I watched Lola carry the young rider around the grounds at Summit Equestrian Center, accompanied by two side walkers and director Allison Wheaton. The 15-year-old Appaloosa mare moved with the ease of a practiced therapy horse.
What’s more, she’d attuned herself to the energy of this young girl, who lived with a condition affecting neuromuscular and other systems. The child had groomed and saddled Lola, with plenty of pets along the way, and now sat beaming on her back.
Writing a Fort Wayne Magazine story on therapy animals had brought me to the barn to meet Lola and watch her work. Lola adjusted her stride to each child who rode her, I would learn. Once, she abruptly stopped because she sensed a child’s oncoming seizure.
Even her coat was beautiful, fun, and functional; kids counted her spots or adorned them with nontoxic finger paint during summer day camp. She stood perfectly still as riders stretched to touch one spot or another.
Just a couple of years before, Lola had arrived at Summit Equestrian Center — a nonprofit which offers therapeutic riding lessons and equine-assisted counseling — worn down emotionally and physically. Months of good nutrition, training, and mindful care helped her recover and decide on her new role.
From then on, Allison said, it was forward all the way. Whatever happened in those first dozen or so years of Lola’s life could not be undone, but they would not define her. She made sure of that. She had better things to do.
Lola and I met again a few years later, this time in my capacity as an animal communicator and animal Reiki practitioner doing weekly rounds at Summit. She was always happy to see me — and to fill me in on anything she thought needed attention. Ever the matriarch, she kept watch over the herd, as well as the goats, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs, sheep, the rest of us volunteers, and especially Allison. The two of them built Summit’s mission one lesson at a time.
As time passed, Lola’s physical body began to weaken, but her spirit and sense of humor remained strong. A few months ago, I caught up with her as she was eating breakfast and asked her how she was. “I’m an old lady. I’m up. I’m eating. What more do you want?” she replied wryly.
This spring, I watched her follow newcomer Mojo, a handsome Tennessee Walker, around the pasture, at once shamelessly flirting and telling him things he’d need to know and take care of when she was no longer there to do so herself. Lola had plenty to tell me, too — thanking Allison for her loving care and the difference they made together, a caution not to take much sass from a certain mustang, a reminder about keeping gates closed, and more.
Under a summer solstice sky, Lola completed her work on this plane and went to join old friends Whinnie and Ritzy on her next adventure.
When I look at Lola’s life, I see each lesson, ride, encounter, and experience as a spot like the ones on her coat. No two are exactly alike. Some overlap and even seem multilayered. Together, those spots form a pattern like no other.
Thank you, Lola, for inspiring us to find the beauty in our own patterns.