In the summer of 2002, Lucy, a small quarter horse, was up for auction and on the verge of being slaughtered for meat. At her side, was Hope, her young foal born with severely bent legs.
The "meat man" made the first bid - $500 for both - but Julie Macmillan from J&M Acres horse rescue in Maple Ridge outbid him and took the mom and her crippled baby.
A Maple Ridge family agreed to foster the two and keep Hope, and North Vancouver resident Kriss Pless planned to adopt Lucy. There was the possibility that Hope would have to be put down, but since she was not in pain, Macmillan approached various vets till she found one who would give Hope a chance. The operations would cost thousands, and there was no guarantee of success.
Maple Ridge kindergarten kids heard about Hope's plight in the local newspaper and started fundraising to help pay for the operations.
"I had adopted Lucy, but I would go out there," Pless said. "So the children would come and visit the horses, and feed them cookies."
More fundraising was done, and after several surgeries, Hope's legs were set straight. She is now able to run like any other horse.
Meanwhile, Lucy had her own adjustments to make. Once Hope was weaned off her mother, Pless took Lucy in and brought her to the Burnaby Horsemen's Association stables, close to Burnaby Lake.
As a breeding mare, she hadn't really been handled by people before.
"She was pretty wild when I brought her here," said Pless. "She just didn't really get the captive life, because she had been out in hundreds of acres, and then brought into the city. We had to do training and say what was acceptable and what wasn't. Now, we go into parades, we chase some cows, we do all kinds of fun stuff. She adapted beautifully."
Pless takes Lucy, now 17 years old, to two North Vancouver schools twice a year to educate children about horses and horse slaughter and to fundraise for more rescues.
Lucy does English and Western riding demos, and children line up to pet her afterwards.
"(Lucy) dips her head down for each kid to touch her. She's just really sweet," Pless said. "She's somebody's throwaway, and look what she did for the kids."
Lucy seems to have a soft spot for children and is well natured when the association holds open-house events.
"This little mare, you can do everything to. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She just loves all the attention you can give her. She doesn't say yes or no to anybody. She just really likes people," said Pless. "She packs everybody around. She's so great that way. To think that she almost went in a can is crazy."
Hope still resides with the same family in Maple Ridge and now rides and jumps as a "perfectly healthy wonderful horse," according to Pless.
And after a decade apart, Lucy and Hope were recently reunited. Pless wasn't sure if they recognized each other.
"They had a little sniff at each other," she said.
Having a horse is a "real labour of love," according to Pless.
"This little mare is so special to me," she said. "(Horses) are just so forgiving. Look at what they let us do to them. We ride on them and constantly train them. They're just so sweet that way."
The next open house at the Burnaby Equestrian Centre is in summer, but no date has been set yet. (Check www. burnabyhorsemensassociation.com for updates.)
The public can visit Lucy at the open house. There will be demos, pony rides for kids and a concession stand.
For more on J&M Acres, or to see the other rescued horses up for adoption, visit www.jmacresrescue.com.
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