Back on Track ‘Horse Therapy’: Kathy and Misty

Saving a horse can sometimes mean saving yourself.



Some people say that I saved her, but I know it was really the other way around. Misty Dawn was a skinny, malnourished, eighteen-year-old Arab mare who was given to me almost seven years ago. Her previous owners were going to take her to the auction, but told my husband and me that if we wanted her, we could have her. She was in bad shape, but then, so was I.

For six years I had been struggling with serious Lupus-related health problems. I had battled fatigue, arthritis, sun sensitivity, and very painful pericarditis — inflammation of the lining around the heart. However, just a couple of months before Misty was given to us in September 1999, my health had slowly begun to improve.

I would never have been able to take on the care of a horse six months earlier. My husband and I decided that although Misty was old and may not live long, she would be a good horse for our daughter Brittany to learn on. I would just supervise her care. I had no intention of getting back into riding at that point.

About five minutes after Misty arrived, my intentions changed. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I decided immediately to ride again. My youngest daughter had just started school, and I was free during the day with my husband at work and my children at school. The biggest concern was getting Misty healthy again. I called the vet, the farrier, and made several trips to the tack and feed store. The vet assured us that Misty was basically healthy, just undernourished. I started her on a couple of supplements and a good diet.

Soon I began riding Misty, but I was full of fears, buried and nearly forgotten, that stemmed from a bone-breaking horse wreck I had had ten years earlier. Misty was patient and sweet as I slowly got brave enough to venture out with her. I arranged to take lessons from a wonderful lady named Sharon Michael. She taught me to ride in the mountains, to be safe, and to pull a horse trailer. Brittany joined Sharon’s 4-H club, and Misty was wonderful for her, but most of all Misty seemed to understand my fears and insecurities, and she took care of me on every single ride.

Six months later, no one wanted to believe she was the same horse. Misty had put on weight, built muscle, and had a wonderful shiny coat. But it was the light in her eyes that told everyone how enthusiastic she was about her new life.  Two years after she came into my life, she and I won second place at a twenty-mile competitive trail ride. In so many ways Misty really did save me; she restored my confidence, helped me regain my fitness and encouraged me to stay active when I didn’t feel good. She has been my physical therapist as a well as a motivational and emotional therapist. I don’t know how I could have recovered without her help—she has been a very special part of my life!

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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