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Cricket's Story

By Denise May

When I first saw Cricket, she was being unloaded into a neighbor's pasture. I knew there was likely to be a problem. The lady who rented that pasture was known for her alcoholism, drug abuse and scrapes with the law. Her father had bought her three horses, Cricket and Cricket's friend, both about 6 month old Belgians. There was also a two-year old Arabian stallion.

The pasture had already been picked clean by cows and an Oklahoma draught. The neighbors and I watched, hoping all would be well, but we never saw any hay delivered.

It was December, as cold and wet as they get in this part of the country. We discovered later that occasionally, the owner would rip open a bag of cheap grain and leave it for three horses. The two Belgians were run off the feed, and then there was also the  inevitability of colic. I called the lady and tried to explain the needs of horses. She said she had horse all her life and they would be fine on the "grass" in the pasture. I finally threatened to call the authorities if the horses were not properly fed. I hated to resort to that tactic, but sure enough a good bale of hay arrived the next day.

I didn't see the horses for a while after that. Then, when I finally did, I didn't recognize the Belgians. They were near skin and bones and one was down and not getting up. The neighbor and I snuck through the fence and discovered the downed Belgian colt had a gaping wound in the rump. Again, I called the lady and was assured a vet was on the way. I called the local vets and none had been contacted, so I called the sheriff, who contacted the Humane Society, who contacted a vet.

Overnight the coyotes had chewed on the downed Belgian, eating him while he was still alive and defenseless. The vet said he could not be saved and was put out of his misery. The owner was arrested and she signed over the remaining two horses to the Humane Society, to avoid any future legal problems.

I offered my nearby ranch as a temporary home for the two horses. Eventually, the stallion was adopted by a kind, responsible neighbor. The remaining baby Belgian needed a home. She was wormy, skin and bones, all alone and wouldn't let a human near her. Her wormy coat had holes in it where lice had infested. White snot dripped continuous from her nose. The Humane Society said they would return to get her in 20 days. I thought to myself, "who would want her?  Would she, too be put down?"  There were so many good horses being sold for nothing due to the draught and the cost of hay was now more than $100 per bale."

I had no intention of keeping the sad little Belgian.  I had her vet checked, followed his recommendations and slowly she began to have more energy, but no more trust of humans. She reminded me of an old lady who had lived with an abuser all her life…but she was trapped in the body of a 6-month old child. Her eyes were empty and she walked with that of a horse resigned to a miserable fate. Not to mention, she had seen her friend die a terrible death. She must have felt she was next.

Every day, I got a little closer to her, slowly building her trust. My husband warned me not to get too attached. We could not afford to keep her. We had just enough hay to get our own horses and cows through till spring. I asked the Humane Society if she could stay just a little longer, until I felt she was ready to be adopted….healthier mentally and physically, so she would catch someone's eye. They agreed. Still I had no intention of keeping her.

Soon, the Oklahoma winter became worse. Day and days of freezing rain, snow and wind chills that would freeze your face. I couldn't give Cricket her feed outside, so I started feeding her in a small section of the barn. Three times a day, I would stay with her while she ate, first just touching her and she jumping back at the touch. Soon, though I would stand with my arm around her back and she would snuggle close. If I tried to leave too soon, she would run after me and ask me to return to the barn….of course I always did. What could be more important?

My husband never said a word, but I knew he knew. Cricket was mine. Somehow, as close as I am with my other horses, she was most special. She became playful and I taught her games we could play together. She was still not what you would call "a real looker."  Her dewormed belly was down, but she was slightly cowhocked, which is how she got her name Cricket. Her fur was  dull and fuzzy and some people even asked me if she was some kind of mule. I had to admit, looks were not her best attribute.

But smart?  If it's possible for a horse to be a genius, that was Cricket. Even just playing and teaching her a few minutes a day, it was hard to keep up with all she was eager to learn. Somehow, we made the hay enough to feed one more mouth and I was blessed with a small financial windfall that covered her medical bills and grain.

It is now April and it's only been a few months, but some would never recognize Cricket.

She has shed her fuzzy coat, filled out in all the right placed. But, most of all, she has the look of a horse that feels safe, and, yes, loved most definitely. She's turning into a beauty. She runs across the pasture to me with head circling high and a tail raised to match. She is also the star of the "Cricket Show", where she fascinates audiences with her ability to ground dance with me, matching step for step without any tack….any step, any speed.

The grass is now green and the ponds full. And yet, when I stand near her as she gently grazes and then turn to leave, she still comes and gets me and brings me back to stand by her side, with my arms around her. I sneak out of the house during storms and stand with her in her little part of the barn….well, just because I know.

There are many morals to this story. First, how important it is to know who you're selling or giving your horse to. Secondly, it may be hard or uncomfortable to interfere when you suspect abuse, but do what you can legally and ethically. Third, as you, Franklin told me:  Sometimes the horses that just suddenly come uninvited into your life turn out to be the most special. God works in mysterious ways. Have faith. Do the right thing as best you can. Don’t give up on your horse. Find a way…he or she is counting on you.

Lastly, and I think most importantly, for anyone who ever doubted that trust and respect can turn into love, I can only say this: It certainly turned a cricket into a beautiful butterfly.