Taking the horse to the vet was the logical thing to do. She sat at the reception with her daughter, her heart pounding as she counted the seconds.
The vet came out of the office, a serious look on his face. She asked how the horse was doing. What he said to her made her heart stop.
Madeline had always loved animals since she was small. Brought up on a farm in North Carolina, she could ride a pony before she was four.
When she had her daughter, Suzy, Madeline wanted her to grow up the same way she did. She consolidated her income and bought a home in the countryside. She didn’t know what she was stepping into.
Our New Life
Life in the countryside was as Madeline remembered. It brought back her old memories as a little girl and made her heart swell. After settling in, she took Suzy to a ranch and asked her to pick a pony.
Suzy ran into the green fields where a herd of mustangs peacefully grazed. She pointed at a chestnut-colored one, excitedly jumping. But Madeline noticed something odd about the horse.
To Catch A Starlight
The horse’s eyes were a blazing starling blue. With each step Madeline took, the eyes seemed to burn brighter. “Her eyes look like stars, mom!” Suzy exclaimed. “Let’s call her Starlight.”
Madeline wanted to ask Suzy to pick a pony, not a horse but saw the joy on her child’s face. Would she tear her daughter from such happiness?
Madeline, Suzy, and Starlight went home that day. But Madeline couldn’t help thinking something was wrong.
Starlight was calmer than most mustangs Madeline knew. The horse was also smaller, with lush hair that was soft to the touch. Why would the ranch sell such a magnificent steed for Madeline’s proposed price? Something wasn’t adding up.
She Does Her Research
Madeline and Suzy helped Starlight feel at home. They brought hay and apples, to which Starlight happily munched on.
Afterward, Madeline poured through Starlight’s official papers. She searched for anything that would explain why she’d struck gold with the horse. Madeline’s search went well into the night. She was about to give up, but something caught her eye.
Confronting The Ranch
Starlight’s medical reports indicated she’d not visited a vet in a while. Madeline called the ranch first thing in the morning. She asked why Starlight was missing two years’ worth of check-ups.
Was she to remind them that adult horses needed at least one complete veterinary examination a year? The answer she received made her jaw drop.
Telling The Truth
The ranch informed Madeline that Starlight had come to them recently. They were getting around to updating her health records when Madeline and Suzy asked for her.
They apologized for not letting Madeline know sooner. They also gave her the option of returning Starlight if she felt like it. Although the answers seemed logical, Madeline couldn’t help but feel like something was still wrong.
A Horrific Possibility
Madeline thought about taking Starlight back to the ranch. But Suzy had bonded with the horse so much Madeline knew that was no longer an option.
She sat quietly through the day, withdrawn from her surroundings at work and home. What if the ranch had acquired Starlight through unexplainable means? Madeline almost cried out at the thought.
Doing What Is Right
Taking Starlight to a vet would result in the horse’s information being run through the system. If she were missing somewhere, the authorities would come for her. Madeline and Suzy would lose her forever.
Guilt washed through Madeline as she thought about taking her daughter’s new best friend. Would Suzy ever forgive her? Madeline closed her eyes and called the vet’s office.
Confronting Her Fear
The vet’s office was empty when Madeline, Suzy, and Starlight came. The receptionist booked them in for the next hour, and after a short wait, the three of them were in the consultation room.
After a quick rundown of the situation, Madeline and Suzy left the vet to run his tests on Starlight. He returned after an hour. What he’d found was more than Madeline expected.
A Star Shines Among Us
“I think you should hire a bodyguard,” the vet whispered, smiling. “These records say Starlight is a mustang, but that’s wrong.” “What?” Madeline stood. “Starlight is an Arabian horse,” said the vet. “They are costly and in very high demand.”
“What about her health?” Madeline asked, her breath bated. “Arabian horses are quite resilient,” the doctor answered. “Starlight is no exception. But there is something else.”
Although Madeline had been horse-mad when she was a girl herself, she had never seen one with such exquisite eyes before. When she researched blue-eyed horses online, she was overwhelmed by apprehension.
According to Google, blue-eyed horses were thought to be more prone to skin cancer and blindness in old age, and some horse ranchers said they were crazy. Is this what the vet wanted to talk to them about?
Do Not Take Our Horse
Madeline’s heart sank. What could it be? She looked at Starlight across the door, and the horse neighed sweetly at her.
A warm sensation blew over Madeline, and she smiled. Like Suzy, she was getting attached to the horse. “What is it, doc?” she asked. Whatever the answer was, she would fight to keep Starlight home.
The Vet’s News
“Starlight is healthy, from what I am seeing. She’s also expecting,” the doctor said. Madeline couldn’t believe it.
