Of all the important lessons I’ve learned from watching animals, one of my favorites was reiterated over the summer, reminding me that adoption is not only about love, it is a natural occurrence that happens in the wild, as well.
The story began in the spring. May 11, to be exact. That was the day that Captain Dan and his guests, out on an “Around the Island Tour,” spotted a lone foal. While trying to nurse on a mare named Misty Mills, the bay and white pinto colt was kicked away. Everyone on the boat assumed this mare was rejecting her foal, so the fire company was called. Soon, pony committee members were on the scene. They trailered the foal to shelter at the carnival grounds.
Just by luck — or perhaps by divine intervention — a mare named Bay Girl was already at the carnival grounds, brought in after she foaled because something was clearly wrong with her baby. The colt didn’t make it, so there was Bay Girl, on the carnival grounds, all bagged up with milk.
The pony committee began bottle-feeding the pony, but at the same time, they were trying to get Bay Girl to accept the orphan as her own. At first, she wasn’t interested, but those dedicated saltwater cowboys were not about to give up. Even though she was clearly still grieving the foal she’d lost, Bay Girl finally allowed the foal to nurse, and then, she was licking him, nursing him, and loving him as her own.Near the end of spring, Misty Mills foaled.
So, who was the orphan foal’s dam? Chincoteague Pony lovers from across the nation cheered the colt on, dubbing him the Mystery Foal. Then, a young stallion named Beach Boy was brought to the carnival grounds to be with the pair, and an instant family was born. I visited in May and again in June, falling in love with the colt.
Nature dictates that these foals must leave their dams — who are already pregnant with next year’s foals — so I knew the colt would be sold at Pony Penning. I hoped I could meet his owner because I’d already decided I wanted to write a book about him. I wanted to know the rest of the story.
At July’s Pony Penning auction, I turned to see the winning bidder hugging her mom, but I was too busy with our Feather Fund kids to follow the young girl and her mom to the payment booth and introduce myself. I turned back to the auction, hoping I would see her again.
Throughout the week, I looked for the young girl in the crowd, to no avail. I asked everyone I met. Did anyone know who purchased the orphan foal? The answer was always no. But then, through the grapevine, I learned the name of the buyer. That is all I had. A name.
I started an online search for phone numbers. After calling two people with the same name who were not the buyer, I finally fell upon information about a company owned by a woman with the same name. I emailed the company, asking if they could put me in touch with the owner.
Voila! The buyer, Debra wrote back. I explained why I was writing and asked if I could include her daughter in the end of my picture book about the orphan foal. Not only was she willing to let me include her daughter, Scarlet, she was willing to meet with me! So, it was, that I traveled to Chincoteague again at the end of August, where I was able to meet young Scarlet, her mom and Dad and her twin brother, too.
They’d been boarding Scarlet’s foal on Chincoteague while preparing a place for her at their home. And now he had a name! I smiled when I learned she was calling him Maverick. He truly was a Maverick, with tenacity and the will to survive. As anxious as I was to learn more about Scarlet — the family was just as anxious to hear about Maverick. They knew he was an orphan foal — the auctioneer had shared that information — but they did not know the story of Bay Girl and how she’d adopted the colt.
I immediately fell in love with this sweet family with so much love for their children and for each other. Debra told me how she’d struggled with the idea of purchasing the foal. It was all Scarlet had ever wanted. She drew horses all the time. She dreamed about horses, took riding lessons and read every horse book she could get her hands on. She said, once, when Scarlet was riding on the beach a woman had stopped to say what a great little rider she was. They’d conversed, and before she left the woman told Debra, “Buy her a horse.”
Debra was still wrestling with the idea of buying a foal at auction, all the way up to the night before the pony penning auction. That night, she said, the woman on the beach came into her dreams. “Buy her the horse,” she said. “Just buy the horse.”
Scarlet had fallen in love with the little colt at the pens the day before, never knowing that he was an orphan. After all, Bay Girl was at his side, loving him as any other mother would do. So, Debra bid, and she bid again and again until her daughter was in her arms, sobbing with joy, because finally, she was taking home a foal of her own.
When I met the family at Chincoteague, we stopped by to visit the foal. Scarlet led him around the yard where they were boarding him. The joy on her face overwhelmed me. Watching them, my worry over the orphan foal disappeared. I took two lessons away from this beautiful experience.
Bay Girl’s actions in accepting the foal show us all how we should always step in for those in need. It reminds me of how natural adoption is — as natural as giving birth. Then, when I saw Maverick and Scarlet in the yard, with all that pure love in Scarlet’s eyes, I was reminded of how things always work out. When we have to move and leave behind loved ones and the world seems upside down - it is usually all okay. There is a new and loving home on the other side. I love that Maverick has been adopted a second time, and this time is forever.