Horses with a Mission

Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service

By Allen and Linda Anderson

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Photographs of Horses Featured in Horses with a Mission


Miles and Sankofa

Tanya's Viola

Karen’s Diana on far right, © Weldon Lee, photographer

Sheila & Chevy

Laura’s Piper

Renée’s Cholla

Vanessa’s Pegasus

Jodi’s Butch,
© Beth Fox, photographer

Kimberly's Took

Karen’s Blondie

Cooky’s son, Chris & Peanut

Kim’s portrait of Destiny’s Avenger © Kim McElroy

Sally’s Riley,
© Gary Alan Kalpakoff, photographer

Mary and Li’l Man



Horses with a Mission:
Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service



Allen and Linda Anderson

Chapter One: Offering Service

Under the Wings of Pegasus by Vanessa Wright
Molly, the Three-Legged Pony Who Gave Hope to
New Orleans by Kaye T. Harris
Birthing Frostbite, the Christmas Eve Foal by Steve Schwertfeger
Old Pony Peanut Finds an Old Friend
 by Cooky McClung

Chapter Two: Inspiring

Sankofa, the Horse Who Rewrote History by MilesJ. Dean
Took Inspired Me to Rescue Morgans
 by Kimberly Bloss
Finding My Passionate Purpose with Spring Thaw by Christianna E. Capra
Avenger – Destiny Comes Full Circle by Kim McElroy

Chapter Three: Teaching

Diana – the Saga of a Wild Horse by Karen Sussman
Rocky, the Rescued Horse Who Is Changing a Community by Annette Fisher
Piper Led Me into the World of Horses by Laura Redgrave
Finding Balance with Blondie by Karen Kukla Spies

Chapter Four: Healing

Butch, the Horse Who Believed in My Daughter by Jodi Buchan
Viola, Wise Mother Mare by Tanya K. Welsch
Riley’s Greatest Gift by Sally Heins
Saved by My Li’l Man by Mary Hill
Charlie, the White Marble Statue Healer by Meagan Martin

Chapter Five: Bringing Joy and Hope

Chevy’s Compassion by Sheila Anderson
Traveling to the Place on Peen’s Breath by Pauline Peterson
Asleep with Saki by Sam Younghans
Cherokee Took Wing by Barbara Fenwick





Additional Photographers

About Allen and Linda Anderson




From Horses with a Mission by Allen and Linda Anderson (2009, New World Library). Reprinted with permission. All Rights Reserved.

Molly with Kaye (left) and Makaila Valentine
at Camp Rap-A-Hope for children cancer survivors


Molly, the Three-Legged Pony Who Gave Hope to New Orleans
Kaye T. Harris, New Orleans, Louisiana

Summary: Molly, a three-legged pony and survivor of Hurricane Katrina, had her story go viral on the Internet, land in the New York Times, and featured on CBS evening News. After her loss of a leg, surgery at Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Veterinary Medicine, and a prosthetic device, Molly inspired the people of New Orleans and admirers around the world. Now she visits children’s hospitals, nursing homes, and other places to spread her message of hope and recovery.

Molly’s Surgery at LSU

A day after the call to Dr. Moore [at LSU] we got Molly ready for her journey to Baton Rouge. I was worried about having her in the trailer with only three good legs, so I rode in it with her. Not something a person is supposed to do, but these were exceptional circumstances. Molly aced the ride, balancing on her three good legs.

At LSU the medical staff cut off Molly’s dead hoof. They rebandaged her, x-rayed the good feet, and took blood tests to see if she could make it through surgery to have the leg removed. They checked Molly for laminitis, more commonly known as “founder.” When a horse isn’t getting circulation to her feet or when there are other stresses on the horse, the inner bone in the hoof rotates and drops down through the sole of the hoof, which is very painful and bad for the horse. Sometimes the biggest problem with a leg injury is that the good feet go bad.

After the testing was completed, I stood by Molly’s stall, waiting for results. I took Molly from her stall to the nearby patch of grass. Molly loves to eat grass. The vet student standing by her stall said, “Don’t make that pony move.”

