Back on Track ‘Horse Therapy’: Alaina & Mali

Alaina Fornal shares the story of how a special horse helped her cope amidst tragedy.

Each week we feature reader-submitted stories about horses that have gotten them “back on track” after a rough patch — or, in this case, multiple rough patches. Alaina Fornal tells the story of the special relationship she was gifted with a very special horse.


When I was a freshman in high school, I met my horse, Mali. He belonged to a lady I would work for, and he became my favorite out of the seven horses she owned.

When school started up, I ended up meeting a guy and we started dating. We only dated a month and half before he suddenly passed. I had gotten a call from him on a Tuesday, and he told me he was in the hospital using his brother’s phone, and that he broke his leg at football practice. He told me it would be alright, when I knew it wouldn’t be.

Two days later, I got a call right before school that would change the person I was forever. I got the call from his grandma that he had passed the night before. I completely derailed. My life flipped upside down.

I hadn’t gone out to see the horses in a while because I was too caught up in coping. Eventually I got out of the house, and instantly I saw Mali and he let me cry into his mane. I didn’t know then how much this horse would save me over the next four years.

Mali kept me from doing things that could ruin my life, like drinking, drugs, smoking… things that I would never do. I got so depressed after losing Ryan that those thoughts actually came to mind. Without Mali, I would have acted upon those thoughts, and who knows where I would be today if I didn’t have him.

Mali also made transitioning to a new school better for me the following year. I didn’t know anybody at this new school, and I would eat my lunch in the bathroom and come home crying because of it. I would always go see Mali and he would make everything better.


When Junior year rolled around, I lost a good friend in my P.E. class due to suicide. That tore me apart, because he never came across as the one who needed help. I was more at risk than he was, or so I thought. Again, Mali was there to wipe away my tears.

This past June, things really fell apart again. I lost one of my best friends in a car crash. I got the call from our best friend and I thought she was lying. No way could I go through this again. Not after losing a friend three months beforehand. I drove to the barn late that night and just sat with Mali, rubbing his head, talking to him, and crying in him.

I never thought that this horse would be my savior. He saved me from bad decisions, and potentially saved my life in all.

I really do believe that he was put into my life for a reason, and that without him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. How he helped me get through all these deaths in my high school years, I will never know, but I am beyond thankful that he was there to wipe away the tears when I was sad.

He is truly a blessing and knowing I will always have him there helps me on a daily basis, and he never forgets to remind me that I am a strong person.

Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines and the lessons horses have taught us — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!

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