George is back: Rescued horse makes life whole for woman
OCALA, Fla. (AP) — “I just feel like a piece of my life is back that’s been missing for a long time,” Diane Mathieson said.
Diane Mathieson lost part of herself after her husband, Todd, died in 2006.
The noted saddlebred horse trainer died of complications from kidney disease. He was the soul of the business and Diane could not continue without him. So she sold the horses, including their favorite, Midnight Memory Maker — or “George” for short.
But two weeks ago, after 13 years apart, George and Diane found each other after a series of coincidences — which Diane isn’t convinced were coincidences at all — brought George back to her from Boston to Ocala.
“I would like to think my husband was involved in reuniting us because he was always our special horse. George was always like our number one,” she said.
Twenty-three years ago, George came to the Mathiesons as a baby for training. But his personality endeared him to the couple more than any of the other horses they worked with.
“My husband and George had this weird bond. (George) didn’t realize he was a horse. Todd would always say, ‘George, if I was a horse, I’d want to be just like you,’ and they (people in general) would all say, ‘George would be just like you,’” Diane said.
Todd’s death crushed Diane. She got out of the show world and became a therapeutic riding instructor. George went to a former student. The last Diane knew, he was at a farm somewhere in the Adirondack Mountains.
About a month ago, she got a text from an old friend asking for a photo of George.
“I thought it was odd she was asking for a photo after all these years, but she’s an artist and I thought she wanted it for some project,” Mathieson said.
The friend called a short time later.
“She said, ‘Don’t freak out, but George is at the Animal Rescue League of Boston,’” Mathieson said.
It turns out George was among a group of horses turned over to the Animal Rescue League of Boston last September. The owners could no longer take care of them properly. George was skinny but was sound and healthy. He went to a foster farm, where the owner recognized him as a former show horse due to his temperament and carriage, said Mike DeFina, a spokesman with the rescue league.
After the foster contacted several saddlebred organizations and George’s photo circulated on the internet, Mathieson’s friend recognized the horse.
“She just happened to be scanning through the rescues and saw this skinny horse named George,” Mathieson said.
Mathieson raised some money and arranged for George to be brought back to her. On Feb. 7, Mathieson and George had an emotional reunion.
“All the memories came flooding back from when we had the farm in Connecticut and about Todd,” she said.
George is now staying at the Stirrups ’n Strides Therapeutic Riding Center near Orange Lake, where Mathieson volunteers. The plan is to incorporate George into the therapeutic riding program at the facility, which offers riding therapy to disabled riders.
“We have two wheelchair-accessible carriages. We’re very excited because we love to have ex-show horses. He’s so fancy; he’ll make our kids look good. We’re excited to have him be part of the program,” said Betty Gray, executive director at Stirrups ’n Strides.
Mathieson rode George for the first time last week and will hook him up to a carriage soon after a few more refresher lessons.
“It’s like going back in time,” she said. “I just feel like a piece of my life is back that’s been missing for a long time. I feel like I’m more back to me. He’s helping me as much as I help him.”
Contact Carlos E. Medina at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 352-867-4157
Information from: Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner, http://www.starbanner.com/