I was penned at the backside of the property, in a 10’x10’ stall, barred from ceiling to floor; a big black horse, weighing in at about 1000 lbs. (underweight) and 17 hands tall, with very little access to sunlight and forbidden to move in my containment. My head hung low in the corner and my eyes spoke of abandonment and pain. I—son of Johannesburg and great-grandson of Secretariat—had sustained a severe injury to my front right leg, resulting in some permanent loss of motion in the leg. Sadly, this affliction could have been remedied or even avoided. But because of the repeated, forced, driven damage, it was now irreversible. At the peak of my career, I had a six-figure income and was a quite talented racehorse. Once garnished in wreathes of roses and applauding fans, I now stood invisible in the shadows of a dark stall. I was only six years old.
One afternoon, while a team of RGR volunteers were meeting, the telephone rang. An anxious man on the other end explained that he needed help. He and his wife had spent the last ten years rescuing hurt and broken racehorses from the tracks in California. They had provided us a second chance at life, saving us from an otherwise fatal end. A rewarding experience, yet now all of his financial resources had been depleted. He was losing his home, and thus the safe haven for his beloved Thoroughbreds. With 25 horses on his property, a home in foreclosure, and nowhere to turn, he called for aid.
As they toured the ranch, I struck one’s interest, but would not acknowledge her presence. Over the next several weeks she could not get me off of her mind or her heart. My shadowy, haunting figure meandered continually through her thoughts with increasing awareness. Fortunately for me, she called my owner and requested that I be brought to reigning Grace Ranch permanently, but what good would I, a lame horse, do at a children’s ranch?
In wise anticipation of the long ride, I was somewhat sedated so I wouldn’t be in pain. Eager to move from my pen, I moved through the maze of stalls and aisles that were home to the remaining Thoroughbreds at the farm. With labored walking, I held my head high as I proceeded through the barn with dignity. I displayed no pain, nor exhibited any sign of weakness. I was a magnificent animal with a triumphant heart, clearly ready to move on to greener pastures.
Little by little, I gained more range of motion in my leg and for the first time, I had hope. I simply needed someone to believe in me. Today I frolic, play, tease and love. Not to brag, but I am a favorite of the children who visit the ranch.
It is laughable now to look back at my initial struggles and doubts, wondering if I could do any good at a children’s ranch. In our mentorship, I have seen rough boys who, at the onset, appear unreachable by humans. Many of our kids have known what it means to be invisible, they understand how it feels to be used and thrown away. But once they hear my story of redemption, they identify with me, and a bond is formed in that moment. With their own stories of survival and courage, they realize they are not alone. I console them with my soft muzzle and tell them, “I understand your story, but don’t give up. God wastes nothing.”
It was by no accident that I was meant to be a walking miracle at Reigning Grace Ranch. The official registered Jockey Club name given to me at birth is “Joshua’s Dream.” Appropriately, Joshua in the bible means GOD RESCUES. Indeed, He does!