Life is full of changes and can take unexpected turns as you realize it’s not always full of highs and peak moments; instead, countless smaller ones can be good, flawed, challenging and heartbreaking. You don’t get do-overs, and maybe you wouldn’t choose to even if you could because every one of those instances helps to create the gift of an ordinary life (in the best way). Enter Vinny, a 17-year old Sorrel Pinto, who is now living his best life with his adopted mom, Cher, and equine brother, Colby.
In March 2016, Vinny came to the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center as part of a law enforcement case. Vinny was adopted in June 2016, but he was returned to the facility in July 2018. Vinny needed some rehabilitation to help a leg injury, but he was healing well. Harmony staff described him as very kind and beautiful, and they believed Vinny would make a great companion to any herd and would be fine for occasional light riding.
While Vinny was receiving the care he needed to recuperate at Harmony in October 2018, Cher was experiencing a heart-wrenching situation with her 30-year-old mare, Reba. Cher adopted Reba 15 years ago and was her fifth owner. Reba had cancer, and when her quality of life deteriorated, Cher knew it was time to make the difficult decision to end her suffering.
The morning Cher put Reba down was painful in its own right, but Colby’s reaction to no longer having his companion was devastating.
“We let Colby see that Reba had passed away, but he kept calling for her all day and night,” said Cher. “It got so bad that my neighbors were checking on us because they could hear him hollering. I wound up sleeping in his stall with him that first night because he was still so agitated. Although it wasn’t part of my plan to get another horse so quickly, I went straight to Harmony the next day.”
Cher grew up in Wyoming on a golf course rather than an equestrian facility, but when she moved to Colorado, she was surrounded by neighbors and friends who had horses, and she couldn’t help but be drawn to them. Cher adopted her first horse about 17 years ago.
“There’s something quite majestic about horses,” Cher said. “I was fascinated with learning about how they communicate and understanding how to read their body language. It’s also simply incredible that a person 1/10th the size of a horse can ride one and shape their movement with the tiniest of motions. They are so sensitive. Riding became one of the only things I did that forced me to single task … because if your mind wanders, your horse can tell!”
Cher fell in love with Vinny as soon as the two met and adopted him that very day. As quickly as Cher and Vinny bonded that was the speed at which Colby and Vinny became fast friends. “The two almost acted like they had known each other before and were saying hello again,” said Cher. Colby immediately licked and groomed Vinny, which maybe is the equine equivalent to humans shaking hands. Watching Vinny and Colby meet brought Cher to tears especially when the two started trotting around the corral area like synchronized swimmers.
From the day they met, Vinny and Colby have been side by side—eating together, sleeping together and playing together. Vinny taught Colby a game of “stick” where he will pick up a random stick with his mouth and Colby will grab the other end so they can play tug-of-war. And because equine brothers are really no different from their human counterparts, the game has graduated to now picking up a discarded Christmas tree and using it to bump each other like they are sword fighting. (The Christmas tree is in the corral area because the goats eat the needles and peel the bark, so it’s leftover from that … in case you’re wondering why a tree is hanging around after the holiday!)
Cher shared that her first experience with a horse was from someone who was crooked and didn’t disclose the horse had significant health issues, which led to her having to euthanize him after a year. Cher didn’t realize how dishonest some people were about horses, and she now tells people her heartbreaking story and encourages them to go to Harmony when they’re ready to adopt. “It’s easy to underestimate the value of knowing you are getting a quality horse that has been well cared for and from someone who is transparent about any issues,” said Cher. “Vinny has some lameness in one of his legs, but I knew that going into it, so it’s not an issue. There really is a horse for every person!”
Over the past 20 years, Cher has adopted three cats, three dogs and now a horse from the League. “I couldn’t be happier about the whole adoption experience at Harmony! My appointment was set to see companion type horses (ones that aren’t suitable for riding), and the adoption counselor was very helpful. I was impressed by the knowledge of the individual horses and how well they help match up owners. There is also a lot of care and consideration that goes into placing a horse into a new home, and I appreciate knowing that adoptive owners are well screened.”
The Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center is a private rehabilitation and adoption facility for abused and neglected horses, ponies, donkeys and mules that have been removed from their owners by law enforcement authorities. Harmony also serves as a central hub where horses from human societies and rescue groups in the Midwest and the southwestern United States can receive training and rehoming. In March 2018, Harmony began opening its doors to privately owned Colorado horses in need of rehoming. Since Harmony opened in 2012, more than 1,500 horses have been helped. To learn more, visit harmonyequinecenter.org.
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