I have the firm belief that one of the main reasons Molly made it was that I did not keep her stuck in a stall where she would have lost circulation in her good legs. I gave Molly the chance to figure out what was best for her own healing. This vet student was telling me not to do what I’d done with Molly for the last three weeks, which was giving her free rein of our front yard. I said, “Get out of my way,” to the startled student. Molly hobbled up front. When she saw the grass, she pulled me the rest of way toward it.

Later, I sat down with Dr. Moore and his associate. Dr. Moore said that they had no objections to doing the surgery, but this could not be a charity case. I would have to come up with $5,000 to pay for it. He explained that if at any point the procedure was going badly, I had to agree to have Molly euthanized immediately. I agreed because, of course, I had never wanted to let Molly suffer. “But,” I added, “it will not go badly.”

From that point on, Molly’s surgery was a go. Molly had shown Dr. Moore that she had the will to survive. She had impressed him with her intelligence, sweetness, ability to deal with pain, and willingness to be handled. I had been able to assure him that I’d give her the daily care she would require.

All these factors boded well for a successful surgery. I had only one big obstacle: I was penniless after Katrina. I had been underinsured. My mobile home was totaled and our barn needed repairs. My business was floundering. No one was doing pony rides for birthday parties since the hurricane. Through the good graces of other people, who helped us survive by donating feed and hay for my ponies, we had made it through. With no income and our reserves dwindling rapidly, I didn’t know how I would pay for Molly’s surgery.

I started emailing people and organizations and asking for money. The first person to respond was Jill Starr, who runs Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. Jill was nominated and became one of the top ten finalists for an Animal Planet Hero of the Year award in 2008. She is truly Molly’s hero. At first, Jill responded by email and asked if my request was a hoax. Now we joke about that initial encounter. I wrote her back and gave her Dr. Barca’s [my personal veterinarian] name and phone number and told Jill that the money would go straight to LSU and not be used for any other purpose. Jill called my vet and LSU. When she got back to me, she said that she would be able to fund half the amount I needed. Eventually the Humane Society of the United States donated the other half for Molly’s surgery.

We scheduled the surgery for January 16, 2006. Since this would be the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and the vet school was closed that day, Dr. Moore and his surgery team would be coming in on their day off to do the surgery. Because no one was around on surgery day, I was able to observe more than an owner would normally be allowed. My daughter is a registered vet tech; she filmed the whole surgery.

Dr. Moore had called everybody who had ever done this type of surgery successfully. He called orthotics and prosthetic people to make sure the stump would be cut correctly. The night before, he had performed the surgery on a cadaver. Despite being skeptical at first, this man did everything he could to make Molly’s surgery a success. He became and continues to be a respected and beloved friend to Molly and me.

In the recovery stall,because horses sometimes bash themselves while trying to recover from anesthesia, they brought Molly out of it very slowly. They let me get at her head and asked me to walk her. The average horse would have probably felt the weight of a cast on her leg and freaked out. But this gorgeous little girl moved forward and calmly put her weight on the cast. She walked right off to her stall. The vets were trying to be stoic, but I could see their tears. The surgical team hugged her.

Molly stayed at LSU for four days,and then I brought her home. She learned to get up and down with that stiff cast. She stood on her hill to take the weight off her leg. After a few weeks the vets took off her cast and found pressure sores. They bandaged her and put on another cast, which stayed in place for another three weeks.

Molly’s Prosthesis

Dwayne Mara of Bayou Orthotics and Prosthetics constructed Molly’s prosthesis. He said we’d have to pay a hefty price tag for the custom-made device, but in the end, he never did charge us for it. Dwayne figured out how to design a prosthetic for a horse using parts that were meant for human devices. He studied how a horse moves and observed Molly’s locomotion and the angulations of her leg. When he’d come out to see her, she would nicker for him. This pony knows that she and I have another friend for life in Dwayne.

Over the course of the journey with Dwayne he made five different designs. The first one was a cool, high-tech, silicone rubber rolled over Molly’s stump with a screw inserted in it. She hated that one. Within less than a month Dwayne made a second, then a third that she kept for six to eight months. Her favorite has been the fourth design, which I alternate with the fifth prosthesis. A sixth is in the works.

