Her coat bleached red in the Florida sun, her body sapped from starvation, the mare was tired when she rested her head against the chest of SPCA volunteer Susie Martell, and made a friend for life.
“Something just drew me to her. She was the skinniest of all the mares the SPCA had rescued in June … and there was a sweetness in her that I was taken with right away. Every time I went out to her paddock, she would walk up to me and rest her head on me,” Martell says. “I fell in love with her right away, and I made a promise to myself that as soon as I found out she was healthy, and that I could ride her, she was going to be mine.”
For a kindergarten teacher who swore off horse ownership 20 years after the devastating loss of her cherished Thoroughbred, the decision to risk her heart again to another T-bred was not made lightly.
“Earlier in my life, I vowed never to own another horse. When I lost my Thoroughbred mare Chancey when she was in her early 20s, I was distraught. This horse had come into my life when I was a teenager. She represented a part of my life that I could never get back” that was lost when she died, she says.
Now in her mid 50s, Martell says having the mare she named Hopefully Mine come bursting into her life feels like a second chance at something she never thought she’d have again.
“I’m not a particularly religious person, but I do believe in fate,” she says. “I was starting to think about adopting a horse, but I’m a Thoroughbred person, and the SPCA didn’t have any horses I was interested in. And I remember that a friend of mine said she wished the SPCA would pick up some Thoroughbreds, and the very next day I got a text from Laurie Waggoner of the SPCA telling me she’d just picked up six.”
From the moment in early June that those horses arrived at the South Florida SPCA, Martell spent as much time as she could with them.
And the one mare, whose body is so sunken in that beneath her tail it looks as though a cavity has opened up where her hind quarters should be, sought out the teacher every time. With her ears pricked forward, and an eager look on a face still beautiful despite the ravages of starvation, she followed Martell around like a loyal dog.
Despite the skin issues, and the hair loss, the horse Martell named Hopefully Mine possessed the refined head and carriage of the beautiful Thoroughbred she was, and reminded her of the Thoroughbred she’d lost years ago. In fact she named her after her first horse, whose race name was Elm’s Hope. “I wanted part of Chancey’s memory to be connected with her,” she says.
As Hope puts on weight and regains her strength, she is proving to be as sweet under saddle as Martell first suspected. Piling on saddle pads for cushioning, Martell has ridden the mare very lightly to help her regain muscle. And while sitting on her new horse, who becomes more beautiful and healthy with each passing day, Martell is grateful to have a second chance to recapture her childhood joy.
“This has been a very emotional thing for me, a really big deal,” she says. “I did not think this would happen for me again.”