Author’s note: This story was originally published on July 20, 2012.
Timmy Summer’s frail arm rose slightly away from his wheelchair, as he willed it toward the giant animal.
A moment later, his small hand rested against the soft spot just underneath the bay gelding’s muzzle.
Yielding to the little boy’s touch, and his own apparent desire to draw even closer to the child, the Thoroughbred leaned hard against the stall door that separated them, stretching forward, getting closer.
To the amazement of the child’s mother and to others in the barn, ex-racehorse Dick G, who battled it out on the hard scrabbled track to win $30,000 in his career, became suddenly soft and affectionate as he laid his giant head across the chest of the little boy, and held it there.
The minutes seemed to pass in slow motion as the unlikely pair remained in a close embrace.
Those who watched the interaction were moved to tears. It was something they’d never seen before, and to this day, some two years later, is memorable down to every last detail.
Timmy’s mother, Grace Mahoney Summers, couldn’t believe her son was able to control his arm movement enough to touch the animal, and she was further astounded by the horse’s tenderness.
Race name: Dick G
New name: Teddy
Sire: Lord Carson
Dam: Houston Bound, by Houston
Foal date: Feb. 24, 2003“They stayed like that, and it seemed like forever,” Summers recalls, as she and her husband watched the scene with the horse’s former New Vocation’s trainer Lisa Molloy, and some assistants. All were deeply moved as they saw how the boy bonded with the powerful steed.
To this day, Lisa Molloy, who introduced the Summers family to the ex-racehorse in her capacity as a New Vocations trainer, says she gets Goosebumps thinking about that afternoon.
“It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen,” says Molloy. (She is now introducing prospective riders to horses at ReRun, following a relocation).
But on that day, the Summers family wound up quickly deciding that even though horse-ownership was an expensive proposition, especially with two special-needs children to care for, the joy and comfort that Dick G brought was more than worth it.
Shortly after witnessing the remarkable bond between Timmy and Dick G, the horse came to live with them in Ohio.
On April 22, 2010, the gelding began his second career after the track giving rides to Grace Summers, and offering comfort to the entire family during difficult times.
As Summers re-learns her seat, she reconnects to happy memories of a childhood spent growing up in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, and taking joyous riding lessons at the Staten Island public stables.
And, before and after some lessons, her children and husband spend time in the great animal’s company, distracted from daily worries by little things, like fly spray and horse treats.
“It’s hard going to the hospital all the time, and having to deal with the illnesses,” Summers says.
“When I’m with Dick G (now re-named Teddy) I’m in a different place.
It’s hard to explain it, but he does something for me. He makes me feel that everything is going to be OK.”
And it is okay in the barn.
Far away from the sterile equipment, and beeping machines of the hospital, the air smells sweetly of hay and horses, as Summers pushes Timmy’s wheelchair toward one special stall.
As soon as Dick G catches a glimpse of the helpless child, his ears go forward, and he rushes to get as close as he can.
“We were at the barn last Saturday and as soon as our horse saw Timmy, he flew from the back of his stall to the door.
He’s always polite, and never tries to push on the door, but this time, he was actually pushing, trying to get to him,” Summers says.
“I finally opened the door and put a wheelbarrow in the doorway to block it, but he tried to climb over it to get to Timmy!”
At which point, she wheeled Timmy right up to Dick G so the pair could play their new game.
It’s quite simple: Dick G uses his teeth to pull up the wheelchair armrest on which Timmy’s hand is lying, and then he lets go, letting it “plop” back into place.
The small action, and faint sound bring a smile to Timmy’s face, and peals of his laughter carry through the barn.
And for a moment, Timmy is a different child, Summers says.
“It’s like we’re in our own little world where everything is okay.”