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We thought you’d enjoy taking a look back every Friday at some  memorable moments you made possible over the last 10 years.  Enjoy!

Sight for a horse is critically important.  As a prey animal, his eyes are set high and wide, affording him nearly a 360-degree field of vision. Horses also have the largest eyes of any land mammal.

So imagine what it’s like for a blind horse. He no longer possesses the sense of vision to activate his fight-or-flight reaction, which in itself is his primary mode of survival.

How can he adapt? Do sounds and smells cause him to panic and spook, endangering those humans around him?

For some, maybe.  But in the case of Hope Reins’ blind Appaloosa, Joey, blindness provided him with an innate sixth sense: how to stare down danger. And, it probably saved a group of kids from certain harm.

Joey’s story is one of darkness and light. At the height of his career, this beautiful Appaloosa qualified for the Olympics in Level 2 dressage. His majestic stature, athletic strength and willingness to work tirelessly made him the perfect dressage partner.

Unfortunately, a downward spiral of abuse and neglect began when Joey retired – and as he moved from one owner to the next – his circumstances grew direr. When The United States Equine Rescue League (USERL) found Joey, he was thought to be dead, his body lying motionless in a Virginia pasture.

Remarkably, Joey survived – but the severe starvation left him completely blind. Joey found his light once again when he joined Hope Reins.

His gentle nature with the kids was profound.  Acute alternative senses allowed him to navigate around the ranch almost like a sighted horse.  He was ridden, brushed, walked and loved.

Joey was especially popular during summer camp, a tradition that began in 2012.  That summer also marked an event that would never be forgotten.

The day began like any other day.  Laughter filtered through the warm air from clusters of kids that dotted the ranch landscape.  Water buckets sloshed.  Sealed tubs of paint for arts and crafts waited under shade trees on picnic tables. 

And Jen Shepard was relishing the beautiful, crystal blue sky.

As one of Hope Reins’ first staff members, she’d planned and orchestrated every last detail for her summer campers and was eager to funnel the groups of happy faces through each activity station.

Standing in the arena, hands on hips, Jen smiled as kids climbed atop horses and giggled nervously at their newfound skill. Nothing could have prepared her for the ominous sound she heard.

“It was this enormous crackling sound and then a huge boom! I turned toward the paddock, and my heart just dropped,” says Jen.

A 30-foot tree had crashed down into the exact area where a group of campers had been grooming Joey.

Jen raced toward the scene and barreled through the downed branches and leaves. “I prepared myself for a horrific scene.” 

But what she saw was nothing short of a miracle.

The huge tree trunk lay a few inches to the horse’s left side. “Joey stood motionless with one of our camp leaders, who had a few leaves brush her shoulders.  On the other side of Joey, the kids stood wide-eyed and looked absolutely stunned.  But they were completely safe.”  He stared down the danger and didn’t move an inch.

Today, eight years later, Jen still gets chills recounting the story.  “Startling sounds can spook even the most even-tempered horses,” says Jen.  “I would have never believed that Joey whose heightened sense of touch, smell and hearing made him all the more sensitive to loud sounds—became our hero that day.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.” 

Editor’s Note:  Be sure to read the best-selling book, Joey, the true story of Hope Reins’ courageous blind horse.  Buy it on Amazon.

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