After Molly returned home, Dr. Barca took over her care. She brought Molly to the clinic where Dwayne fitted the first prosthesis. Molly’s amputation is about two inches below the knee. The prosthetic has her knee fitting into a cup-shaped opening. Keeping the joint has allowed her to have range of motion so she can bend the leg with her knee.

So now Molly had a new leg, and I was asking, “What are we going to do next?” I am a firm believer that we all have a job in life. We can all contribute to each other some way. If you smile at someone who is having a bad day, you change the human condition. My ponies have a lifetime home with me. They bring smiles to people’s faces their whole working lives. They get treated very well and can retire here, playing out the rest of their days, doing nothing.

I talked with Molly and said, “I spent lot of time and energy on you. What are we going to do?” That’s when I got another Molly zinger. A mental picture came clearly into my mind. The message I received was, “We’re going to the children’s hospital.” Molly had said she wanted to bring joy and happiness to children, people with no hope, and those with disabilities.

Molly was right. The Children’s Hospital of New Orleans became her first post surgery healing success story.

This book is also available at,,,, and other chain, independent, and online bookstores.]



From Horses with a Mission by Allen and Linda Anderson (2009, New World Library). Reprinted with permission. All Rights Reserved.

Sankofa, the Horse Who Rewrote History

Miles J. Dean, Piscataway, New Jersey



Miles and Sankofa

Our Obstacles

Shortly after I began working on the A Modern African American Pioneer project, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I made the choice of treating the tumor with holistic methods and refused chemotherapy. For a couple of years, I had to focus on my life-or-death situation. I knew that the tumor could grow and cause physical difficulties.

Thoughts that I might soon be leaving this Earth served only to increase my sense of urgency, so I shortened the time frame for beginning the project. I had to set a new start date that would enable me to finish the cross-country journey before my physical issues might overtake me. The Black Heritage Riders could accept donations for funding the trip, but I wasn’t able to raise money fast enough. So I decided to fund the project myself, putting more than $100,000 into it, including all my savings. Luckily I didn’t lose my job but was able to take a one-year, unpaid leave of absence from my teaching position. Motivated by my passion to serve youth and humanity, I summoned the spirit and determination that propelled me to fight the nemesis of a brain tumor and fortunately to win the battle.

But there were other battles ahead when Sankofa and I got on the road. We ran across no snakes, bears, lions, or other dangerous wildlife. Our struggle was against the elements, with Mother Nature at her finest, throwing everything at us — rain, snow, desert, heat, storms, and mountains.

To accompany me, a truck pulled a horse trailer with living quarters, and an entourage of four drivers each stayed with us for one or two months. They flew in and out of the locations where we connected. My supporters believed in what I was doing and gave up their time. Without their help I could not have succeeded at the comfort level in which we traveled nor documented it so well. The drivers took care of the horses, allowing me to focus on riding and then resting. I also had an official still and video photographer. I kept in touch with my support team by cell phone and at times had short wave radio contact with the driver who drove ten miles ahead or behind me to avoid having the huge trailer hold up traffic.

After only two weeks into the journey, I felt concerned when Sankofa suffered an injury. He wore easy boots, a sort of horse sneaker, but the two back shoes had been torn off midway into a very rocky trail ride we had taken with cowboys in Maryland. Outside Kentucky, due to the prior barefoot condition, an abscess formed on his foot. We got medical attention for it, and everything seemed fine. Then a second abscess appeared on the other hind foot, and Sankofa had to be treated and healed, costing $1,000 in veterinarian bills. All of this took Sankofa out of action for days. But he recovered, determined and focused on completing his mission.


Sankofa’s Dedication and Loyalty

It was important for me to pour a libation over the Arkansas River on the Arkansas–Texas Bridge.* Many African Americans had lost their lives in that river during the 250 years when slavery was the rule of the land. Some were violently drowned and others took their own lives so as to not be subjected to living as animals. Still others died trying to escape slavery.

