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Thank you so much for sharing. These girls deserve their retirement in luxury.
Jeanne and Our Mims
Jeanne and Our Mims
By Jeanne Mirabito
Photography by John Bellucci
My relationship with Our Mims began long before I ever met her in person. I first saw her in a news clip way back in 1977. I stood mesmerized in front of the television as the sports caster announced that a filly named Our Mims had won a race I had never heard of her. "She is the most beautiful horse in the world," I mumbled. This was long before the days of the internet. I didn’t grow up in horse country and the only link I had to this horse was a farm name, CALUMET. From then on I carried a can of Calumet Baking Powder around on Saturdays fully believing I was wishing her luck. I didn’t hear another word about her until I somehow learned she fractured a bone in her leg. I thought she died.
Fast forward twenty-one years. I grew up, traveled all over the country and found myself smack dab in the middle of horse country, Paris, Kentucky. My family rented a house on a horse farm where somehow I managed to land a job working with mares and foals. I was thrilled to meet and groom My Juliet, 1976 Sprint Champion. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.
I had been working at the farm for about six months before I met Our Mims. She wasn’t with the other mares because she wasn’t producing anymore. I had no idea my childhood hero was alive, let alone so close. Our first face to hoof meeting consisted of her aiming a full blown kick at my head. I ducked and asked a co-worker, "Who’s that?" Along with a few choice words from my mouth, I also heard my co-worker say, "Our Mims"
I dropped to my knees in front of the angry, snorting mare. I wonder to this day if she let me live because she heard the awe in my voice as I whispered, "The great Our Mims?" Our eyes met for a brief second and then she turned and bolted away. I couldn’t believe it…Our Mims! Alive! And right there on the same farm I lived on!!!! Through questions quickly asked and answered I learned she hadn’t had a foal in several years and as such, was put out with the cattle for retirement. More questions and more answers revealed that this sort of retirement was very common for mares.
I was appalled. No wonder Our Mims was so angry. She was a champion. She deserved better treatment. All mares deserved better. My beautiful hero was very underweight, shaggy, with an eye infection, a yeast infection, and untrimmed hooves. In short, she was a mess. I looked carefully at her situation. No shelter, no daily care. Just cattle hay, no grain. Imagine, having lived a life knowing daily grain, earning fame and fortune only to be forsaken as soon as her earning capabilities ran out.
So, I bought some feed and began caring for my old hero. Eventually, I talked the owner into donating her to a horse adoption group, ReRun, and later after buying my own farm, I adopted her! We spent nearly four years together. She was my first thought in the morning, my last thought each night. Every waking moment was spent trying to make her life better. When she came to live with me I promised her two things. First, she would never want for anything ever again. And second, I would make sure she was never forgotten. I kept that first promise. I intend to keep the latter.
Here’s the thing you really need to know. Our Mims was my best friend. It wasn’t a bond like that between a dog and human or even human to human. It was like no other I have ever experienced. It was complicated by the fact that she was a champion and if you have ever been in the presence of a champion you’ll know what I refer to. She was like magic. And even after the betrayal she must have felt, she allowed me into her life. She loved me, maybe even as much as I loved her. I would have died for her. But alas, that wasn’t required of me. Even though I thought I could not possibly live another day without her, I was forced to do so.
Now today, everything I do is in her honor. If I have to live without her, I will live for her by making sure that I help as many mares as I can.
Our Mims taught me many things. The most important lesson she brought was the clear and undeniable fact that many mares end up exactly like I found her…out in a back pasture, abandoned, unloved and neglected, just waiting to die. As crazy as it may sound to you and I, this fate, cruel and unjust is considered ACCEPTABLE in some people’s eyes. It is an industry standard.
If I do nothing else with my life, I intend to house the mares that I am able to house and change the standards. Just because a mare can no longer earn her way does not mean she no longer deserves to eat. She still needs care, shelter and love. Anyone who does not think so does not deserve to ever own a horse. Accountability. Let’s make that an industry standard.
Isn't she beautiful?!!! Stay tuned. There's more to come!
Glad you liked it! I have lots more stories of the ladies!
Thanks Kelly. The ladies are so special. Each one is unique with takents all their own. Funny, how each horse teaches us something new.
I am excited about sharing the ladies with you all. Just wait till you meet them!
Thank you for posting this. Our Mims is about an hour from me. Jeanne wrote a letter to the editor of the local Harrison County Cynthiana Democrat appealing to the 'powers that be' in that county to make their animal control officers responsible for following up on horse neglect situations; basically to do their job.
I have been meaning to give her a call, as I would also love to meet these grand old gals at Our Mims.
Thanks again for posting these wonderful photos.
|Oh, she was indeed, beautiful. To this day I look at her and say she was the most beautiful horse that ever lived, I guess it's ckear that we were meant to be together.|
My Turbulent Miss, Taba, Iza Valentine, Exactly So and Jamra
The Making of the Haven
By Jeanne Mirabito
When Our Mims arrived on my farm on February 2, 2000, I knew I wanted to create a retirement home for older horses. I knew the need was there and, sadly enough, I’d have the only such facility for miles. I set about turning my old run down tobacco farm into one fit for horses.
