A dying mare rises up from desolation; a phoenix

Star of Reality was renamed Phoenix after she survived death that seemed  imminent

Star of Reality was renamed Phoenix after she survived death that seemed imminent

In a clearing gnawed down by hungry horses trying to nourish themselves on the scrubland of the Cayman Islands, a Thoroughbred broodmare with an uncommonly gentle nature gave up on what life had handed her, and she lay down to die.

It was such a warm day as Star of Reality folded her knees beneath her thin body and lowered herself to the earth.

Her four years spent as an iron horse making full-tilt dashes toward the Finger Lakes finish line were long over, and her recently delivered chestnut-white Paint foal had been weaned and was in the bloom of health as she rested her head in the dirt, waiting.

How long she was like that is unclear to Tricia Sybersma, a Cayman Islands and Ontario resident who first met the startlingly pretty creature who arrived like an exotic hothouse flower in 2008 on an island populated with much stockier, hardier horses. “I think she might have been the only Thoroughbred on the whole island,” she says.

Star of Reality
New name: Phoenix
Sire: Slice of Reality
Dam: Water Star
Foal date: March 19, 1999
Earnings: $65,809

Sybersma noticed Star right away. The sleek animal was kept in a pasture near her own, where she boarded three horses, and from the first meeting, she felt a strong pull toward the remarkably trusting animal.

“She had a peacefulness and a gentleness about her that was uncommon,” she says. “She would make really good eye contact, and it was clear to me that someone had really cared for this horse, because she had so much trust in people, she was just like a lamb.”

About two years after the mare arrived, as her weight dropped, and she failed to thrive, she was moved to a further pasture. And then some time in 2010, the mare disappeared.

“I worried that when I couldn’t find her … that she was in trouble,” she says. “So I started to casually ask around to see if anyone knew where she was” until one day she got her answer.

Star of Reality was failing to thrive before she was saved

Star of Reality was failing to thrive before she was saved

Lying down among a small herd, the mare barely moved, but as Sybersma approached, her soft brown eyes seemed to flicker in recognition of her old friend.

“I knelt down next to her, patted her head, and told her everything would be OK,” she says. “I knew then that I had to take this into my own hands.”

She first called her husband Stu and explained the situation. “I told him this horse deserves to die peacefully and comfortably,” she says, noting that he readily agreed. Then she went to fetch the mare some carrots and apples, just a little something to perk her up and elevate her blood sugar.

After convincing the mare’s owner to let her assume care for the horse, Sybersma had the animal moved to her field, where she was immediately befriended by the resident herd. One mare with a nurturing personality seemed to stand guard over star, while a spunkier one seemed to tease and nudge to encourage her.

Working quickly to develop a dietary and nutritional regimen that would ease her back up to weight, Sybersma fed Star soaked hay cubes she shipped in from Tampa, grain, and plenty of water. She also treated her to apples and carrots.

Phoenix, left, with her new friends

Phoenix, left, with her new friends

Hoping at best that the lovely mare might at least feel comfortable and loved as she died, Sybersma kept up the regimen without the expectation of anything more. And with just that and maybe a prayer or two thrown in for good measure, Star of Reality did what no one ever expected: a recovery as surprising as it was complete.

“I got a feeling in my heart, like she was speaking directly from her heart to mine, and it warmed me to my core,” she says. “I think she knew she was safe.”

Today, three years later, Star lives at a six-horse facility at Cowboy Town Stables, which provides lessons to autistic children. Although Star does not give riding lessons to them, she is adored and fawned over by all.

And Sybersma, who travels frequently between Ontario and the Cayman Islands, sees her often and is making plans to move the horse to Ontario next spring.

“She showed such a strong will to live that I changed her name to Phoenix,” she says. “It has been about three years now, and she continues to teach me so much. I am blessed that she is in my life.”

16 responses to “A dying mare rises up from desolation; a phoenix”

  1. Laura Rowley

    I cried when I read this! Wonderful!

  2. Barbara Griffith

    Its a good thing the mare had the will to eat. Many animals that are that close to dying from starvation simply don’t have the will or they are to weak to chew the food offered. I have read articles a few times about race horses that are abandoned on these islands when they could no longer win. Puerto Rico comes to mind.

  3. Justine Blair Carroll

    Love Heals!

  4. Deb B

    One of the few TBs with a direct male line to the great Man O’ War and her “reality” is to almost starve to death in a foreign country. Shameful indeed. This is a wonderful story. I wish all TBs could have the fairy tale.

  5. Nancy E. Leggett

    Tricia you are a light worker on many levels. Phoenix is a royal horse!

  6. Beth Matanane

    The Spirit of a Thoroughbred – Thank you for saving her.

  7. Lisa Melone

    Thanks for sharing a story with such a happy ending. And kudos to Tricia for helping her!

  8. LindaVA

    Another heartwarming happy ending story! Thanks to Tricia for caring enough to help Star/Phoenix.

  9. Tricia

    If anyone would like more info about her recovery and the modalities that where included please contact tsybersma@hotmail.com

  10. Cynthia Minchillo

    I feel the love …

  11. Tricia

    Thank you for your care, concern and encouragement.

  12. faye fisher

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. The two of you connected for a reason that has not unfolded all the way yet. faye

  13. Cindy Crank

    What a great story. I am wondering how this mare got to the Cayman Islands…that’s a long way from the Finger Lakes. Well done Tricia!

  14. Linda Pavey

    Oh, what a great story! Thank you Tricia! You are definitely an angel for Phoenix. 🙂

  15. LL

    Ever so often these stories really get to me. This was a real tear jerker. What was the original owner thinking??? Too much trouble to put her down humanely so I’ll just let her die on her own out in some pasture. So glad she was rescued, especially with her will to live when taken care of.

  16. Jeanne Mirabito

    Beautiful mare, beautiful human and beautiful story.

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