Sankofa is typically very skeptical about walking alongside eighteen-wheeler trucks, whether they’re standing still or moving. He hesitates passing those vehicles or having them pass him. On the long and high Arkansas–Texas Bridge, eighteen-wheelers were flying by at sixty miles per hour. I wanted to pour libation from the bridge, but the trucks were making Sankofa nervous. His anxiety filtered to me, and I questioned whether we could safely stop in the middle. I noticed that the railing that would prevent cars from plunging into the river was not very high. I decided I couldn’t risk pouring the libation in that spot, although I really wanted to do so.

It was almost as though Sankofa sensed that this significant ceremony needed to happen. When we got to the middle of the bridge, he lessened his nervous reaction and became calmer, allowing a beautiful moment of quiet peace. I took out the bottle of water, poured the libation, and said a few words of respect for the deceased ancestors, and we continued crossing the bridge. Sankofa had allowed the libation to be performed and was willing to cooperate in spite of his anxiety.

* In the African tradition we pour libation, which is the pouring of water and saying certain words in the name of the ancestors who have done good deeds. Many times, libation is poured to honor the ancestors, sometimes where they met their destruction in a violent or unsavory manner.

This book is also available at,,,, and other chain, independent, and online bookstores.]



From Horses with a Mission by Allen and Linda Anderson (2009, New World Library). Reprinted with permission. All Rights Reserved.

Diana, the Saga of a Wild Horse

Karen Sussman, Lantry, South Dakota


Karen’s Diana on far right, © Weldon Lee, photographer


Summary: Diana, wild mustang and lead mare of the rare Gila, Arizona herd of wild horses, protected her herd, teaching the great lesson of forgiveness. Her rescuer Karen Sussman documents the plight of wild horses who faced elimination until they found refuge on a ranch run by the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) in the Badlands, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

Diana and the Gila Horse Teachers

In the safety of our ranch in Lantry, we were able to observe the Gila herd doing what came naturally. The horses banded up in harems. The young bachelors had their own band, and the dominant, majestic stallions sorted out their mares. Diana was the oldest horse in the entire herd. Her stallion’s name was Ian, the youngest harem stallion. Ian treated Diana with the greatest respect and protected her from the younger bachelor stallions.

Diana never foaled after she was captured, but there is no doubt that many of her offspring were already part of the herd. Blood typing and genetic testing had been done when the herd was first captured. According to the geneticist, all the Gila horses were Spanish and closely related to one another. There was no outside blood from other breeds. In fact, Diana’s herd presented one of the most stable herds, because the harems had not been disrupted in more than fifty years.

The Gila herd presented a marked contrast to what was being done to wild horses from 1990 to the present. Most herds managed by the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] are removed every three years or more to keep down their numbers. Although the BLM allows older horses and mares to go back to their lands, once the harems have been disrupted, they never band up the same way again. Usually younger stallions steal the mares, a trend that is gradually destroying the wonderful educational system that has been in place for the past five hundred years. Older and wiser stallions are the strongest force in maintaining harmony in the herds. However, when the harems are disturbed, the younger and stronger animals have a greater opportunity to take charge. It’s analogous to having fifth graders running a neighborhood. Without having access to the older stallions’ wisdom, the younger horses are not competent to teach new generations. With such disorganization of band structures, the stallions start breeding fillies when the fillies are only one year old instead of four. As a result, fertility rates among wild horse herds have skyrocketed from 10 to more than 20 percent under BLM management practices. The increasing fertility rate of the herds is the direct result of harem bands being destroyed as stallions are separated from their mares when captured.

The dismantling of wild-horse family units has occurred because of human ignorance; many people do not understand these incredible creatures as they are in the wild. Just as wolves look like dogs but are different, so it is with wild and domestic horses. Wild horses cannot and should not be managed in the same way as domestic livestock. Because we have kept Diana’s herd intact in conditions that are natural to wild horses, the herd has been able to teach us the importance of keeping harems together and of allowing the wild horses to maintain strong social bonds. ISPMB’s receiving of the Gila herd with little or no intervention in all its years in the wild was nothing short of a miracle. For ten years the Gila herd has been the perfect study for natural wild-horse behaviors, unaltered by humankind. ISPMB has been able to create a model management program showing a contrast to the devastating effects of repeated wild horse removals from public lands.

