.  Thus far, they are all getting along nicely and seem to appreciate being in a herd of smaller horses.

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