by Julie Hauserman
Every day when she gets out of school, nine-year-old Macy Mills has one thing on her mind: Getting to the barn to work with Midnight, the rescued wild mustang her family adopted this summer.
Living the Life
Midnight was among 210 neglected and starving wild mustangs The Humane Society of the United States helped rescue late April from a Nebraska ranch. Eighty-four of the horses were brought to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, a 1,300-acre animal sanctuary run by The Fund for Animals and The HSUS.
Since the horses arrived in Texas, equine experts from The Grace Foundation have joined The HSUS’ team to gently work with the horses for adoption suitability--and ultimately to find the horses loving homes. Most of the horses are now at an off-site training facility, not far from the ranch.
Julie Mills, who lives in Athens, Texas, heard about the horses available for adoption and decided to bring her daughter Macy to meet them. Macy has been riding since she was a toddler, and the family was in the market for a new horse.
Love at First Sight
Macy and Julie fell in love with the gentle--and still a bit scared--horse they now call Midnight.
“When we brought him home, Macy said: ‘His tummy will never growl again,’” said Julie, her voice breaking with emotion. “She just felt so bad about how he was starved. We work with him every day when she gets out of school.”
Midnight is scared of water, but seems to find the presence of his new human family comforting, Julie says. They introduce new experiences slowly, letting Midnight adjust in his own time.
“He’s amazing. He wants to be with Macy all the time. He’s real unsure of everything, but when he’s with us, he’s OK.”
Macy and Julie carry snacks to encourage Midnight during his training.
Macy started a MySpace page with pictures of Midnight, and is keeping a daily journal of Midnight’s progress for a 4-H club project.
“They are learning together,” Julie said.
So far, seven of the once-neglected Mustangs have been adopted, and 30 more adoptions are in the process, pending the required home inspections.
The main task now is for the horses to learn to trust humans.
“About 50 percent of the horses, when they came in, wanted nothing to do with people,” said Beth DeCaprio, chief executive officer of The Grace Foundation.
Some of the horses, she said, had never been handled by people at all.
“The journey of getting them to trust has been a miracle to all of us,” De Caprio said. “Trust is something you can’t train. Trust is something that comes with patience and kindness.”