The "Can Do" Girl


As I stood in the driveway watching my daughter Lori with her long red hair flying behind her -- and Maggie, part quarter horse, part Appaloosa, with ears that looked all mule, I smiled.

They were running down the dirt country road near our home as they did everyday since Lori was given the opportunity to ride "the big horse."

I remembered when we bought Maggie. My son Jeff, Lori, and I went to see her, and a Shetland pony, with the possibility of purchasing them. We ended up buying both the spirited 3 year old filly, and the feisty little pony we called Ben.

Maggie was a bit thin, but healthy and stood 16.2 hands high (a good size for a horse.) In the days that followed we wormed her, had her hoofs filed and shod, gave her a lengthy bath, a good brushing and began to introduce her to her new surroundings.

Jeff was the first to ride her. Maggie wasn't too happy with him and didn't like the bit used on her bridle -- so getting her saddled, bridled and ready to ride was always a chore.

She was a mover, and loved to run. The trouble was she also liked to run right under tree branches, knocking the rider to the ground. Maggie proved to be a hand full when she ran under a branch and Jeff ended up breaking a couple of ribs.

During this time, Lori (who had only been on the smaller Shetlands and Welch ponies) bugged me constantly to let her ride Maggie. Knowing what it took to control Maggie, I always denied Lori a chance to get on her.

At the end of a rather hectic day, Lori again pleaded with me to let her ride Maggie. Tired of her constant nagging, I gave in and told her I would let her ride the horse for a short time, but if she got hurt it was to be the last time I wanted to hear her ask. She agreed.

I helped her get everything out of the tack shed. We put on the blanket, then the saddle. Finally, the bridle. Maggie not only stood there quietly, but actually lowered her head into the bridle as Lori held it up. I buckled the strap and taking a deep breath, told Lori to climb into the saddle. Maggie's big brown eyes seemed serene, and one ear turned back toward my daughter sitting proudly on the back of this "wild" animal.

Lori took hold of the reins and began to walk Maggie around the driveway. They went through trees to the dirt road and back to the house. To my amazement the horse was a perfect lady. Lori's 'brief' ride turned into more than an hour, and when she got off the horse she said her legs "feel like jelly."

The next morning Maggie was at the fence nearest the house and 'calling' for Lori. Oh, we thought it was hay she wanted, but we soon learned it was Lori's wake up call. Lori would grab something to eat, then out the door she'd fly with a special treat for Maggie.

It wasn't long before the two could be seen running over the hills in our area. Neighbors always on the lookout for Lori and Maggie, then letting me know they were nearby. There were times Lori rode Maggie to our little country church and tied her to a tree in the back. The kids loved it and would take turns sitting on Maggie as Lori walked them through the trees and back again.

Lori and Maggie would go down to the lake behind our place for afternoon swims together, or visit neighbors along the back roads. The story may not seem so unusual to most, but to me it was a miracle.

You see, Lori is developmentally disabled (it used to be called retarded) and while I always tried to encourage her to go beyond the limits doctors set, nothing did more for her than Maggie.

Doctors, teachers, programs, and even I, often failed my daughter, but Maggie taught her more about responsibility, love, and independence than any human could have. In this case, the 'teacher' not only taught the student -- she taught me a valuable lesson as well. To let go!

What if I had not given Lori the opportunity to ride Maggie that evening?

How sad it would have been for my daughter if I had not allowed her to stretch the limits one more time.

Today she is still stretching her limits. She lives on her own, maintains her own apartment, budgets her money, and is proving she CAN do it despite the doctors who said she couldn't.

Copyright 1999 by Susan Stevens, mailto:Summr@email.msn.com

Susan Stevens lives in Washington State where she is in management for a human resources company. She is the mother of 5 sons and 2 daughters, as well as the grandmother of 14. She enjoys her hobby of writing. You will find more of her stories and poems at http://www.geocities.com/summr7

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