Young woman, horse forge loving friendship during animal's rebound

February 27, 2011
  • Heather Bartel is shown with Lucy, the rescued horse she helped bring back to health.
Submitted photo

CLEAR SPRING — When Heather Bartel began volunteering at Windy Rock Equine Rescue in Clear Spring, she had no idea what to expect.  A year and a half later, she is the proud owner of Lucy, a horse who had been abandoned, rescued by the Humane Society of Washington County and was living at Windy Rock.
Found wandering on the C&O Canal towpath in early 2009, the 24-year-old mare, lovingly referred to as Old Lady at the rescue, was transferred to Windy Rock for some much needed care and potential adoption.  

Although Lucy cannot tell her beloved owner what she went through before they found one another, it is obvious she had a difficult time.  She is blind in one eye and has barbed-wire scars on her back legs. Physical challenges don’t bother her, nor do they restrain Heather’s love for her beloved mare.

“Oh, she is just wonderful, gorgeous, with a huge personality,” Heather said.  

“She has changed my life in so many ways. She has turned from a bitter and cranky mare into the sweetest, most beautiful, and most spoiled horse I’ve ever laid eyes on, and she is loved more than any other.”   

Heather worked closely with Lucy for a year, helping to mentally and physically rehabilitate her. The mare’s true gentle nature emerged as she now allows Heather to ride her on trails at the farm and permits children as young as 6 to climb on her back and ride her around.

On Heather’s 16th birthday, Windy Rock Equine’s owner, Lori Stottlemyer, arranged with Heather’s parents to surprise her with a free adoption and a year of free board for Lucy.

After volunteering for more than 500 hours, Lori felt Heather deserved the recognition.  

“Her love for these animals and one in particular, Lucy, prompted my husband and me to give Heather the opportunity to own her very first horse.  We knew that they were a perfect fit, and with Heather’s patience, Lucy would become totally rehabilitated.” She went on to add, “Lucy would have otherwise probably never been adopted since she is very old and blind in one eye. Heather found love and companionship in this old girl.”

Finding Lucy has been a life-altering experience for Heather. “She has helped me find the direction for my life.  I know what I want to do with my life.”  Heather plans to join the military, learn to be an auto mechanic and, upon leaving the service, become a farrier.

In an e-mail to HSWC Executive Director Paul Miller Heather eloquently expressed the impact Lucy has made on her life.  “She is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I don’t know where either of us would be if we hadn’t have found each other. She had a lucky ending because, like you put it, it is difficult to place an older animal, but not only did she find a great rescue home, but she has been adopted by someone who loves her unconditionally!” She added, “Please extend my gratitude to every person involved with this rescue, because I owe every single one of them a heartfelt thanks.”

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