The tobacco barn was perfect. Each of the 14’x14’ section would make a nice roomy stall for an old horse. Plenty of room for arthritic bones to turn around in and best of all, clearly marked perimeters for me. I had never picked up a power tool in my life, let alone built anything.
I hired a carpenter to build the first stall and watched him like a hawk. Then tried to imitate what I saw while building stalls two, three and four. A kindly neighbor built the fifth stall. I reluctantly hired another friend to build thee rest of the stalls. Looking at our barn, you may have a good, hearty chuckle. The walls are a bit crooked. The stall doors do not match and sometimes things are held together with baling string. But the horses are happy, so who cares?
When Our Mims passed on December 9, 2003, I was devastated. My heart shattered into a million pieces and I just didn’t think I could go on. I spent weeks in tears with such a deep pain in my chest I was actually seeing a cardiologist. One cold January night I made a decision. It was all too much. I just couldn’t take the pain and I decided not to go through with my plans to have a retirement facility. I had nine full stalls. I had several foster horses for adoption groups, a few riding horses and a couple of elders. I would keep these but once they were gone, that would be it. I would not bring another horse onto the farm.
Through tears, I told my husband of my decision and for the first time in weeks, I fell into a deep sleep.
That night I had a powerful dream. I dreamt I heard Our Mims calling me. I ran out the back door, through the gate to her favorite grazing spot and there she was. Oh, how I cried, touching her all over, telling her how much I had missed her. Through the magic of dreams I realized she was talking to me, really talking. She very sternly told me to quit crying, she hadn’t gone anywhere. Mims explained that silly humans just refused to see that the veil between our world and the next was very thin. My friend said she was always by my side; she hadn’t left me and never would.
Our Mims made it clear that she needed me to be quiet and listen. I had a job to do and if I couldn’t do it for me, I needed to do it for her. Mims told me she was disappointed with my recent decision; there were many mares that needed my help, those who I would touch directly and those who would benefit because of her and I. Mims said, "Right now, there is someone very close to me that needs you. Go get her and put her in my stall." With that I awoke.
I could SMELL her everywhere! On my hands, in the air, all around me. I shook my husband trying to wake him. I couldn’t rouse him; he just mumbled something about me not showering before bed. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night, wondering what the dream meant.
The next morning I opened my email only to find a note from my friend, Barbara Livingston. Barbara wrote, "Sugar and Spice, younger sister to Our Mims, out of the same dam, Sweet Tooth, is in need of care. I think the owner may be willing to give her up. Would you be willing to take her?"
I felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks…someone close to Mims needed my help. I think my response was, "who do I have to kill to get her?"
It took some time, emails flew here and there. A few missed connections and dropped messages later, and FINALLY we got the go ahead. On May 7, 2004 a very weak Sugar and Spice stepped off the trailer and into Our Mims stall. And yes, there was no exaggeration; Sugar was in desperate need of TLC. This beautiful mare would not be with us long; she was clearly a hospice case.
Oh, what a sweet Sugar she was. No morsel of food passed her lips until she thanked me first. She’d lay her head against my chest and chortle the sweetest sound I had ever heard. Every tender touch she received, she returned. It seemed like she wanted to make sure I knew how grateful she was.
And she did heal! Her carefully planned diet had her eyes a sparking and we were showing marvelous progress in covering her ribs and hip bones. Her skin lesions healed, her coat glowed. She even ripped all her sister’s pictures off the barn wall!
As quickly as she healed, she went downhill. I watched with dismay as our friend slowed down. Her eyes lost their shine. She stopped diving into her food. The vet checks revealed nothing out of the ordinary. She was simply what I have come to call "fading." Then on September 13, Sugar laid down for the last time. It was quite obvious she had enough of this world. There is something in a horse’s eyes when they are ready to go. They very clearly ask. Sugar asked, and like a good friend, I respected her wishes. Before the vet arrived, I sat on the ground cradling Sugar’s head in my lap and promised her I’d take her home to Calumet. Upon hearing "Calumet" her eyes lit up one more time. I looked her in the eyes and promised, ‘I’ll take you home to Calumet." Sugar and Spice raised her pretty head high enough to snuggle into my chest and chortled. Of course, my heart aches for Sugar but her presence in my life was a healing presence. She gave me the courage it will take to complete the task Our Mims gave me.
Several nights after we buried Sugar and Spice I again dreamt of Our Mims. She told me to go get the others. "There are five," she said, "Put exactly in my stall."
Ok, so I was irritated. I asked her what she was talking about. I somehow knew she was talking about Sugar’s pasture mates but what did "put exactly in my stall," mean? Irritated, or not, I learned a long time ago just to do as Mims said, so I made the necessary call and yes, there were five horses in Sugar’s old field. Yes, I could have them.
One by one, I walked the mares onto my trailer. First Iza Valentine and Jamra. The second trip I was walking a pretty chestnut onto the trailer and asked, "Who’s this?"
The farm manager replied, "That’s Exactly So."
I wasn’t a bit surprised when that mare walked off the trailer and directly to Our Mims old stall.