When Mark and I first met, we already had decided that one day we would have a horse rescue. We would be so incredibly happy and everything would just magically happen.
What we did not realize is that life–and our faith–would test us in ways I never could never have imagined.
When Mark returned from the war, his soul and body were spent, his mind filled with horror that will remain with him. Forever.
His Unit lost eighteen men in one year. His soul and his heart had forever changed during his thirteen months abroad. We struggled as a couple in the first years of our marriage. The war had come home with him and there was nothing I could do to help. I would hear him cry silently at night. His eyes broken when I would look into them…. There was nothing left…. just the memories and the flashbacks that he would numb with alcohol.
I could not help him heal. I could not help him forget what he had been through, what he had witnessed. Slowly we started to fall apart.
At this same time, Mark was also experiencing extreme pain in his back. Now not only was his mind tormented, but his body was filled with endless agony.
We went from doctor to doctor with no solutions. It came to the point where Mark could not walk. Just being awake was just too painful. It came to light that Mark’s bones were slowly deteriorating and no one could figure out why or stop it from happening.
We went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and saw some of the brightest minds, but no one could explain what was going on. Instead, they put him on every medication imaginable to hopefully dull his pain. We were lost. There was no end to his pain, it was horrible, but we held on, we fought, we cried, we prayed.
While this was all happening, a tragedy struck us in a way that the pain is still indescribable to this very day. It destroyed every innocent thing in our lives. Inside I felt like I was dying… there are no words to describe the pain that came after “that day”. What happened was a vicious crime that I still cannot talk about, but what I can say is, it was hell.
For the next few years, we were simply surviving. I tried to feel joy, but it seemed impossible. Any dream we ever had seemed lost and Mark and I fell further apart. He retreated back into his darkness and I tried my best to be a good mother to my kids while trying to make sense of everything that happened. I tried to pick up all the pieces but inside I was screaming.
Because what happened was a crime, for the next few years I alone fought for justice through the courts. At the end of it all, I thought there would be some closure, maybe we could breathe. But there was no relief, the pain was still there.
A few months after the case was over, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This was the defining moment for me. I fell into a depression just going through the motions of life. I had given up on Mark, the pain was just to much and anything I had left went to my kids.
This was when I was introduced to Phoenix, a horse that was so abused that no one had been able to touch her for months. I decided that day that I would help her.
I started going every day to be with Phoenix, and Mark would come with me. Slowly we started talking again. Laughing again. We would do the daily chores of the farm and then spend time with Phoenix. I was soon able to gain her trust… it was one of the best days of my life.
As for Mark, I started to see a light in his eyes as we interacted with these horses that were severely abused. There was a horse Saturn that was also abused and unapproachable. In fact, we were told that she was so dangerous and the rescue was advised to put her down. Mark started to spend time with Saturn while I was with Phoenix and together, the four of us, we started to heal. My headaches started to go away and Mark’s body started to feel better and stronger. Phoenix began to trust us and Saturn slowly stopped being aggressive toward us and also began to trust. Soon a natural glow returned to our skin from the glorious sun, our hands dirty and muscles getting toned, we started to feel better.
We were starting to heal, not just our minds, but physically, these horses were actually healing us.
I soon took my youngest son to the farm and watched as he found a connection with another rescue and I personally witnessed the natural light and innocence come back to my little boy. I witnessed what I can only describe as a true miracle. Phoenix had helped me find myself again, she had healed my heart, she mirrored me and we helped one another rise. Slowly I watched amazed, as Mark rose, Jack and Torin.
These horses had done something to our souls that words can not describe…. It was then that we realized we needed to take a leap of faith and start our own horse rescue and chase that dream that we once had. And here we are. We are chasing our dreams in the hope of showing the true connection human can have with a horse, the ability to heal one another unlike anything else.
Being warriors ourselves, we will also fight for the rights of these beautiful horses… we will advocate for them and educate to the public the truth to what is happening to our American Mustangs as well as the horrors of the slaughter pipeline. WE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE….
Thanks to CZ Mustangs, a mustang training and rescue facility, and its founder, Cat Zimmerman, this dream is now a reality.
At sixteen years of age, Cat is an extremely gifted young woman who gentles mustangs from the wild. What she does is magical…and she gave us courage and strength to pursue our dream.
How did we get here? We rose like a Phoenix from the ashes, we had faith and believed in our darkest moments that there must be a purpose.
This is our story, not a story to feel bad for us, but a story to feel inspired, that when your dreams feel so out of reach, when you feel so consumed by the darkness, there is ALWAYS a light, there is always HOPE.
It is our hope to heal others that are hurting through the magic of a horse. To rescue the most vulnerable and let the magic happen.
THANK YOU for following our story, this is just the beginning of great things to come.
While we want to especially reach out to our Veteran community, this is for everyone. We are all heroes in one way or another. Let the horses lead you back to your inner warrior. Find that love and never let go…. UNBRIDLE YOUR SOUL