She expected the vet to say the authorities were on their way or that the ranch lied to her. She didn’t expect this. Her eyes teared, and she hugged Suzy. Could life be any more perfect? But the vet wasn’t done.
One Last Thing…
“One last thing,” the vet said, walking over to Starlight and gliding a small device over her shoulders. “I just need to check her microchip to make sure it’s working.” Madeline’s heart fell.
“Hmmm. It doesn’t seem like she has one,” the vet continued. “Ah, there it is,” he exclaimed as he moved the microchip scanner further down Starlight’s left shoulder. He pulled the information up on the screen.
The vet read the information from the microchip and his eyes grew wide. “This horse is not registered to the farm you bought her from,” he said suspiciously.
Madeline felt her world collapse. “What do you mean?” she said, trying to fight back the tears. “I’m sorry, but I have no choice,” the vet replied, picking up the phone.
It turned out that this horse had been reported stolen a few months back. The Ladner family was shocked when they learned she’d been taken right out of their pasture.
The little girl, Grace, was especially devastated to lose her beloved horse. The vet had no choice but to call the authorities immediately.
The Real Owners
“We were going to get another horse, and I come to load my trailer up. When we came back through, I noticed the horses. They were all at the gate except for that one,” James Ladner told the local news agency in an interview.
James also said that he checked the gate to the pasture, and it was clear that the chain had been tampered with. But what did this mean for Madeline and Suzy?
On Their Way
The vet made the call, and the local Sheriff’s department was on its way to fetch Starlight. Suzy began to cry her eyes out at the terrible news, screaming that they couldn’t take her horse.
Starlight fitted the description of the stolen horse perfectly – and her microchip details were a match. The family was also offering a reward for the return of their horse. But did that mean Madeline was in trouble?
Her Family Arrives
The vet explained that Madeline and her husband weren’t in trouble, but the farm that sold Starlight to them was.
He could see that they had already fallen deeply in love with the horse and was worried that they might take her and run. Just twenty minutes later, the Sheriff, James, and his 10-year-old daughter Grace arrived.
As soon as Grace saw her horse, her eyes lit up. “Shadow, Shadow,” she yelled as she wrapped her little arms around the horse’s neck.
Suzy saw how much the other little girl loved her horse and went very quiet. Madeline’s heart broke as she walked over, but she knew what she had to do.
James quietly told Madeline that he had bought Shadow for Grace two years ago, just a few months after his wife had tragically passed away.
Grace had chosen the horse because she had eyes that reminded her of her mother – bright, blazing blue. She had cried and cried when she was stolen – she didn’t understand how life could take her away, too.
A Huge Problem
In the U.S., an estimated 40,000 horses are stolen every year. They are taken from their owners by strangers looking to make a quick buck, or by opponents in civil and legal suits.
At first, Madeline was prepared to do everything in her power to keep their horse, but seeing Grace made her realize that they had to do the right thing.
Madeline hugged Suzy and spoke gently, explaining how the other little girl also felt about the horse. “If your horse was stolen, how sad would you be?” she asked.
“Imagining not knowing if Starlight was safe and if she was ever coming home? That’s why we have to give her back. She doesn’t belong to us.” Suzy nodded through her tears. But there was a bright side.
James was so grateful that his daughter’s horse had been found he wrote Madeline and Suzy a check for $5,000 right there and then as a “finder’s fee.”
The amount was more than Madeline had paid for the horse! But for James, his daughter’s happiness was priceless. But that wasn’t all the happy dad offered.
James kneeled down and told Suzy that she could come and see Shadow (the horse’s real name) whenever she wanted.
But he could see that Suzy’s heart was still broken. What could he do to make it up to her? She reminded him of his own daughter. So he decided to make Suzy an unbelievable promise.
Knowing that Suzy loved this horse as much as his daughter did, James suddenly got a brilliant idea that would make everyone happy.
Even though Madeline and her daughter could buy a replacement horse with the money he gave them, he decided to do something even better. He placed his hand on Shadow’s flank and said something that made everyone’s mouths fall open.
A Generous Offer
As Shadow was pregnant, James promised that Suzy could have her baby as a replacement. Madeline and Suzy’s eyes widened – they just couldn’t believe the man’s generous offer!
James also assured them that, because the father was also an Arabian horse, the foal would carry all of the characteristics that they had grown to love in Shadow.
A Happy Surprise
Starlight delivered a healthy foal a few months later. Madeline and Suzy were overjoyed. They named the tiny horse Crystal as his eyes were brighter than his mom’s.
For Madeline, moving to the country was for Suzy to grow up in the meaningful world that she had. Everything that came after was a happy surprise.