One person can make a big difference in the lives of others.

You know that.  You see it every day in your nonprofit.  Today I want to share a story about being on the receiving end of the difference one person makes.

If you’ve followed me for very long, you know I live on a little farm with horses in my backyard.  We LOVE our horses.  They’re part of our family and we spend time with them every day (even if we don’t ride nearly as much as we’d like).

I didn’t have horses growing up, but like most little girls, always dreamed of having my own pony.  Somehow my dream didn’t turn out exactly like I’d planned – I ride an overweight, grouchy Appaloosa named Harley.  Don’t recall that in the dream, but I digress.

Last June, my daughter’s beautiful gray Arabian got sick and died.  It was a gut-wrenching 24 hours watching him pass away, trying everything we could, with nothing helping. It really tore us up.  Even now, all these months later, she and I can get teary-eyed talking about him. He was special and we miss him.

A couple of months ago, she started talking about getting another horse.  And being the beautiful person she is, she wanted to get one from a rescue group if at all possible.  We’re lucky enough to have Horse Haven of Tennessee close to us, and since Kristen and I have both volunteered with them before, it was a logical place to start.

The thing about getting a rescued horse is that you don’t really know what you’re going to get.

You have no idea if the horse has been ridden or beaten or what. We were prepared to invest a little money in training if the right horse came along. The day we visited in November they had just received an emaciated red dun quarter horse from a humane society in the next county.  This horse and 2 others had been taken out of a situation where they’d had no food and little water for quite a while. By the time they were rescued, they were all in very bad shape. This horse was lucky – his two pasture mates didn’t make it.

At Horse Haven, he received great care, lots of food, and plenty of love from the dozens of volunteers who come twice a day to feed and check on the herd.  When we met him in November, we were struck by his gentle spirit. Our only question – was he broke to ride?  We needed a horse that was rideable.  Kristen really wanted one she could practice on and develop her riding skills with. Broke was definitely a requirement!

Turns out, this guy has lots of training under his belt.  He’s very responsive to leg commands (which for you non-horsey people means she can put a little pressure on him with her leg and he’ll respond by moving over or going faster).  We were so excited!!  Last Saturday, we visited Horse Haven and she rode him, but it didn’t go very well.  It was like they were speaking two different languages.  The commands and cues she gave him didn’t seem to mean anything to him and he just did whatever, which was kind of scary for her and me!

We left with Kristen in tears, frustrated with the experience and unsure if this was the right horse.  I hated it – I’d felt a connection with this horse from the moment we met him and was sure we were supposed to bring him home.  Lord knows when this guy had been ridden last and what all he had been through since then.

After lots of discussion and sleeping on it, Kristen wanted to try again to ride him, so yesterday, we gave it one more shot.  And he was perfect!  It was like he knew this was his chance to have a young girl of his own and he didn’t want to miss it.  He moved when she asked him to, he stopped when she asked him to, and the whole time he was as gentle as he could be.

So, later this afternoon, he’ll be coming home to live with us!  And we can’t wait!

What’s the difference one person makes?

Nina Margetson made a big difference when she decided to start Horse Haven of Tennessee many years ago.  She saw a need to step in and take care of abused and neglected horses, so she did.

Sonja Cowsert made a big difference when she decided to hop on this horse on Monday afternoon to see what his deal was. She’s an experienced rider and trainer, and in a matter of minutes, reminded him about working with a rider.

I think that’s what made the difference between Kristen’s experience on Saturday and the one yesterday. Both of these ladies made a difference to this horse, me, and my daughter.  And we’re only one success story they’ve cranked out.  In fact, our horse isn’t the only one going home today.

We’ve witnessed first-hand the difference one person can make.

It’s been awesome being on the receiving end of the dedication of others. I’ve spent so much time on the giving end, that I forgot how wonderful it is to receive. I’m overwhelmed with the gratitude I feel for the folks who work tirelessly at Horse Haven to take care of these animals who can’t speak for themselves. I wish I was a millionaire so I could make a big gift to help them keep up the good work, but I’m not so I can’t. But what I can do is share my story with you to help spread the word about the amazing work they’re doing.

Never doubt that what you do makes a difference. It does.

Oh, and you can learn more about Horse Haven and check out their website at


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  1. Thank you so much Sandy for the great accolades. All of our horses are special and need adopters like you and your daughter. I’ve been with HHT for 5 years and everyone involved with HHT is special…doing what they do. Without our great volunteers and very small staff working in the elements everyday and giving loving care nursing these special horses back to health, the horses would not have a second chance. Can’t forget our great donors!

  2. What a beautiful reminder of how one person really can change the world. As fundraisers, we have been given the gift to be able to really make an impact, but sometimes it is nice to be on the other side of the experience. I’m so excited for you and Kristen, and your new family member.

  3. Sandy, what a fitting post for this special time of year. I think it speaks volumes of your own family as well as you were committed to this particular horse knowing that you could give him a good and loving home. I hope you enjoy many years together! Thank you for personally showing the difference one can make. It’s our choice, right?

  4. I’m sitting here reading this and tearing up as I look across my desk to my new cat, Willow, whom we just adopted from the Animal Rescue League of South Kingstown on Saturday. It was a gamble picking out this one year old, but she’s turned out to be quite loving and loves to be around people. She’s curled up in a box on my desk, starting to fill some of the empty space that our beloved late cat Charlie left in our hearts when he died Thanksgiving weekend.

    And much gratitude to your daughter, Kristen, for her willingness to adopt and to give this guy a second chance.

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