Welcome to the Herd

A tiny equine with big ears is just what this family needed.


Several years ago, my husband and I decided to get back into horses. We purchased a wonderful mare named Kiowa who was perfect for our needs. She’s been a blessing in our lives and is a true member of the family.

Though we’re lucky to board her only about a mile from our home, I always dreamed of raising our children on horse property. I value the life lessons that animals naturally provide, and I wanted my children to learn about taking care of a creature who’s dependent on them. Most of all, I wanted to allow my children the opportunit­y to develop the same type of special bond with animals that my heart has treasured from a young age.

After a few years of owning Kiowa, we finally decided it was time to get an equine to keep at home. We live on roughly an acre, which, while not quite enough space to keep a full-sized horse, is plenty of room for some minis. So, Willow the miniature horse officially joined the family! An incredibly social animal, she loved spending time with her human herd and wanted to be with us as much as possible. Seeing how much she thrived on social interactio­n, we knew we had to find her a companion.

During a time of personal struggle, I had read a book about a woman’s spiritual journey aided by an adopted miniature donkey. This cemented my desire to find a companion for Willow who needed a home and a second chance at life—preferably a companion with long ears. We started the search process and spoke with a few rescues, but with the strange season of COVID, we weren’t having much luck.

A few months into our search for Willow’s companion, we purchased a second riding horse. During the pre-purchase exam for that horse, we spent some time chatting with Dr. Keyser, the veterinari­an doing the examinatio­n. It turned out that she not only ran a rescue—Hope for Horses Equine Rescue, Inc.—but just happened to have recently taken in some minis, including a sweet miniature donkey named Chalupa.

Since we lived a few hours away, the veterinari­an offered to let us meet him that day. It was love at first sight! Chalupa was an adorable little guy with soft eyes and a timid dispositio­n. Although he was feeling shy, he let us halter him and happily let our children lead him around. We knew this was the rescue—and donkey—we had been waiting for. We drove home that evening and started the adoption process for little Chalupa.

When we heard our applicatio­n and

home visit had been approved, we were thrilled! We arranged to pick up Chalupa that very week. Because he was starting a new chapter of his life with a new family, we decided to give him a new name. Learning that Chalupa had been seriously ill and fighting for his life when given to the rescue, we knew he was a donkey of great courage. Our family decided on a fitting name: John Wayne, Johnny for short.

The day we brought Johnny home and introduced him to Willow was a day full of joy. They immediatel­y became fast friends. Often, when I peek outside, I catch them napping together or sunbathing side by side. Every night, when I go out to give them a treat and say goodnight, I find them standing together by the gate, waiting to be tucked in. We also walk them around our neighborho­od together, and they have become quite the novelty attraction among our neighbors. We have a few neighbors who drop by on their daily walks just to see Johnny and Willow. I’m pretty sure it’s a bright spot in their day!

We feel very fortunate to have adopted Johnny. This sweet addition to our family just feels right. He brings smiles to people’s faces by being himself, and we love watching the friendship grow between him and Willow.

Adopting Johnny has given my family a feeling of peace and plenty of reasons to smile. Every day I’m reassured that these two minis are creating warm memories for my children. Johnny has been the first fruit of a seed planted many years ago—to rescue animals and give them a second chance at life. I’m looking forward to the journey ahead and hope that our story inspires others to consider those horses who truly need homes.

 ??  ?? Johnny the donkey was named after Western icon John Wayne.
Johnny the donkey was named after Western icon John Wayne.
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