A scientist proved me right about one of the aspects of wild horses that those of us who understand these animals inside and out already know in our hearts to be true. In 1990, the nation’s leading equine geneticist, Ernest (Gus) G. Cothran, Jr., PhD at Texas A & M University, said that wild horses have more genetic diversity than any breed of domestic horse. Wild horses are not inbred. I believe that wild horses are the greatest horses alive. But I wondered if Diana would ever grow to appreciate us humans as we at ISPMB appreciate her kind.

At our ranch on the South Dakota plains, Diana once again had trees and plenty of hiding places with water and abundant forage. She was free in a way that all animals should be — as the law states, “Free from harassment, capture, and death.”* Diana was free to be with Ian and her family — never to be separated. Free as the wind.

In 2004, tours began to visit this rare Gila herd. I noticed a remarkable change in Diana. She would come up to the truck to investigate the visitors who had arrived. She no longer snorted, stamped her feet, or ran to the nearest tree.

To everyone’s amazement, after all she had suffered at the hands of humans, including being chased and shot at, Diana had forgiven humankind for its intolerance and greed. Visitors and supporters who learned about Diana and the Gila herd honored this courageous lead mare. Diana and her herd had demonstrated that all life is interrelated and must be held in reverence, a lesson yet to be learned by humanity.


*Public Law 92-195 passed in 1971, protecting all wild horses on public lands, defined as Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management lands.


This book is available at,,, and other chain, independent, and online bookstores.]



Celebrity Endorsements



"This collection of stories will remind anyone who has ever had a horse as a best friend,confidante, and soul mate of what a special gift that can be."
--Carson Kressley, Emmy Award-winning TV host, designer, and author of
Off the Cuff

Annette’s Rocky

"With hearts and minds open, we can learn from the wild and domesticated horses in this wonderful book."
--Joe Camp, author of The Soul of the Horse and creator of the films starring the canine superstar Benji

Meagan’s Charlie

"You don't need to be an avid equestrian like me to truly enjoy this book, as the stories resonate with a spirit of hope and harmony that is shared by all creatures great and small."
--Alison Eastwood, actress, director, and producer (Clint Eastwood’s daughter)

"Through their courage, sensitivity, and kindness, the horses in this book become our inspiration and guides."
--Michael Mountain, former president of Best Friends Animal Society

Christianna and Spring Thaw, © Michael Colavito, photographer

"Horses with a Mission is an important book, one that will spark your imagination and inspire you to embrace the magical moments in life that happen every single day. It also reaffirms what any genuine horse lover knows: that these sentient creatures deserve our respect. This book was a joy to read."
Melanie Sue Bowles, author of The Horses of Proud Spirit and Hoof Prints: More Stories from Proud Spirit and founder of Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary

Steve’s Frostbite

“The spiritual and physical bond between horses and the humans who love them often reaches mystical proportions. Nothing celebrates that very special relationship more movingly or with greater clarity than Horses with a Mission.”
--Steven D. Price, editor of The Whole Horse Catalog and 1001 Best Things Ever Said about Horses

Tanya's Viola

"Horses are the focal point of our lives here We cover these extraordinary athletes on a daily basis, but I think sometimes we all tend to lose focus on what wonderful creatures they really are. Horses with a Mission allows us to travel into the world of the horse from so many unique perspectives, and it introduces us to horses that have touched and changed the lives of so many people. To have our own writer, Cooky McClung featured in this wonderful work, makes it all that more fun. It's a fabulous read."
Mason Phelps, Jr., president,

Pauline’s Peen

"Many pets are here on this earth to help humans in the journey of life. Horses, with their primal nature as prey animals, daily make choices to override their fears, get past traumas, and put themselves in danger to be one with the humans who love them. The stories in this book are great examples of the power of unconditional love, which I am reminded of every day in my work helping clients."
--Lydia Hiby, animal communicator

"As an equine professional teaching in seven countries for over forty years, I have read and witnessed many inspirational, magical, and wonderful interactions between horses and humans. Horses with a Mission is an exceptional collection of such stories. The contributors show fine writing abilities and talent and share the deep appreciation and love they have for their equine counterparts. Bravo. Enjoy!"
--Franklin Levinson,


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