An Angel in Santa Clarita
We don’t usually take in people’s retired horses. And that’s what we told her family when they called. But they kept saying that she danced, and it intrigued us enough to come out and see her. The first thing that struck me when I met Rascalina was her eyes: soft, deep velvet brown, with so much kindness in them. She looked like those toy Breyer horses I used to play with when I was a child; long graceful legs, petite sculptured face, perfect thick mane and tail, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But at The Gentle Barn we take in animals from severe abuse and neglect, just because she cannot carry people anymore was not reason enough for us to bring her home. Just as I said that out loud, as though on cue, Rascalina started “dancing”. But to me it was more of a rocking back and forth. I wondered if she did that out of anxiety? If she was kept busy all day, if she could play with other horses, and if she had a job with children who needed her, would she stop doing that?
We brought Rascalina home on a chilly fall evening exactly 11 years ago. Once she was fully acclimated to the rest of the herd, her rocking stopped completely and Rascalina became one of the best ambassadors we have ever had. She was gentle and kind to everyone. She would hold still for special needs children so they could brush, pet, or hug her. And she greeted each school field trip we hosted. Rascalina would walk into the middle of a group of children and allow them all to hug her. She always took carrots gently out of even the smallest of hands. I trusted her with everyone. For over a decade I worked with her to soften the toughest gang members, to witness the most lost children, and to heal the most broken adults. Rascalina doled out unconditional love to all of us.
We said farewell to our beautiful mare this month at the age of thirty-two. We thank goodness that we were lucky enough to have known her, and that her previous family allowed us to be touched by such an angel.
The Gentle Barn is home to hundreds of animals rescued from abuse and neglect, and host to school field trips, private tours, birthday parties, and groups of at-risk, inner city, and special needs children. The Gentle Barn is open to the public every Sunday from 10-2 so you can hug the cows, cuddle the turkeys, give the pigs tummy rubs, and hear their stories of resilience.
For more info, tickets and directions go to www.gentlebarn.org.
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