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Woman takes a Chance on lifelong dream

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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – One of Lezley Small’s favorite memories while growing up in Duluth, Minn. is of a plastic cowgirl her mom used to put on her birthday cake every year.

It wasn’t so much the cowgirl image that Small aspired to, but a cowgirl’s best friend.

“My earliest memory as a child was of wanting to share my life with a special horse,” Small said. “This was always in my heart, never forgotten.”



But, growing up in the city and later entering a demanding career teaching special needs children and adults, it just wasn’t possible.

So, she put her dream of owning a horse aside.



That was until two years ago when she read the self-help book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, which inspired her to chase her dream again.

“I had lived in the city all my life, had no experience with horses, little finances and no place to keep one,” said Small, now 54, who has spent the past 11 years in Colorado, mostly in Glenwood Springs.

“Those were all the negatives, but ‘The Secret’ asks, ‘OK, what can you do?'” she said. “So, I made a three-page list of what I could do.”

From there, the doors and windows of opportunity started opening, and this past summer Small become the owner of, ironically enough, a horse named “Chance.”

“I was so excited, and I still am, just like a kid at Christmas,” she said. “I just can’t believe it all happened the way it did.”

After her revelation, Small set out to meet some of the old-timer cowboys of the valley, hung out with a farrier and went on one of the BLM’s wild horse roundups.

Eventually, she was put in touch with an organization called Mountain Valley Horse Rescue in Eagle, where she volunteered her time to help out while looking for her dream horse. While there, she helped take care of a pregnant mare and was on hand to witness the birth of a foal named “Tanner.”

“I call him my nephew,” Small said. “I’d never had an experience like that. I felt so at home with those people up on that ranch,” she said.

It was on April 4 of this year that she had her “Chance” meeting.

Chance is a 19-year-old wild mustang from Nevada. He was taken from the wild at age four, and had been a pack horse for several years. But he had to be rescued again about a year ago, after he was left abandoned on 60 acres, Small explained.

“Chance had turned down several other people,” she said. “The minute I saw him, I fell in love.”

Her husband, Robert Small, was also instrumental in encouraging her to realize her dream, she said.

“He is my inspiration, and has supported me 100 percent,” she said of Robert, who is disabled and has relied on Lezley as his primary caregiver for the past seven years. “When [Chance] came around the corner, my husband saw the look on my face and said, ‘he’s the one for you.'”

The staff at Mountain Valley Horse Rescue (MVHR) also noticed something different between Small and Chance that hadn’t been there for others who’d considered adopting him.

“Mustangs are typically one-owner horses, so it takes time to develop a relationship,” said Alicia Morris, president of MVHR. “Lezley spent a lot of time under supervision trying to bond with him.”

Morris said the ranch usually only takes on three or four mustangs per year, since they take a different type of training before they can be adopted out.

“Lezley was completely committed to what she was doing,” she said. “We were thrilled with the relationship they developed.”

Once she’d found her dream horse, Small said a number of “earthly angels” helped complete the process when she brought Chance home to Glenwood Springs in June.

She found a ranch near town that was willing to board Chance for free during the summer.

“It was a miracle,” she said. “They were just so thankful that they could share in God’s bounty with me.”

For the winter, Small was offered a pasture near her West Glenwood home by a woman with whom she works at Valley View Hospital. Small is one of the valets at VVH.

“I really think it’s important to remember all of God’s creatures this time of year, there are so many in need of help,” she said, praising animal rescue organizations like MVHR and others locally.

She and Robert also have a pet dog and a pet bird that were also rescue animals.

“There were some rough times and low spots,” Small said of her horse journey. “I never gave up, because I knew it was meant to be.

“I know I can also learn from Chance, too, if I’m patient,” she said.

Like the time they were out in the pasture together when his halter came off and she was unsure how to put it back on.

“He just let out a sigh and shoved his head through the right hole,” she said.

For more about MVHR and its work, visit http://www.mvhr.net.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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