The sight before me took my breath away, as shiny things tend to do. Sleek, regal, tall, and stunningly beautiful. She was dark bay – almost black – with a beautiful face accentuated by a long white stripe down her nose and big kind eyes with long eyelashes. A magnificent thoroughbred, Holdmesara (as it is officially written on her jockey club papers. I call her “Sara”) was a sight to behold as she walked in the post parade past the crowd of spectators at Arapahoe Park. It was the Kent Swanson memorial race, and Sara was a live contender.
As the race unfolded, Sara started to make her move on the turn for home. Her strides seemed to get bigger and bigger as she gained momentum. One by one, she passed her rivals in the stretch as she rallied to the finish line to win the race.
Over a year later, I found myself haggling with her owner while I was at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. I couldn’t help it. As usual, my heart got the best of me and I wanted the winner of Kent’s Memorial Race in my barn. It was time for Sara to retire from racing and have a new career. Her owner eventually relented, and Sara came to live at my ranch in Colorado.
In 2019, I ended up breeding Sara to a beautiful stallion named Trojan Nation. Something about the word Trojan makes a person think of condoms. So, with a name like that, you can imagine the baby names my girlfriends and I have come up with when we are having a cold brew or a glass of wine. But I digress…
Horses are pregnant an agonizing 11 months. It’s common in the thoroughbred industry to breed mares in the early months of the year. However, previous experience had helped me decide that foaling babies in the cold and snow wasn’t my cup of tea, so I bred Sara in June. While other owners were complaining about foaling in the cold and snow, I was counting down to May.
May arrived and with it some turmoil and sadness surrounding what would have been my 26th wedding anniversary with Kent. However, the day of our anniversary was absolutely lovely – sunny with a nice, gentle breeze. It was the perfect day for horse related activity, so I had my veterinarian come out for spring vaccinations and a check of the pregnant mares, Hold Me Sara and Northern Rock.
“An anniversary baby isn’t out of the realm of possibility,” my vet stated rather matter of fact as she looked Sara over.
“Yeah, right,” I replied.
We continued to visit for a few minutes then said our goodbyes. My veterinarian’s parting comment was, “I’ll be seeing you very soon.”
I laughed and waived goodbye as she drove away. Yes, there would be foals in the barn soon, but I truly doubted it would be that night. I went about the rest of my afternoon and didn’t think much more about it.
About 10:30 pm, Sara was restless. She was pacing in her stall and whinnying occasionally. While it wasn’t unusual for Sara to move about, the pacing was different and so was her breathing. I knew something was up. I continued to watch the barn monitor and saw her lay down. I could hear her groaning and her breathing was heavier than before. I quickly texted my resident friend here on the ranch, Lisa, and told her I thought that Sara might be having her baby. A few minutes later, we were entering the barn together and approached the stall at the same time. Sara had just stood up. Before I could say a word, Lisa beat me to the punch. “She’s already had her baby! We missed it!”
Sure enough, there was a foal the color of dark chocolate laying on the ground. Sara immediately attended to her motherly duties and started to groom the baby, licking her foal everywhere and stimulating it to move. Lisa and I watched in awe as the foal took its first breath and slowly started to move about. And I couldn’t help but note the time – 11:25. It was still our wedding anniversary!
For the first time in weeks, I wasn’t angry or filled with resentment and chaos. I didn’t think about the injustice of Kent’s killer being unjustly released from prison. My mind had a new focus. Life. Love. Both took over as I concentrated on the little horse in front of me and the beautiful mother Sara was showing herself to be as she tended to her baby.
I didn’t cry myself to sleep that night. In fact, I didn’t sleep. It was a busy, fulfilling night. There’s something magical about watching a newborn foal take its first breath, seeing it find the strength to stand up and take its first shaky steps, and witnessing both mother and baby as they work to sustain that life. It struck me that what is instinctual to horses seems to come harder for people. As people, we often forget to simply stop and breathe. We find ourselves being afraid to take first steps because we feel we’re on shaky ground and don’t want to fail. And sometimes, we forget that we are resilient and can rise above challenges that are thrown our way. We can sustain.
I cannot help but think that Kent was behind the scenes, orchestrating this timing so that I didn’t have to spend our anniversary dwelling on chaos and negative circumstances. Instead, I was able to spend it focusing on life, love, and the incredible anniversary gift of a big, beautiful colt that I know was sent by divine intervention.
Is there timing beyond our conscious comprehension? You better believe it.