Like many animal lovers, Stacy had a lifelong love for a horses and a dream of building a special bond with a horse of her own. Her passion led her to volunteer at one of the ASPCA’s Right Horse Partners, This Old Horse, in Hastings, Minnesota. The organization specializes in welcoming first-time horse owners and adopters into their barn and Stacy quickly felt at home among the community of volunteers.
She quickly realized how much she enjoyed the spirit and purpose that horses infused into her life and decided the time was right to begin searching for a horse of her own. She became close friends with the adoption team at This Old Horse, so when a special horse came into the program in late 2019, they knew who to call.
Raphael was a handsome, young Thoroughbred gelding who’d recently retired from the racetrack. For Stacy, it was love at first sight, but it took an unexpected twist of events to convince her that they were the right fit. It had recently rained, and Stacy found herself tripping in the mud as she led Raphael into the barn. She fell into the mud and was delighted by Raphael’s kind nature when he patiently stood and waited for her to regain her footing and composure.
“I fell in the mud, water and muck. It filled my boots, covered my jeans and hands. He waited and I laughed; I was giddy. I felt connected to him immediately,” Stacy remembers about their fateful first encounter. Soon after, she completed the adoption and brought her new friend home.
Stacy moved Raphael to a nearby boarding barn where her friend kept her horses. Raphael lived outside among a herd of horses, and Stacy found great satisfaction in watching him relax and enjoy socializing with his new herd mates.
“He was simply being a horse, in a herd, with his forever person. I had no expectations of him, no requirements for him. I wanted him to be safe, fed and have free access to water and shelter,” Stacy explains about his living situation. “I wanted him to find himself as a horse. I wanted to build a relationship of trust and communication from the ground up and go from there.”
Now, two years later, Stacy and Raphael have done exactly that. She drives out to the barn each evening to feed and care for him. Stacy has built a strong bond with Raphael by working with him through unmounted games and liberty work, a trust-based activity during which the handler directs the horse from the ground, free of lead ropes or other equipment. She has introduced him to obstacles and enjoyed watching his personality and confidence bloom.
Recently, they took their first riding lessons together. Stacy had her first ride on Raphael and enjoys the new challenges and closeness it brings. However, her favorite activity is simply spending time with her horse.
“Some days I just sit, and he eats grass. I tell him he is my favorite and how much I love him. He nudges me gently with his nose or will rest his head on mine. We are friends that have come a long way and have a long time to continue our relationship,” Stacy recalls.
What’s next for the two friends? Stacy hopes to continue training Raphael in liberty work and to continue improving their relationship under saddle. For Stacy, horse ownership is all about the joy and bond you build with your horse.
“My goal is to have a seamless communication between us, to go on adventures big and small, trail rides, learn more tricks and enjoy ourselves.”
Feeling inspired and ready to adopt a horse of your own? Visit myrighthorse.org to browse hundreds of adoptable horses nationwide by breed, sex or discipline.