Feather Fund Makes Another Dream Come True


By Sonora Hannah

I would like to dedicate this, my first published work, to God, my Heavenly Father, and to my mother, Genna, and my Aunt Laure… because without them, this story never could have happened.

“I believe that in the moment God created me, He put in my soul a love and a passion for horses. It is something I was born with… a part of me that has always existed, even before I discovered it was there.”

When I sent my application to the Feather Fund in the spring of 2010, I pretty much felt sick to my stomach. I thought that after I sent it, I’d finally be able to stop thinking about it and get some relief from the rollercoaster of emotions I’d been living with for months. That turned out to be wishful thinking because now that I didn’t have the application to work on, all I had were my thoughts.

 What made the waiting worse was that I had already applied to the Feather Fund the year before and remembered the pain of disappointment that had plagued me when I did not win. I was determined to shield myself from that kind of disappointment so to protect myself, I chose to believe in the improbability of my winning a foal. But despite everything, I kept hoping that the odds of my winning might not be so slim after all. I dreamed night and day about what it would be like to raise and train a wild Chincoteague Pony foal from the windswept island of Assateague.

 I had told the Feather Fund in my essay, “I look at all of the people around me who have their own horses; they have a chance to grow together and become permanently bonded in spirit. Sometimes I wonder if they realize just how blessed they are. My heart aches with the desire to have that strong bond of love, trust, and friendship that comes from having traveled a long road together; my heart yearns to start out on the road that will earn me the love, trust, and friendship of one special horse… my horse.”

Mid-May came… the time when I was to find out if I was or was not going to embark on that road. I checked the Feather Fund’s website daily and I tended to get rather nervous when the phone rang. But no news came either on the website or by phone. I was discouraged, but at the same time hopeful. If no winners had been posted, maybe that still meant I had a chance! Even though I tried to tell myself I very likely would not win a foal, I couldn’t seem to really believe it. There had to be a chance for me, especially because this was the last year I would be eligible to apply because of my age. I tried not to feel defeated by that thought; I knew that if I did not win, that it must mean that God had a different plan in mind for me. I wanted to have the strength of heart to trust Him that His plan was what was best for me, and that is something I had been learning to do since the first time I had applied for a foal. In my essay I had said:

“This whole Feather Fund experience has been a lesson for me in trusting God. I want it SO very badly that there are not enough words in this world to fully express the intensity of my desire. It is a feeling so deep and strong that it can only be felt, not spoken. This I can tell you: If I should be awarded a foal it would be the answer to my heart’s prayer of many years, and I would work for all I’m worth to keep that foal healthy and happy in body, mind, and spirit for all of its life. And in return, that foal would be giving me an ongoing purpose, a reason for working and living with all of my heart, and a chance for healing in my life.

"A foal of my own would mean the WORLD and beyond to me. It would be a priceless gift that I would work hard to ever deserve. I leave you in no doubt, I hope, of the sincerity of my heart’s prayer and desire and I want you to know that I would not take ownership of a foal lightly. I have waited most my whole life for the day that the miracle of my own horse would come. My heart is bursting with love to be given away to the one little horse I may call my own.”

I told Feather Fund board member Lois Szymanki, who is now one of my dearest friends, “The day you called is the day I gave up.”

It was June 7 and I had hung onto hope for several weeks past the time when I had thought the winners would be announced. But that day something inside me snapped. My pet rabbit had gone into labor and we rushed her to the emergency room when it became apparent that she was having trouble. The vet gave me a long list of procedures they might have to perform to save Jane and any unborn babies… and it wasn’t going to be cheap. The only money I had to spend on such a big vet bill was what I had been saving back for my pony. I told the vet we’d do whatever it took to save Jane. What else could I do? I said to my mom, “I’m not getting a pony anyway.”

I was pretty shocked to hear myself admitting to it, but I figured I’d better get used to the fact that it was true… I wasn’t getting a pony.

I was in pretty low spirits when I came home that evening with a stillborn baby bunny to be buried and my dream of winning a Feather Fund foal to be buried with it. I dug a grave and lined it with ferns and other spring greenery and then came up to the house to invite my mother to come for the burial. My mom was squinting at the phone when I came in. She asked me to read the missed call for her, because she couldn’t see it very well. I took the phone and read the name on the screen. My mouth dropped and I looked up at my mom, speechless. Mom says she’ll never forget my face; she knew as soon as she looked at me who the missed caller must have been.

