Becoming Real

In memory of one of our beloved, four-footed therapists, Cody. Written by our Equine Program and Barn Manager, Rebecca Buchholz:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

People say the horses at Coyote Hill become like real people to the children. Much like the beloved children’s story of The Velveteen Rabbit, our horses are deeply loved by our kids. In return, the horses really listen to, care about, and love the children. I think that allows our children to become more than they might have otherwise, becoming the kind of people we really need in this world. This was recently shown when it was time for Cody, one of Overton Arena’s beloved senior horses, to leave us.

young boys groom horse |

Cody was an older thoroughbred gelding when I came on staff several years ago. He was always one of my rock solid horses for the children. Children who could not make a safe decision by themselves were always safe on the back of Cody, as he would make safe decisions for both of them! He was a true friend to myself and the children, bringing love and joy to many. Because of his age, the thought of “when” Cody would leave us was a looming question in the back of my mind. Aching joints became arthritis. Aging metabolism became the horse version of diabetes. The arthritis and diabetes became hoof and joint issues that made sleeping difficult and standing uncomfortable. It became abundantly clear that Cody was only continuing for our sake. Our love for him was truly tested when we consulted with our veterinarian and made the hard decision to let Cody know it was okay for him to leave. This was a hard time for many of us, but it was especially hard for Cody’s special friend, Hannah. 

Young girl washes horse |

In God’s special timing and grace, all of the children who loved Cody the most had moved on to other placements…except one staff member’s daughter. Hannah had a very challenging year of adjustments after moving here, and Cody was her go to for every problem. He was truly her friend and confidant. She was heartbroken about Cody.

Imagine my surprise when she found me the day after his passing and asked if she could start riding Ranger. I told her of course, but she didn’t have to rush the decision. I knew how much Cody meant to her and I didn’t want her feel like she had to suppress or ignore that grief. She told me that she was sure she wanted Ranger, then she told me why.

Ranger is a 33-year-old cow pony who, like Cody, is much past his prime. Ranger and Cody were always inseparable. Ranger’s adjustment to life without Cody would be hard on the pony, and Hannah sensed that. I explained to her that Ranger was also a very old horse. It was a miracle that he had made it this far, and that she might end up going through the pain of another loss. She told me that she realized that, but she knew it was okay. Even if she could only love Ranger for a little while, she just wanted him to know he wasn’t alone.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 

Matthew 5:3-4.

Thank you so much for being real to us Cody, and making the kids and I more real. Thank you for the many years of service, teaching kids how to love, how to be loved, and how to continue loving after a deep loss.

~~Rebecca Buchholz

horse nuzzle smile |
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