My life changed in February, everything I knew came crumbling down around me. But sometimes it takes the walls to crash down around you to help you realize you were meant for something better. In the end, I am right where I belong. I am worthy and this is my story. My name is Billy and l am 12 years old. I have heard people say that I am loyal to a fault, easy going, hard working and a big lug….whatever that means. I’m no stranger to hard work. When I was just 2 I began learning how to plow fields and pull wagons along the side of my big brothers to help lighten their load.
I am a big and tall, 19 hand Belgian draft horse from Texas. I am strong enough to pull 50 logs, a ton of hay and break up the arid ground with my every step, but I am gentle and quiet enough for a five-year child to stand along side of me and hold tight to my legs, or sit on my back. That’s just how I was. I loved life. After quite a few years of tremendous hard work, my feet began to break down and the pain was sometimes unbearable but I powered through knowing that I had an important job to get done. I was stoic. After all, my worth was in what I could do for others. In February 2017, my life would never be the same. It was just another normal day but there was a haunting energy in the air that felt like a change was coming. My owner came to the barn that morning and without notice, loaded me into the trailer and drove a few hours away; away from my family and the only home, I had ever known. I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye because my brothers were working in the fields. I was dropped off in a big pen with many other horses. I was painted with a number on my side and left to fend for myself. I was scared. I called out, but no familiar voices responded. Standing in this crowded pen being pushed and shoved there were so many of us afraid, abandoned, stranded with nowhere to run. Days would go by, I overheard something about the Kaufman Kill pen. Is this where I was? A kill pen? A few more days would pass, tension rose within the herd of horses. Horses would come and go and some never returned. A kill pen for a horse my size only meant one thing.
I had only a few more days before my number would be called and a kind lady came to me and said, “buddy, you are one of the lucky ones, you got picked and you’re going home.” I thought to myself, Home? Am I going home? I can’t wait to see my brothers and begin my work again. This time, I would prove my worth and work extra hard just to show them that I could be what they wanted. I was loaded onto another trailer, except this time, I wasn’t headed in the direction I thought. No, it was much different. After 18 hours of a rocking trailer ride, I arrived in a desert place, surrounded by purple mountains, tall spiny trees and a line of anxious horses that stood quietly sizing me up as I stepped from the trailer. One black gelding, let out a quiet whine, that told me I was safe and that I was home. But this didn’t look like home to me……
I received a phone call from a woman who had placed a bid on a Belgian draft horse online at the Kaufman Kill Pen. She wanted to rescue him but had no place to take him. With only a few days remaining before he would meet his fate, we decided to have Billy picked up in Texas and shipped to Arizona and become the newest member of the Reigning Grace Ranch herd. After an 18-hour trailer ride, Billy arrived late in the evening. This tall, gentle giant stepped from the trailer. Red in color, with a blonde mane and tail and such a kind liquid eye; I knew in that moment, God had done something spectacular for this horse. Billy clearly exhausted from the long drive, didn’t even whinny to the herd of horses that stood at full attention along the fence line anxiously awaiting to see the unveiling of their new herd mate. Legato let out a soft Winnie, but there was no response from Billy. Exhausted, he shuffled to his empty quarantine paddock for much-needed rest. As I looked down at his feet, they had clearly been neglected for some time, possibly years. They curled at the ends and looked almost like skis. His sponsor wanted to have her farrier look at his feet to see where we should begin. The next morning a farrier came out to the ranch and gave us news I wasn’t quite ready to hear. He told us that Billy would have to be euthanized because he had such terrible founder and rotation in his hooves and that the pain was most certainly unbearable for his 2500 pound frame to withstand. Worse yet, it was not just on one foot, but all four feet. He told us to put him down immediately.
I was stunned. What was God doing in this moment? I can’t imagine He would bring Billy some 1200 miles, to be euthanized in Arizona. So, I did what we do at Reigning Grace Ranch…I prayed.
I immediately called two of my trusted team mates for the ranch…our veterinarian (Dr. Tavel) and farrier (Mr. Josh Toy) to come out for a second opinion. After a few x-rays and examination, our vet and farrier said that Billy’s prognosis wasn’t ideal or even great, but they believed if Billy was willing to fight for his life, we would fight right next to him. I remember thinking to myself, here is a horse with horrific feet, that just stood for 1200 miles over an 18 hour period……this can’t be the end! Because Billy didn’t show any current signs of pain, they were willing to put together a detailed medical plan of attack, sort of speak, that consisted of frequent x-rays, prescriptions, natural remedies and some creative trimmings. In addition, because Billy was prone to founder, we would have to keep him under watch 24/7; the slightest weather change in humidity, heat, and cold could cause a potential flare up with his disease. Our plan was to remove almost 5″ of the toe from his terribly neglected hooves and help him to grow sole. You see, the bone just inside the hoof wall was at risk of piercing thru his thin soles. We had to do everything in our power to keep that from happening. Again, we did what we do at Reigning Grace Ranch, and Billy received prayers of healing.
It has been seven months and Billy has weathered thru the hottest part of our Sonoran desert weather. He continues to be on a strict treatment plan that April, one of our amazing interns has made sure Billy gets to twice a day without fail. Billy is flourishing. At his last vet appointment, Dr. Tavel was exceedingly impressed with Billy’s progress, so much so, that she has never seen a horse grow as much soul as he has in the short amount of time we have been treating him. He has grown almost an inch of the sole, his coffin bones in his feet are slowly beginning to rotate back into natural position. He is a miracle, to say the least. We are looking forward to good things from our gentle giant.
Sometimes when life throws you uncertainty, you have to trust that God is preparing you for something better. Often, bigger than you could have ever dreamed up on your own. It may not be an easy road, but patience, perseverance, steadfastness, and trust will create the life you were intended for.