A Painted Pony

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. When I see a picture of Bella today, I see peace, tranquility, tenderness, graceful beauty and stillness. However it has not always been so, for this sweet girl.

Bella was born free. Wild and untamed, she was native to the land, the forest and the rivers. A Native American reserve in Saskatchewan was home. Bella would have lived amongst her family band, consisting of her mother and her father. However, as is the case for many horses who live on the reserves, their freedom was only a vail, hiding the gates that were shutting them in.

Approximately five years ago, a livestock truck permanently severed Bella from the home she had always known. Destined for the slaughterhouse, Bella caught a glimmer of hope when the driver realized he had a small pony on board, perfect for his friend's ranch. Just like that, Bella found herself with a ticket off a one way ride, and into a living hell.

While at this ranch, Bella was haltered against her will, and kept restrained in a small tie stall - unable to turn around or lie down. She was fed hay every few days, and led to a stream for water just once a day. The owner of the ranch attempted to break Bella, as he wanted a loveable pony for his daughter. Tying a brush onto a stick, he would groom Bella. When she would panic or lash out in fear, he would beat her with the stick.

However against this man's worst intentions, Bella would not break. Her spirit remained strong and unwavering. When it was deemed that she would never be suitable for his child, he entered her in a wild pony chase. At the rodeo, Bella was restrained by multiple boys equipped with hockey helmets and baseball bats.

Shortly after her stint in the rodeo, this farmer agreed to sell Bella, and a small miniature mare who would later be known as Rapunzel, to a young lady from Alberta. That young lady happened to be a friend, who traveled from Calgary to Saskatchewan with the sole intent of saving this painted pony, with no plans extending past her rescue.

I was at the stable the day Bella and Rapunzel arrived. Rapunzel was more reserved, clinging to Bella's side, unsure of where she was. Bella was a spitfire, rearing up and thrashing out at her handler as she fought the entire walk to the paddock. When I heard of Bella's abusive past, and witnessed her inner strength, I knew she was a fighter. Knowing I couldn't turn away from this horse without a home, Bella joined our family, with little Rapunzel following suit.

The complete details of Bella's life on the ranch in Saskatchewan will always remain a mystery. However thanks to two beautiful souls who were traveling from Germany to experience farm life in western Canada, we do know the basis of Bella's past. These women lived on the ranch where Bella and Rapunzel were kept, and witnessed firsthand the accounts told above. It was these girls who alerted my friend who traveled to Saskatchewan, about the abuse on the farm. Thanks to their bravery in speaking out, Bella, Rapunzel, and another lovely horse escaped a life of isolation and abuse.

Shortly after rescuing Bella, we discovered she was pregnant. Filling in the timeline, it was determined her foal had been bred to her while on the reserve. The last remaining proof of Bella's freedom, Brego is the very embodiment of the past she left behind. While he was born in a domestic home, he holds the same fire that burns in his mother, and is as bold and courageous as she has proven to be. We realize now why Bella fought so hard throughout her abuse, for it was the unconditional love for her unborn son that kept her going. Today the roles have reversed, as Brego stands by his mother’s side, her fiercest protector and guardian.

Bella is the reason I can find strength even in my most difficult moments. At her first contact with the human race, she suffered unimaginable abuse. Yet in spite of her past, Bella is slowly overcoming her emotional obstacles. While she may never fully accept human contact again, she has made peace. She will nicker a hello every morning, pop her head inside the barn door while I sweep, and has allowed us the greatest privilege - of bonding with her son. She has shown us that when strength, love, and forgiveness still exist, there is hope for a better tomorrow on the horizon.

Bella is a gift in this world to remind us that there is always light, even in the darkest of days.

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