A Day To Remember
When we first learned of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue‘s open house adoption day on June 26th, I knew that we had to attend (even though we now lived an extra hour away from their ranch in Lancaster). Alex and I had been discussing and praying about finding the perfect horse for him when the time was right and when we saw the Adoption Day announcement online, it felt like an answer to our prayers. It was at one of Lifesavers’ early Adoption Days that I met my firecracker filly, Eternity, and it is still to this day one of my most cherished memories. There was something inside of me that told me it would be a life-changing day for Alex and I couldn’t wait to see how the day unfolded.
We awoke early at 6:00am on Saturday, loaded up the car with Alex’s new helmet, halter, and lead rope he had been saving up for his future horse and hit the road. We met my mom and sister, who are also looking for their lifelong partners, at Lifesavers shortly after they opened the gates at 10:00am. It felt so good to set foot on the ranch again. The last time we had been able to visit was when we adopted my sister’s first pony, Brody, in 2006. Ten years… where did it all go? We made our way towards the booth to check-in and met Lisa Wohl, who introduced herself and offered to give us a private tour since we had already submitted an adoption application earlier in the week. She wanted to show us a red roan yearling filly, as Alex had expressed interest in a similar colt that had been adopted shortly after being posted on Lifesavers’ Adoptable Horses page online.
When we arrived to the pen holding the fillies, we were captivated by their beauty. There was a small dun (named Malika), two liver chestnuts (named Nalan and Sezla), two little red roans and two sorrels. Alex entered the pen to get closer to the fillies and Malika, the smallest of them all, took a special interest in Alex, smelling him and even allowing him to stroke her. She was a confident baby who showed a lack of interest in joining the commotion of the others running around the pen together. Alex spent quite a few minutes with her and started to think that this beautiful little dun could be the one he’s been waiting for all along. She was even the color he had envisioned himself with!
We peeled Alex away from this little one who held him so mesmerized and moved on to look at the yearling geldings. My sister has been eagerly hoping to adopt and it seems as though the dark horses have especially caught her eye. She was introduced to Ravendrum, a beautiful black gelding with two white hind socks, who was keen on nuzzling her cheeks. Alex walked around and met each of the boys, who had already been mostly gentled… but he just wasn’t feeling what he had felt back at the pen with Malika. Lisa W. then showed us to a pen that held two to three year old fillies and mares, who were quite friendly and greeted us immediately upon entering the pen. Alex was enjoying all the attention and said that he knows he could bond with any horse… but he couldn’t stop thinking about Malika.
After visiting the older fillies, we took a break for lunch and were thrilled to learn they had vegan and vegetarian options. We all discussed which horses we were drawn to (a red roan two year old filly had caught my mom’s eye) and Alex was almost certain he wanted to place a deposit on Malika. A few of the trainers had mentioned it was highly likely that Malika would be too small for Alex and that he should consider adopting a larger, older horse (and if he still wanted Malika, too, that we could work something out). Alex had barely wrapped his head around the fact that for the first time, he would have his very own horse. Now, the thought of bringing home two horses began to overwhelm him. I reached for his hand and told him that he had been praying not only about finding the “perfect” horse for him… but that he would also know when that horse was the answer to his prayers. If Malika was who he had that connection with, then she would be the one we would adopt.
After lunch, Lisa W. continued to show us around to some of the older horses. At this point, Alex knew that his horse was back in the pen with all of the yearling fillies… and I could tell that was where he left his heart since earlier in the morning. He was eager to return to the pen to watch the fillies again and I decided to try and get close to the other fillies, thinking perhaps Alex might feel differently about another filly if he was able to get as close to her as he had to Malika. I turned my attention towards the little red roan with a star, as the two liver chestnut fillies had been spooking their little herd into circles around their pen, wild with speed. The red roan filly seemed to be of a softer temperament, her eyes remaining soft as she trailed the others.
As I began getting closer to the little red roan, I noticed Nalan, one of the liver chestnut fillies, taking more of an interest in me. Curious myself, I decided to direct my attention to her. Within minutes of approach and retreat, she allowed me to stroke her face and eventually, her neck. Now when the others would spook, she was slower at joining them in their laps, at times even standing her ground. As I looked behind me towards Alex, I could see that he had been watching her the whole time. “This one is special,” I told him from across the way. There was something about her that was captivating and intriguing. Her curiosity, her confidence, the way she carried herself. Alex entered the pen, hoping to get close enough to Nalan to touch her.
As Alex began making progress with her through approach and retreat, another volunteer entered the pen to watch. The new, extra individual being in the pen put Nalan on high alert and she was soon mixed in with the other fillies. It was nearing the end of the day and Alex exited the pen feeling defeated. He had put up a good front earlier in the day, but it was in that moment I realize just how much it had meant to him to find his horse. We began to follow Lisa W. as she had one more pen of mares to show my mom and sister, but Alex slowed and stopped at the very last corner of the pen that held the fillies. There, his gaze fixed on the fillies… watching them, asking questions in his mind only he knows to this day. My heart was heavy seeing him discouraged and I wished there had been something more I could do.
After our tour with Lisa W., Alex and I walked around the ranch, glancing at the hundreds of horses before us, questions just as great in number running through our minds. We started talking about the fillies and whether we would be putting a deposit down today. It was then that Alex told me that he, too, felt there was something special about Nalan. Given the fact he had been so set on Malika earlier in the day and had yet to connect with Nalan by touch, I was somewhat surprised… and yet, it felt meant to be. After all, towards the end of the day, Alex had opened his heart to the possibility that one of the other fillies might be “the one,” only to have Nalan herself completely surprise us with her interest.
A smile stretched across my face as I grabbed Alex’s hand. “Are you sure?” I asked and he nodded in answer. “How do you know she’s the one, even though you haven’t even touched her?” You know when you know. One of my favorite quotes of all-time. It’s why I love asking people “when they knew” because sometimes, that’s all you have. “I could already see the two of us together in the future… playing with her, out on the trails, at home.” My heart swelled with love and joy and sheer excitement for all that was to come. We made our way towards the Visitor Center where we spoke with Lisa Interrante to place our deposit on Nalan.
It was at this time, we also discussed taking a couple horses back to our ranch with us for gentling to help Lifesavers increase their chances of adopting more horses out. Ever since I was a little girl and first discovered Lifesavers, it was my dream to work alongside trainers Angi Murray and Chris Nichols, gentling and training Lifesavers’ Mustangs for adoption. In my youth, I hadn’t realized that Angi and Chris may not always be at Lifesavers, but to finally reach this opportunity at twenty-two is a dream come true. We placed our deposit on Nalan and made arrangements to return to the ranch the following Saturday so that Alex could work with her one-on-one before bringing her home.
We left the ranch that day feeling exhausted… from the intense heat wave and from the roller coaster of emotions we went through since the early hours of the morning. Yet, through all of the exhaustion, we left with a feeling of great accomplishment, of excitement and of joy. Alex was beginning a new, uncharted journey that he’s only heard stories about. I know in my heart that he has greatness ahead of him in the world of horses. The compassion and love he shares for these beautiful creatures is something truly rare in a man in these times we live in and I cannot wait for him to show the world to his new filly. It proved to be a life-changing, day to remember, after all.