Monday, March 25, 2013

You are my Sunshine

Back in about 2001 I lived with my husband, Mike, (now ex) outside of Eloy Arizona.  We lived in a single wide trailer on 3.5 acres. On our property was another older trailer which we rented out.  We lived  in a little neighborhood of about 100 homes very far out of town. It was 23 miles to the nearest pay phone, and there were no phone lines in our area at all. It was right at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains and there was endless miles of beautiful desert to ride in. I loved it there.

But alas, I did not have a horse. 

My next door neighbor and his wife had several horses, and boarded some as well.  I often went riding with them, and helped with their horses. I mostly rode with the husband Tim, because his wife Linda, did not ride very much. (she and I did other things together)  He had a horse named Booger, who really lived up to his name. They also had an old guy named Grampa, who I rode quite often, until he was retired.    After a while Tim let me ride any horse I wanted and we often would spend an entire day riding. We would take two out, get them good and exercised, then bring them home, hose them off and saddle up 2 more and so on and so forth until they all were rode.  It was how we kept everyone exercised.   He always said he appreciated the help, I was just always happy to get to ride. 

Tim and Linda introduced me to some other friends of theirs, named Dana and Lynn.  Dana had a gorgeous palomino gelding whose name I cannot recall. Dana was afraid of his horse because he hadn't been ridden in a couple of years.  I have to admit I really wanted to ride that horse, but they did not live in our area, and I was not willing to try it without Tim around in case I got into trouble. (I did eventually ride him a lot,  but that is another story)  Then as it turned out, Dana and Lynn needed a place to rent and our rental was empty, so we struck up a deal.  I would rent the trailer to them and for the deposit they would give me one of their horses.   They had just bought a pony for their son, but part of the deal was that they also had to take an old mare that was there. They called her "Poor Girl"  They said I could have her.  

They took me out to meet her and I could not believe my eyes!  Here was the shaggiest, skinniest horse I had ever seen.  I said, "She looks like she is dying!" They said, "You should have seen her a month ago, she could hardly walk she was so malnourished."  They had had her about a month and had been working hard trying to bring her back to life and get some weight on her.  I went out to get a closer look.  She was obviously quite old, they said 18 but I know she was much older.  When they got her, they started her on some senior feed, got her feet trimmed and had her teeth floated.  They seemed to think she was going to come around. Or maybe they just wanted to dump her off on someone, but I don't think so. They had a few horses, all of whom were relatively well cared for, and they loved all their animals.   I agreed to take her. 

I could not call her Poor Girl, I wanted her name to befit how wonderful I thought she was, so I sang to her. "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..." He name became Sunshine.  Everyone else called her "The Yak" When she first came to me she had a cut on her leg that was healing so I could not ride her, well that and she was still getting over being starved to death,  But I treated her wound daily. I spent a lot of time with her just brushing her and and being with her. Simon was 3 at the time, and he liked to visit her too.  In fact I had to really watch him, if I took my eyes off of him for even a second I would find him out with her, dragging a flake of hay to her or trying to get her some grain. (she loved him for that). She was so careful around him, which was good because no matter what I did, he was always trying to get into her pen with her.  (He never has listened worth a darn!) I'll never forget the day he darted under her belly. I jumped to grab him but missed. She just stood there and looked at him from one side to the other. It scared me to death! But she never even twitched a muscle. He got a serious spanking, Sunshine got a big hug and lots of carrots. I loved her so much.

 Pretty soon she started to fill out and the light came back to her eye.  Her leg healed and she was getting some spunk back. The day she started to open her gate and wander over to Tim's, at will, he said she was healed up enough to ride.  We had to start locking her gate, she was pretty smart.  She did it 2 times. She never went anywhere else, she just went to hang out with his horses. I'm sure she was lonely. 

We started out slow with our rides, just walking up the road and back, but she really seemed to enjoy the exercise and getting out and about.  Pretty soon we started taking our favorite desert trails.  By about the 5th or 6th  ride, as soon as we turned the corner into the desert she was ready to run.  I never made her go any faster than she wished, but let her choose her pace.  I couldn't believe what an amazing horse she was.  I could go anywhere on her and she loved to go out.
Here she is right before we were headed out for a ride.
FYI- that is her summer coat
I wish I had taken some pictures when I first got her so you could see the difference. 
  Anyone could ride her and she adjusted her energy level for the experience of the rider. For kids she walked slow and methodical, stopping easily.  If I rode her, she was energetic and ready to go.  I could ride her bareback in a halter, or tack her up. She was never cinchy, never rude while we were riding, never rude on the ground. I didn't ride her bareback often though simply because she was sway backed and I did not want to hurt her. Only at a walk did we do bareback.   Some times I would use her to pull fire wood out of the desert thickets so we could load it in a truck and take it home. She wasn't afraid of anything.  I can honestly say that if there was ever truly a bomb proof horse, she was it. If she ever spooked I don't remember it.