And so it was I went to Chincoteague Island, Virginia for Pony Penning, an event I had only ever dreamed of attending! I saw the wild ponies swim the channel from their home on Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island where the foals would be auctioned off to the public to maintain a healthy number of ponies on the wildlife refuge and to benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company who care for the ponies all year round. The days before the swim were spent meeting my new Feather Fund family and searching the pens on Assateague for my top favorite foals to bid on at the auction. I found three I decided to keep in mind, but I really didn’t know which of them my favorite was. I had decided I wanted a filly rather than a colt, so I chose a tall liver chestnut paint filly as my number one to bid on. But nothing really felt definite in my heart, even though I had decided it in my mind.

Auction day arrived. My calm exterior belied the intensity of my nervousness. Joy and relief consumed me when my fellow 2010 Feather Fund winner placed the winning bid on the pony of her dreams. And I realized, it would be my turn next. When the liver chestnut filly I had chosen as my favorite came out into the ring, I felt a flurry of excitement, but something about it didn’t feel real, didn’t feel right. Then it was announced that this foal was to be auctioned off as a buyback, a foal which would be sold for a high price to benefit the fire company or a charity, but would be returned to Assateague Island to live wild for the rest of its days. My Feather Fund family and my mom sympathized with me when the news came over the loudspeakers. But strangely, I didn’t feel much disappointment. Instead I felt that it was a message from God saying that this filly wasn’t the one for me. There must be another one out there with my name on it, I thought.

There were only 57 foals to be sold at the 2010 auction. By foal number 52 I was beginning to fear that I wouldn’t be getting a foal at all. I looked at each foal to come out. I watched their mannerisms; I looked into their eyes, searching for some glimmer of a connection between us. I almost bid once or twice out of fear of not getting the chance to bid at all… but I couldn’t do it. Something felt empty. It felt wrong. None of the foals spoke to my heart; none felt like they could be the pony of my dreams. Then I saw him.

He was rearing, plunging against the weight of the wranglers who held him. He was lost to sight as he dragged them along, trying to escape the prison of their arms and bodies. But I had already recognized him! He was on my list of top favorites, the first of my favorites I had seen since the paint filly early on in the auction.

The flashy pinto markings against his dark red/brown coat made him easy to identify. The boomerang marking at the top of his neck on his right side were why I had dubbed him the Boomerang Colt. Excitement welled up in my heart as he was finally escorted into the ring. Before I knew it I was in a bidding war for him. Somebody else had taken a fancy to him, too. I knew in my heart I couldn’t lose him. This was it! He was the one! I only wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. The price on his head went up and up, but I was encouraged to keep bidding. I raised my feather high and finally stood up in desperation.

“Please!! Please,” I said.

The bidding slowed. Then it stopped. It was the longest few seconds of my life before the auctioneer bellowed, “SOLD!” and pointed to me.

Sold! The Feather Fund had purchased him for me for $2,500!!!

My eyes welled up with tears of joy. In disbelief I realized that my dream had just come true. In one little fleeting moment, my dream had been fulfilled for a lifetime.

Even before the Boomerang Colt had come into sight, Lois had leaned over and said to me, “I don’t know why, but I think you are going to get the Boomerang Colt.”

More than once she said it, saying she didn’t understand why, but she felt that it was so.

I wondered at it, but I was so caught up in the auction and searching over the foals that I didn’t give it too much thought. I kept thinking about the little bay and white foal with the butterfly marking on its rump.

 Interesting story: foal number 52 was this foal, but I did not recognize it. I believe that God shielded me from recognizing it because He knew that if I had, I was feeling so desperate that I very well might have taken the plunge and jumped in on the bidding. How thankful I am that I did not get either one of those foals I had chosen for myself! What God had chosen for me was better than anything I could have imagined or dreamed of. Here's more proof that the Boomerang Colt is God’s gift to me: one of his flashy pinto markings is in the shape of my profile!! No kidding!

The Boomerang Colt's name is now Mincaye (Min-KY-yee). People are usually pretty curious as to where that name came from and the significance of it to me. To save time explaining, I usually just tell them it is a name that comes from a tribe in Ecuador. Truth is, there is a lot more to it than that. But that is another story...

Sonora Hannah is a high school graduate with dreams of becoming a writer, artist, and horse trainer. She resides in Washington State where she cares for her menagerie of animals which include a Chincoteague pony, a Shetland sheepdog, and a Bengal-mix cat.

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