From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

The Winged Horse

Being defeated is often only a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.

Marilyn vos Savant

When Wendy was really tiny, her grandfather used to tell her many stories. Being a man of some learning, he used to tell her tales based on Greek mythology and it didn’t take her long to have a favorite. “Tell me the stories about Pegasus, the Winged Horse” was her constant plea.

The little cottage where Wendy and her family lived was on the land owned by the local estate. The field beside their cottage was home to about four horses and they were the love of Wendy’s life. She talked to them, got picked up to feed and pat them and they soon got to know her. One of them in particular, Lucky Eric, would come trotting over as soon as he heard her young, high voice call out to him.

It was Wendy’s dream to learn to ride a pony and then a horse, and her parents were meticulously putting a little money away every month to try and get her into the local riding school.

Unfortunately, it was about this time that she began to feel unwell. She was sick and then totally lethargic. After many weeks of tests, she was diagnosed with a rare bone disease and many, many months of painful treatment followed for her.

Once her condition was stabilized, her parents were told that Wendy’s legs would always be very weak and she would have trouble balancing. As soon as she could,Wendy, now very frail, was back out at the fence calling to the horses. Just as if she had never been away, Lucky Eric came bounding over and as her father lifted her up, he rubbed his face against hers and then gave a loud snort.Wendy giggled, laughed and told her father that the horse had told her that he missed her.

They spoke to her doctor and he was adamant that Wendy would never be able to ride a horse. They were heartbroken, but fortunately, the owner of the estate heard about how ill Wendy had been. His wife, Alicia, called on them to see how she was progressing and learned of the problems. She was there when Wendy went out in her father’s arms to see “her” horses.

A week later Alicia arrived in her riding gear and with a kind of harness. “I have come to take Wendy riding!” she announced.

She explained that she would take Wendy on the horse with her, strap the harness round them both to keep her upright and they would ride together. It all sounded very risky to Wendy’s mum, but she knew how much this could mean to her brave daughter.

Out they went and when Wendy asked which horse and was told, “Lucky Eric, of course. He is just dying to take you out for a ride,” there was no turning back!

That first day they just went for a little jog, but as it all seemed to work well and it gave Wendy such happiness, they went a little further each time they went out.

One day with the sun shining and a strong breeze blowing, Alicia gave Lucky Eric his head. She felt sometimes that this beautiful and sensitive horse knew exactly the fragility of the little package he was carrying. Every time she took Wendy with her, he talked more and he responded to the slightest instruction, so this day she gave him more freedom. They went a little faster and Wendy giggled in delight. Seeing the small hedge in front of them, Alicia urged Lucky Eric on and he sailed over it as Wendy screamed in pleasure.

That night she couldn’t wait to tell her granddad, “I flew, Granddad. Lucky Eric was just like Pegasus, we just flew through the air, it was wonderful!”

Alicia had to explain to them that they had barely left the ground and they should not worry that she had been rash with her precious charge. It was as Wendy went off for another ride that her grandfather looked at her parents. “All things are relative, when you can barely walk and when you are up on top of the thing you love most in life, one foot off the ground is flying!”

As Wendy grew up, she underwent a new treatment that helped her enormously. Her parents knew she would never be robust, but she could walk unaided and she learned to ride, Alicia saw to that. When she was twenty-one, she had a good job and she had her own horse. At her twenty-first birthday party, amidst all the presents and the fun, her mother found her staring out of the kitchen window toward the field where Lucky Eric used to come running to see her.

Wendy had tears running down her face as she turned. “I was thinking back to those days when I was so ill and to all the wonderful times I had with Lucky Eric. You know, Mum, being told that I would be able to walk unaided came second to those days I went flying on Lucky Eric; he really was my winged horse!”

Joyce Stark

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