Lumina is sure-footed on mountain trails.She only needs shoes on her front hooves.

It had not been since 2005 that I’d come to have in my barn a true rescue horse. Samba and Bossanova, both retired Mexican cavalry horses, came to me in a horrendous state of neglect, near starvation. Once they recovered, they turned out to be the finest horses anyone could imagine. Samba was an ace trail-ride and schooling horse, and I won my first 60 km. endurance competition riding Bossanova.

Lumina was nothing but skin and bones in April 2017. Day after day, as I drove back and forth from the ranch to the city, I spotted her tied on the side of the road in nearby farmlands.  I began by bringing her hay, some fresh alfalfa and water. I could see no owner and sometimes it seemed like she stayed tethered, all alone, for days in the same place.

Lumina takes good care of her riders. This woman was a novice ride in her seventies.

Lumina in July 2018 finally looking in good shape, showing off her rounded haunches.

She was NOT an enthusiastic eater. The only thing she seemed to truly devour was raw winter squash. She was docile. She began to recognise the sound of my car and would look up as I pulled to a stop. I brought grooming aids and brushed out her matted mane and curried her dull coat. She seemed to enjoy this but she was not eating much, not even grazing. By now the owner, who I’d yet to meet, had noticed someone was intervening in his horse’s care and he moved her to an area with decent green grass and a bucket signalled that he was offering the mare water more frequently.

After grooming her one afternoon, I sat down on the grassy edge of a ditch just a few yards away to observe the mare. I could not figure her out. Then she laid down in the grass. I actually thought she was about to expire, dropping to her death in front of my eyes. But she didn’t die, instead she closed her eyes and with her legs tucked under her torso she went to sleep.

Now it all made sense! She was dying of solitude. She had come to trust me and felt I’d look out for her while she rested her weary legs. Horses can doze while standing, and adult horses don’t need a lot of REM sleep but typically a horse will lie down for about 30 minutes a couple of times a night. A supine position is the most vulnerable state for a horse, and they will often only lie down if there is another horse to watch out for it, especially in a place like an open, unprotected field.

I took my vet, Jose Alfredo Villagas, out to the field to see her and he confirmed my hunch. She was dying of sadness, “tristeza”, a severe depression caused by her solitary state. He also confirmed my feeling that if she did not start eating  more food immediately, she would die soon.

In just a couple of days, by asking around to the local farmers, I’d located her owner who had a temporary job in the nearby tomato-growing greenhouse. We met, he was pleasant enough, but clearly preoccupied with his precarious economic situation. He confessed that he didn’t know what to do with the mare since his job in the greenhouse was ending. I reminded him that she was worth nothing, not even at the livestock market. There was no meat on her to eat and she was too emaciated to work. We agreed to my proposal that I would take her back to my ranch  in the hopes that she would perk up in the company of other horses.

The next day I had a trail ride and I led small group through the farmlands and across the Rio Salado. I came prepared with an extra lead line. As the line of several horses approached the mare, she lifted her head in our direction. I dismounted Centurion, clipped the line to her halter and by now she was already walking towards my group of mounted horses. That was no need to coax her. She was “out of there”. Leading the mare, I mounted steady Centurion and clucked for him to “walk on”. The mare picked up a steady pace beside me and, all the time, silently prayed that the emaciated mare could actually carry her own bones the 2 kms. to my ranch.

She marched along. Half way, I signalled that the horses could stop and graze some green grass by the side of the dirt lane. The mare did the same. “She’s eating”, I announced with a sigh of relief.

I’d told Gregorio the plan, and he’d prepared a stall for her with fresh bedding and a variety of tasty forage. She was surround on all sides of the open pen with other horses she could see and touch. She began to eat.

I named her Lumina. It’s a made-up name coming from luminous. I wanted her to have a pretty name. I wanted her to live. She only ate, rested and put on weight for 5 months. Then she went along a trail rides wearing a saddle but no rider and with this activity tenuous muscle appeared. Since December 2017 Lumina is a working girl and appears quite happy to have a job. She is beautiful with the thickest, longest mane of any horse. Her coat is shiny and a shapely body has emerged with the exercise. The white hairs, a kind of scarring, on her face are not so noticeable.