His chance at a better life

Madison Bodenhamer, 14, brushes Smokey, a horse rescued by the county, at Mustangs and MOHR ranch on May 23. He will become a “therapy horse.”

DALLAS — Smokey, a 23-year-old mustang, spent years being the “eyes” for another horse who was blind.

The pair shared a pasture and built an incredible bond that contrasted the conditions they were living in.

“They were turned out on pasture and not cared for for years,” said Debbie Driesner, president of Dallas’ Mustangs and MOHR, which fostered both horses after they were taken into custody by the county April 4.

The blind horse, a mare likely in her early 20s, sadly didn’t survive the ordeal. Suffering from constant pain from foundering and an eye injury, she was put down May 27.

Smokey, a gentle and friendly horse, fared better and will continue to use his innate gift of helping others to work with at-risk teens and children through Mustangs and MOHR’s youth program.

Driesner said she noticed Smokey’s potential the first time her teenage clients brushed him and his blind companion. It may have been one of the first acts of kindness either horse experienced in a long time, but it was the affect Smokey had on the teens that stood out.

“It’s the calmness in him I like,” Driesner said. “He’s like an old soul.”

He was the kind of soul that remained devoted to his companion until her she was put down. Soon after the horses were taken into custody, veterinarians discovered the extent of the neglect of the mare. Her foundering was so bad her hooves were eight inches long and curved upward. The blindness forced her to depend on Smokey to “see.”

“She was always on his hip,” Driesner said, describing where the mare would stand behind him. “The bond was pretty strong.”

Driesner said Smokey is adjusting to life on the ranch and has bonded with another horse since. She said he still is “a little lost” when not around another horse, but is getting used to more interaction with people.

“Each day, a little at a time, we are building confidence and trust, which is basically the same thing the kids need,” Driesner said.

She envisions Smokey becoming a “therapy horse,” one that is trained to interact with Mustangs and MOHR’s young clients. The children and teens may be just learning to ride and care for the horses, but Driesner says the experience is a positive influence in their lives.

The changes can be dramatic in some cases.

“They have a new sense of confidence that they never had before,” Rebecca Bohenhamer said of her daughters, Madison, 14, and MaKenna, 12. “When it’s horse day, it’s the best day of the week.”

Smokey, given his unique background, it seems won’t have trouble fitting in at the ranch.

“He will be a great therapy horse,” Driesner said.

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