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.”
21 responses to “A racehorse brings joy to a disabled child”
What a wonderful and sweet story. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us.
Hello what a wonderful story about the bond between such a focused horse and a child with differing abilities. I will begin my 35 year of teaching in the field of special education so this story made me smile and touched my heart! I also have an ex race horse and he loves people… and I hope to someday use him to work with children with differing abilities.
I have a question does anyone have a link or contact I could use to get in touch with someone to do a barn makeover for a farm that takes in abused horses retrains them and connects them with people who have special needs. The barn is also used as the home of one of the local 4H groups. The owners spend much of their time and monies with the care and feeding of the rescued horses. It would be so nice if I could find someone or group to give back …. the barn roof needs replaced as well as some of the pasture fencing. Lisa would ignore the needs of her own home to make sure one animal did not suffer and if she knew of a child that needed a horse she would find one , bring it to health and retrain so the horse could be placed in the loving arms of the child and family. please email me if you know of any resources 419 305-2367 make a good day and peace be with you Debbie
The story gave me goosebumps! How wonderful to see what an animal can do for people. Especially a child. There is a bond there only God knows!!
Susan,What a wonderful job of telling Dick G’s story.As the owners of Dick G while he was racing we always knew he was a great horse with a big heart. It was with a heavy heart that we made the decision to donate him to New Vocation’s.After talking with Grace,we know it was the right one.We are so glad that Timmy has bonded with him.It has warmed our heart to see that he is still making headlines. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for writing the story. Tammy & Donnie Landis
Tammy, I was so happy to see your note on my blog. Grace says she keeps in touch with you quite a bit about Dick G. It’s good to know. You obviously take care of your horses, and care about their welfare.
This story is expecially special to me. I have had horses my whole life, and a special little brother named Timmy who had Down’s Syndrome. Timmy loved all of the horses. My sister and I would get him up on the gentlest and he would squeal with delight! I believe God gave horses a special sense so they know when someone special, like Timmy with Dick G., need devine treatment!! Great read!!
I ahve been involved with a handicapped riding program here in Michigan for over 30 years. This is a true example of the love horse can have for humans and the intuitiveness they have towards handicapped individuals. It is ALWAYS amazing to witness the bond that can form between a horse and an impaired individual. Congratulatons on your find between Timmy and Dick G.
I have had the unique occassions of watching my NV’s horse of 11 yrs. actually ‘talk’ & reaasure my new mare, also NV’s adoptee, ‘talk her through some of her many issues…No one will ever convince me that my older gelding was concerned for my safety in a few different occassions…….he is a true therapist.
Horses are very intelligent. People don’t realize their full potentials. I’m happy Teddy and Timmy found each other. Teddy is very protective and loving to Timmy. This would make such a good movie. Better than the movies they put out, today.
Wow, I loved this story! I wish that all race industry people would ensure and take responsibility for their horses. Horses can bring so much joy and love to others, they just need more people who care!
God gives gifts to us all and He has given Teddy to Timmy. This story brings joy to my heart and a reassurance in the comforting kindness of animals.
The LOVE ,the INTELLIGENCE,KINDNESS,the HEART of a horse I know it and horse people know it.. We love our four-legged companions….This is just another of the many wonderful moments with a horse and there UN-conditional love….Maybe be will think about this story and the beautiful moments it brings for this child and vote NO and stop the horrible act of Horse Slaughter….Please keep these feel good stories in mind and contact anyone and everyone you can to put an end to the transportation and slaughter of these beautiful animals we all know the special gifts these companions have towards man.
Very heartwarming and tearful story !! I’ve heard of such instances like this before. It seems that horses have a 6th sense when they are around people with special needs. No one has an answer but those lucky enough to have touched by these spectacular animals .
what a wonderful and moving story. made me tear up. just beautiful, this relationship between horse and child.
It also brought tears to my eyes It takes a special horse to be used for the disable. It does wonders for them. I worked with one young girl and brought her to my barn when I was young, her parents said it made a very be changed in her life
This did bring tears to my eyes! I just adopted a mustang to use in therapy for disabled children, and can’t wait until we are ready to start up. I am so glad for the bond between Teddy & Timmy.
Tears of joy for this pair! Thank you for the gift of sharing this sacred moment!
There is something about the innocent that connects with thoroughbreds. GREAT story and thanks for helping others to see this side of our horses.
This story brought tears to my eyes, as I have always known that the heart of a thoroughbred is a soft as an angels wing!
What a marvelous story, and how lucky for Timmy and his family that they and Teddy found each other. OTTBs are amazing (preaching to the choir here ;o), and they are smart when it comes to those who need special consideration.
Wonderful story, Susan. Thanks for sharing.