My “job” these days is in the business of “unicorns” as many call them — a horse that fulfills a long checklist of “must haves” that sometimes takes hours that turn into days or months to find. When you find the “unicorn” it’s one of the most rewarding experiences for me in my line of work. Matching the person to their unicorn — insert rainbows and glitter here. Let me tell you a story about a newborn filly that truly was a UNICORN for one very special little girl. Incredibly special and more powerful than I could have ever imagined…. let me tell you a story about a little girl who made me BELIEVE Unicorns are REAL.
I work with a very close friend by the name of Melissa Mendoza on her farm in Lincoln, Texas home of the blossoming program Tonkawa Hill Performance Horses and the reining stallion Step It Up Jak every year in the spring and summer. Melissa loves Jak – a son of Wimpys Little Step out of the full sister to the dam of Miss Tinseltown – Docs Twinkie Jac PE $80,000 — that I too once upon a time helped her find. Melissa, affectionately known to me as “Pixie Dust” (she has a little magic herself) has a big soft spot for a special group of daughters of Topsail Cody that make up a part of her broodmare band. In the spring of 2016, one of those daughters had one of the PRETTIEST foals we had ever seen. Tiny little muzzle, big kind liquid eyes, strong backed and hipped and legs that were straight as an arrow. You could have put that little baby in a Breyer box and sold her a million times over. She was just right…. everywhere. The cross of two of Melissa’s favorite lines of horses — we knew that filly was a unicorn of sorts, but little did we know how much magic that little palomino filly possessed.
I listed that crop for sale. We were going to be picky about where this filly went. We wanted the most special home for her. We love them all don’t get me wrong. But, there are always those special ones that stand above the rest. There was no doubt this filly was one of them. I got a phone call from a gal in Michigan shortly after listing by the name of Emily Messenger — the voice on the other line was warm, kind, and full of hope… “Is that pretty palomino filly still available?” We visited a while about that pretty filly, the energy that came from Emily was one that few people can emit – especially of the phone from thousands of miles away. I wanted to hug her through the phone and I had only known this very special individual a few short minutes. Once we visited a while, said she would get right back to me as her client’s daughter had picked her out after browsing ads on the internet — I was that little girl once upon a time, as my mom. A few short minutes later Emily rang again and the deal was done…. it was then I started to learn the story behind this sweet little girl and the purpose of this special special filly.
Dani Arsenault was battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia and the complications that come along with the big “C” word. Her Father, Bob, and Emily her trainer, wanted to find Dani a “unicorn” to keep her motivated with something to look forward to during the process of treatment and being in and out of hospitals. Of all the hundreds of thousands of horses out there — Dani chose “Nova” the very filly Melissa and I loved from the moment she was born. We couldn’t be happier for this filly, and for Dani whom would soon become one of the biggest sources of inspiration I have ever had in my life.
The more I learned about Dani’s story…. the more Emily told me about Bob and her family I couldn’t get them off my mind. I got to know them through stories told by Emily and I decided I wanted to do something…….anything I could to help. I used the then new platform of WhoaZone to form a call to action to the horse community I love so much. It was that day that #TeamDani was born and my friends — owners of stallions, makers of tack and gifts, friends to Hollywood Stars, all of them came together to lift one Warrior Princess – Dani and her horse Nova up in Prayer and positive thought. In just a couple short weeks time, the outpouring of support enabled us to give the Arsenault family over $15,000 to help with medical bills and any other costs raised through generous donations of stallion fees, tack items, and more… I wanted to just ease the burden even if just for a moment from thousands of miles away and my friends and industry leaders stepped up to the plate to do just that. It was the least I could do for a little girl with more hear than any cowboy in Texas, and the way this community came together filled my heart with hope, love, and kindness.
Let me tell you something… when you think this horse industry is too tough, or too catty, or too hard — Dani and Nova are proof that this industry is full of giving people all over the world that are willing to help in any capacity humanly possible. Dani proved to us that at any time THIS community will put away any opinion or differences we may have and come together to HELP oe of our own! This one little girl has touched more people than any of us will in a life time. For myself – a source of inspiration in more ways than I could begin to put into words. Dani reminded us what the definition of togetherness, hope, love, and perseverance truly are. Dani taught us that a little bit of love and prayer can go a long, long, long way!
Over the last year Dani and Nova got to participate in their first horse show. They were rockstars tackling difficult in hand trail obstacles with the same grit and determination Dani demonstrated in her every day life. Nova with the help of Emily, would visit her at her house when she couldn’t come outside. They would even bring her over to graze in the backyard — you know that saying “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” — here’s your proof. This now yearling filly stepped up to the plate in mind and heart to be the exact source of strength Dani needed — oh how she reminded us of the heart her sire has Step It Up Jak. A little bit of “Pixie Dust” goes a long way in a breeding program – and let me tell you — Melissa is breeding some good ones as Nova is demonstrating now. Nova handled everything with grace and willingness to learn and grow with Dani – step for step those two stuck together through every obstacle, learning together, and becoming one. Nova also serves an additional purpose giving Dani and her father Bob another connection – in the form of a little yellow unicorn. One they could create meaningful memories with, be a shoulder to lean on, and the maker of many smiles — do you believe in unicorns yet? There’s more….
The spring of 2017 came around and that same mare Codys Payn With Chex by Topsail Cody had ANOTHER perfect yellow unicorn filly…. Coincidence? I think not. Emily, who has been an absolute angel to Dani and her family had to have her. We couldn’t have been more excited to send another unicorn to this extraordinary barn and family. Two full sisters in the same home. These two would continue to work their magical ways as unicorns in healing, inspiration, strength, and hope. Emily was so excited to come get that filly dubbed “Cheyenne” and bring her home to meet Dani and Nova.
Dani got to meet her second unicorn earlier this week. She led her to the pasture in her wheel chair. She brushed her. She smiled as she watched her interact with her full sister Nova. Dani, her incredible family, two very special unicorns, and a trainer that knew exactly the medicine this little girl, her family, and even herself needed during these trying times. Together, they got to soak up the power of magic —- the magic of horses — the magic of unicorns.
My phone rang yesterday while I was putting Savannah my little girl down for a nap. The voice on the other end of the line was not the warm, bright light of Emily Messenger. Her voice quivered and my heart sank to the deepest depths of my soul. Dani had left us for heaven…. words that I couldn’t exactly grasp or understand. Just days ago I was smiling at the sight of that warrior princess loving on the newest addition to the unicorn herd. I could see the magic transferring between the two….. I could feel it from thousands of miles away. That was the power of Dani, her ability to touch the deepest depths of your heart without a single word.
I don’t think that there are ever words that are enough for these situations. We always want one more day, one more smile, one more memory. We are human, that’s normal. But, let me tell you guys something. Dani in her short and powerful life brought together, touched, and inspired more people than we could have every imagined to be better people themselves. More importantly to spread light and love to all. Her story is not over — she has two unicorns that will continue to spread her magic of healing, togetherness, hope, and inspiration for many years to come.
Thank you Dani for spreading your unspoken gifts of inspiration, love, and hope. For choosing a unicorn that was bred with a little sprinkle of Pixie Dust in a program that Melissa Mendoza has dedicated her life to, I am a firm believer paths cross for a reason. I am so blessed that ours did – thanks to your trainer Emily Messenger. Dani, because of you I believe in Unicorns, and the magic that comes with them. You know what else I know? I know one thing’s for sure…. those horse’s in heaven sure gained on heck of a cowgirl and I am sure they greeted you at the gates with soft nickers and lots of hugs. Fly high sweet girl. Until we meet again!