Rolling green pastures, quiet winds and the neigh of horses backdropped by the Sierra Nevada mountain range were the scenes of Helen’s childhood. She looked out over the land while atop a gentle, beloved horse.
There has always been a special place in Helen’s heart for horses. Each has a unique personality. As a teenager, the cowgirl snuck into the stables where the family rounded up wild mustangs. She would open up the gates watch the newly freed herd run into the sunset.
“I’ve been on mustangs and racehorses that people don’t want. I have been bucked off, but you always get back on,” she said.
Horses that were no good for the race track anymore found their way into Helen’s home over time. Each horse that came to her was a forlorn soul seeking salvation from early slaughter. She treasured each friend, from twin mustang foals to a duo of graceful white Arabians.
One of her favorites was a sassy Shetland pony who accompanied her around town stuffed in the back of her four door sedan. He became her constant companion.
“And I used to take him with me shopping,” she said. “He used to eat my celery and my groceries.”
Riding brought her peace and helped her bond with her children. One of her sons embraces the lifestyle and admired the majestic four legged brothers and sisters. Helen bought him his very own rescue horses and entrusted him with their care.
“We would race each other out in the pastures,” Helen remembered fondly.
He eventually moved in with the now 90-year-old to care for her and his animal brethren. Crushingly, he fell ill and passed. She moved into Brookdale Senior Living in North Ogden and could no longer feel the soft manes or kiss the long faces of her companions.
“I can’t get into the saddle on my own anymore. I have short little legs, and I am in a wheelchair now,” she said with a soft twang in her voice.
It wasn’t long before Brookdale took notice of Helen and her tenacious spirit. She is known around the facility as someone with “a lot of spunk and fire” according to Jennalee, the resident program coordinator. Jennalee nominated Helen to receive her wish of sitting atop a horse after more than a decade.
I’m 90 years old, people don’t think I can ride a horse. You would have to boost me up but I think I could still ride,” she said.
Wish of a Lifetime was touched by the simplicity of the wish and knew the deep significance it could have on her happiness. Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center jumped at the opportunity to host Helen and her family for a day.
Grandson Casey and other family traveled to Utah with Helen to watch her get back in the saddle. She arrived dressed in bright pink riding pants and matching sweater, eager to caress the numerous beauties in the stable.
She chose a chestnut mare with a blonde mane as her horse for the day. Staff equipped her with a purple helmet to match the horse’s reins and carefully hoisted her into the seat. That same cowgirl who admired wild mustangs came alive on the horse as they circled around the complex.
Afterwards, she sat down and cooed at the horse, admiring the creature’s large eyes and soft muzzle.This was the perfect horse for her return to nature.
The final touch was a surprise birthday celebration in a room apart from the horses. A large purple cake was set in front of Helen as she grasped the hands of two of her family members. She drew in a deep breath and extinguished the candles in front of her, wishing for a cowboy to whisk her away on her own horse.
“I didn’t have any pain or anything. It was fun and I really enjoyed it and the kids that went with me enjoyed it,” she said after the ride.