It’s usually clear why a horse finds his way to our sanctuary – abuse, neglect or injury lead him to our door. Or maybe he’s old and no one else wants him. But every once in awhile a horse comes to us that others would say “doesn’t really need to be here”. Ranger was one of those horses. For although he had been abandoned, confiscated by law enforcement, and subsequently placed in our custody, he was just ten years old, fit and healthy, with no physical or emotional issues.

We could adopt him out or let him live out his life here at Proud Spirit. We chose the latter. Maybe he didn’t need us, but shortly after he arrived we would learn how very much we needed him.

In 2004, six babies arrived at the sanctuary. They all seemed a little lost, with poor social skills and no equine role model to offer discipline and nurturing. Most of the adults in our herd would run them off. But Ranger took them under his wing. He was gentle and kind, but he backed up the rules with a nip on the shoulder or a kick to the rump, and the babies always clustered around him. He helped them become balanced and secure. But that was only the first inkling of Ranger’s powerful intuition.

Rosie and Cracker were two closely bonded mares who Ranger never even looked at. The two mares stayed to themselves, shunning the entire herd. Cracker was 15 years older than Rosie and most likely, we would lose her first. We worried about how Rosie would cope.

That heartbreaking day came this spring. Rosie was beside Cracker when she passed, but she never made a spectacle. She just stood quietly, her head hanging low. They were down in a valley where the herd rarely went. I allowed Rosie time to grieve there in the last place she saw her beloved companion. For four days I continued to check on her, standing close for at least an hour each time, not talking, just gently rubbing her neck. On the fifth day I made her come up to a paddock near the house.

Another week passed and we let Rosie back out, thinking she’d integrate into the herd. But when I opened the gate she stood for just a moment, and then with pounding hooves, ran back to her vigil. I saw her crest the hill, then angle towards the valley. I swallowed a lump of sadness and made a mental note to check on her later.

That afternoon I scanned the herd, hoping Rosie was with them. She wasn’t. I continued to the crest of the hill and easily found her down in the valley. But something remarkable had happened and she wasn’t alone. Ranger had left the herd and was standing beside her. We watched throughout that day and the next as Ranger gently eased Rosie further away from the place where Cracker had died until she was back in the security of the herd.

When a visitor points at the big paint gelding and wants to know, “Why is he here?” I answer, “That’s Ranger. He’s here because we need him.” And I always look out over the pastures at the horses and add, “All of us.”