She felt the ice cream melting through her mane. The little boy incessantly kicked her ribs and shouted, “Giddy-up stupid!” Another child pulled on her tail repeatedly with a sticky, blue candy hand.
The Arabian Dreams Ranch was a tourist trap. A miserable life. Walking in the hot sun, carrying overweight, beer-soaked tourists and their screaming, unruly children. Seven days a week. Piper was far from her dream life, a life of meaning.
One evening, after all the tourists had returned to their hotels, Piper did as she usually did. She watched the ranch hand shut things down. She watched as he swigged his beer covertly from a brown bag, getting a jump on the Friday night festivities. She watched him drop his keys in the dirt as he was going to lock the gate. As he picked up his keys, his cell phone rang and he quickly broke into a smile. He spoke in a very suggestive and lovie-dovie tone with the person calling. Piper looked on as he anxiously headed off to his truck. He tossed the empty beer and bag into the truck bed, got in barely closing the door, and drove off. He’d left the gate unlocked.
It didn’t take Piper long to realize she had an opportunity. She wandered over to the gate, nudged it with her nose until she could fit through. She ran like she had 20 zombie tourist children chasing her. Freedom was sweet. She ran into the woods where she would have some cover from being seen.
Piper spent the night under a big, twisted tree near a stream. In the morning, once the sun was on the stream, she waded into the water. She washed all the sticky mess from her mane and tail, and she felt rejuvenated with excitement for her future. She knew deep down it would have to lead to her dream—a meaningful life. She followed the stream the better part of the day. Until it flowed under a wall of jagged rocks and into the ocean. As she hiked the treacherous rocks, doubt that she could continue crept into her thoughts. She worried as she stared at a huge hole in the rocks where the waves crashed through with enormous power. She admitted to herself she was trapped. Piper wondered if looking for a life of meaning wasn’t possibly the most stupid thing she’d ever done.
She closed her eyes and let the powerful spray cool her down, as she slowly started to panic. “What am I going to do? How will I ever get out of here?” She was exhausted, and talking to herself seemed a logical next step. She closed her eyes. An unusual flapping sound made her open them. She marveled at what must have been a five-foot wingspan, belonging to a most exotic looking bird.
“You look very forlorn. Can I help? By the way, I’m Lourdes.” She circled around Piper and waited.
“I’m afraid I’m lost and worse yet, trapped. I don’t know how to get out of here. The sea and rocks are too rough for me now, and I don’t know where to go.” Piper babbled on in her exhaustion, telling Lourdes all about the Arabian Dreams nightmare. She told her how she was looking for a life of meaning. Lourdes listened patiently, occasionally nodding understandingly. Piper watched Lourdes take a spiral path upwards, then widen her circle back down to where Piper was stuck.
“No worries. Follow me. But it’s going to get harder before it gets easier…”
Piper followed Lourdes, one step at a time over the uneven, slick terrain. She did a slight backtrack over the rocks, taking a sharp turn and going down to the left. Finally, she hovered over a narrow opening, a cave in the rocks. “I’ll wait for you on the other end. Be careful!” The giant wings effortlessly lifted her up, and Lourdes was gone.
Piper struggled to fit herself through the narrow opening. She walked over the smoother but slippery rocks inside the cave. The damp smell filled her nostrils as she could hear the muffled crashing of the relentless sea. She was very focused as she slowly navigated her way through the darkness. It seemed like it would never end, until finally, she could see light. She stayed focused on the light, and as she exited the cave she found herself on a sandy beach. A choppy shoreline lapped at her hooves. There was Lourdes circling around, waiting for her.
“I can’t begin to thank you enough, I don’t know what …” Piper quit talking as she watched Lourdes fly away. She swooped up and went high into the sky and was gone. Piper looked out over the beach at the small structures dotting the shoreline. She spotted a very pale little girl with a scarf on her head. She was walking towards her. She was carrying something. A woman all dressed in green followed behind, carrying their shoes. Piper’s gut told her to stay put. As the little girl approached, Piper could see she had a plastic bag with slices of apples and carrot sticks. As she reached Piper, she attempted to gently pet Piper’s neck. But the woman shouted to her, warning her not to touch the horse. She ignored her and opened the bag, giving Piper a carrot stick. Piper forgot how hungry she was and happily accepted. The little girl seemed to not have much energy. When the woman reached them, she told the girl to rest on a nearby rock. Piper followed the apples and carrots to the rock. The girl smiled at her as she pushed another carrot stick to her muzzle.
“I bet the other kids would like to pet her too. She seems nice. Maybe we can keep her!” said the girl.
“I’m sure she belongs to someone who is missing her. She’s so pretty,” said the woman.
Piper continued to eat from the girls palm as she giggled and kept a steady stream of carrots and apples coming. Piper thought this was the sweetest child in the world. The woman stroked Piper’s neck as she told the girl they needed to get back to the hospital. She agreed to take her back and said they would take care of her while they tried to find the owner.
Piper followed them up the beach to the building. There were several children sitting outside on the patio, also wearing scarves. They all smiled at once, and rushed onto the beach to see the horse.
As the weeks went on Piper gave rides to the sick children and made them laugh. They adored her, and she loved making them happy. The woman was unable to get any response on her efforts to find the owner of Piper. After two months, she finally gave up. Much to Piper’s relief.
One evening as Piper was watching the sun set over the ocean, she thought about the significant events in her life. About how she had gotten her sense of adventure and courage from the herd of wild horses she ran with. That was before getting separated and ending up at Arabian Dreams. She thought about how her life had tracked in a way she never could have imagined. She needed to be captured and have the horrible experiences with the tourists. While both were dreadful experiences, now she was grateful for them. She would not have known how to give rides to the sick kids. As she connected the dots of her life, she realized how everything led to her ultimate happiness, a meaningful life.
And Lourdes…she showed up out of nowhere to help, with eerily perfect timing. Perhaps she was somehow being prepped for this by something larger than herself? She wondered.