Emotional return of two Fjords marks a new chapter

Published 10:35 am Thursday, August 10, 2023

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Two Fjords have taken up residence at the Funny Farm—not the long, narrow Norwegian inlets of water, but rather, the small, hardy ponies from the same northern European address. 

But oh, how much more they represent.

It was just over two years ago that my longtime friend, Donna, had to give them up as both she and her husband, Chris, owing to no fault of their own, found themselves inside a snowball that was rolling into an avalanche that would take everything they held dear: their health, jobs, savings accounts and finally, their beloved farm. They are examples of ‘good people’ of which it is said, ‘bad things’ happen to. 

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In a breathtakingly short amount of time, they were forced to sell or rehome all their riding school horses and tack, along with their tractor, truck and trailer. Their house, which they had just finished remodeling (isn’t that always the way?) went on the market and was snapped up within weeks. I was both incredulous and heartbroken for Donna as she and Chris packed up and loaded their belongings to return to where they had met—Tampa– where Donna would also care for her beloved mother, now advanced in her dementia.

It was astonishing to me how seemingly positive and resilient Donna remained during the entire ordeal. “We think 10,000 thoughts every day,” she once told me. “And I’m determined not to let any of mine be negative.” She was also determined to fight for her own mental health as life became overwhelming. It wasn’t buying a house, unseen, because of a crazed Floridian housing market that began to take its toll, or being the only sibling who’d gotten the Covid vaccine and, therefore, the only one allowed in assisted living to be with her mother, it was the sudden loss of who she actually was.

Like me, Donna has had horses pretty much all her life, and riding, teaching and caring for them was her entire being. When her mother passed there was suddenly all this time on her hands in which she went from caregiver back to…back to… nothing. At least that’s the way it felt. When so much has been given to everyone else and when what is left appears unrecognizable… it is very easy to stand on the precipice of a very dark place indeed.

Donna and Chris gave Florida two years. They saw family, visited friends, and then realized the Carolinas weren’t letting go that easily. They sold the Tampa house and found a newly-built home exactly 7 miles from me (she counted). And while Donna knew the deficits in her health would never allow her to run her own farm again, she was overjoyed when the buyer of her two beloved Fjords—all the way in California—got in touch to say she would happily give them up should Donna want them back. Funds were secured to pay for their travel and I happened to have a vacant back paddock with a little two-stall barn that was bartered for in exchange for a bit of extra help. 

It was happening…every ounce of despair, pain and fear which had marked the last two years of her life was melting away as Donna and I stood at the top of my drive, lead lines secured in our hands, awaiting the sound of a straining diesel truck rounding the corner and mounting the hill, towing a 6-horse trailer. The ponies were so small only their ears could be seen through the side window and they popped down the ramp as if they’d only been gone for a short drive to a local show rather than weaving through South Dakota, Montana, New Jersey and Virginia.

“I’m gonna ugly cry,” gulped Donna. And she did.

“Do you want me to lead one?” I offered.

“That’s OK, I’ve got them,” she replied.

I trailed behind and watched my friend—with her two best friends—make their way to their new home. The afternoon humidity was intense; sweat was trickling down her back within moments and already she had a couple of pieces of hay in her hair…

The crowning glory of her identity. 

Two ponies returned from California after a couple faced a two-year struggle