It always made me so sad that someone could just
toss away such a wonderful girl. 
During this time Tim joined the mounted Sheriff's posse and had to pass all sorts of equestrian challenges with Booger. He was trying to get accepted before the big parade. One day I was over there on Sunshine as he was trying to get Booger to do the "box". Booger was fighting and fighting. So I said, "Hey let us try."  Sunshine stepped into the box, then she backed out of the box. then she turned around and backed into the box, then she turned around in the box and then she side passed out again.  Tim says to me, "I am not riding that Yak in the parade!"  I laughed and laughed!  She was a good good horse. It was funny because his horses were very pretty, and he was always making jokes about poor old Sunshine, but I think he loved her too.  Which turned out to be a really good thing.....
Here is her winter coat and you can see how sway back she was.
I'm sure I will probably get blasted for a child with no helmet.
But I am prepared to stand up and defend that on this horse
he was totally safe. 
...Because then the unthinkable happened. We lost our home, through a series of really stupid decisions. Really stupid.  I had to leave and I could not take her with me. (by then the "renters" had already moved on)  Of course Tim took her in. He kept me updated on her and I went back to visit her when ever I could. He mostly just kept her happy and fed, unless a child or inexperienced rider came to visit, then he would them ride her around the yard. He told me that he trusted her more than any other horse on his property.  He called her the Old Gal.

Then  one day I got the call.  Sunshine laid down and went to sleep one night and did not wake up. She was just ready to go.  She was not in pain. She did not suffer. But she was tired.  He buried her in the back of his property next to a Palo Verde tree.  We are guessing she was over 30 when she died

This was the last time I saw her. You can see the age in her face.
When I think back to what a wonderful horse she was, and how she could adapt to be what ever horse her rider needed her to be, I think she probably deserved a better owner than me.   Although, if I compare her life with me, to what her life was like before, I know that I did the very best I could for her with what I had.  I know that she was happy and as healthy as she was ever going to be.  I truly believe that God brought her to me.  He brought her to me so that she could be my Sunshine, even for a little while.  So although, her life may not have been great all the time, but in the end she was loved and appreciated for the very special horse that she was. 


  1. Such a sweet story! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wow! She seems so special! I can hardly believe that the third picture is the same horse. I always think that horses with a shaggy coat seem to look smaller and stumpier hahaha.

    I'm so glad she was able to go in her sleep and pain free. That seems to be the ideal way to go for any horse, but it very rarely happens that way unfortunately.

    1. You know you are right, it rarely does happen that way, and truthfully, now that I think about it, I don't know for a fact that it was that way for her. But Tim was the kind of guy who would make things as painless as possible for me, so he may have just told me that to make me feel better.
      Since I don't know for sure one way or the other, I will just continue to believe that she was one of the rare few, who left this world painlessly.

  3. Oh Cindy, I love your story about beautiful Sunshine!! My eyes are all teared up as I type, happy tears though...I think you're right about that. God's blessings come in all sizes, shapes and types, but the timing is always perfect. You were exactly who Sunshine needed, and I'll bet she blessed you in many ways too. Perfect blessing! It just breaks my heart that some people cannot see the value and beauty in animals. They are all so unique and just want to be loved and accepted for who they are; just like us. Thank you for loving and caring for Miss Sunshine. You were her savior when she really needed someone. :)
    I think she was beautiful.

    1. Thanks Lori,
      She truly was some kind of special. It took me a long time to write this post because it is hard story to tell. Especially when I realize that even the love of my horse, or my children was not enough to stop me from messing up again. They all payed the price for it. Not that her life was bad with Tim, but he didn't spend time with her like I did. He just took care of her. I missed her so much when I had to leave.

      It was so funny whenever she was around a horse that was acting up. She would look at them like "Puh-leeeeeeese" If she could have rolled her eyes in disgust at them she would have.

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  6. Oh she sounds very special! Glad she had you to take care of her :)

  7. Loved reading this, Sunshine reminds me of my older mare. I hope if I ever need help caring for my horses I'll know someone like Tim!

  8. Too funny about the eye rolling...but I can totally see it! She was a princess and acting badly was just so beneath her. *sigh* children!

  9. What a wonderful story. I'm so glad that she found you near the end of her life and became your Sunshine. It's sounds as if she was truly grateful to you and loved you back. I'm sure you were her ray of sunshine too.

    I get so angry at people who mistreat animals. We had an old mare we rescued and named her Sweetie. She was only with us for a short time but we loved her and she was happy to be taken care of for a while. They really ask so little of us to be happy it's the least we can do to help them out.

  10. I absolutely love the smile on your little boy's face! What a great picture. She was a gem for sure.

  11. What a wonderful mare! So glad you were able to share a part of her life and she yours

  12. This story is so touching, she sounds like she was a one of a kind sweet mare, thank you for sharing this with us :)

  13. I loved reading about Sunshine and the wonderful life you gave her. The pictures are wonderful and yes, I can see why some folks would call her a Yak!
    We stayed in Casa Grande for a few weeks... just a few weeks ago - that's why we went to Pichacho Peak. I didn't know that Picacho means peak, nor about the gold. Thanks for that info. I did like the peak and the way you can see it for miles as you drive down I-10. We never did get to Eloy, but folks said we should go by the sky diving and gliding airport just to watch the action. Maybe next year!