The coronation of the immortal Secretariat… that was the defining moment.
The exact moment every fiber of her being vibrated with her need to have a horse.
When Bonnie Stewart tells her story, you’re instantly transported back to her family’s apartment. You can’t help but cheer her on as the tenacious five-year-old incessantly pleaded, begged, (and in her own words) harassed, her mom. Every. Single. Day. She had to have a horse. And no, it wasn’t just a phase that she was going to outgrow.
Her persistence paid off. It took four years, but Bonnie’s mom finally gave in. Nine-year-old Bonnie could have her horse – as long as it didn’t cost her parents anything.
The ball was in Bonnie’s court. All she had to do was:
Find someone to GIVE her a FREE horse and
Find a place where she could keep that horse, for FREE
No doubt, Bonnie and her mom viewed the deal very differently.
The First Step
Within two weeks, Bonnie managed to hunt down the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend of a family acquaintance. Jackpot! He was overrun with skinny, scrawny, mangy horses that he was desperate to get rid of. All Bonnie had to do was “pick one and come get it.”
Free horse – check!
The Second Step
Peddling like mad, Bonnie took the shortcut to her friend’s house. Rounding the corner she slammed her brakes. A ‘For Rent’ sign peered out of the tall grass. A paddock and three-stall barn stood desolate behind the vacant house...
Bob Jenkins. Bonnie says she’ll always remember his name. He was the man whose phone number was printed on the ‘For Rent’ sign. That towering grass; who was going to rent the house when the lawn looked that unkept? She offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse. If she could keep her horse for free in his barn, she would use her family’s push mower to keep the lawn faithfully mowed.
Free barn – check!
Personally I would’ve loved to have seen the look on Bonnie’s mom’s face when Bonnie announced that not only did she now have a FREE HORSE and but also a FREE PLACE to keep it. It must have been the perfect mix of astonishment and admiration. I know that’s the look I had on my face when Bonnie told me her tale.
This nine-year-old girl did what had to be done:
She found (little) RED – a FREE (albeit skinny, scrawny, mangy) two-year-old, uncut chestnut colt
She’d wrangled the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend’s dad into shipping Red to his new FREE home (well, free, if you don’t count the hours of muscling a push mower)
She then renegotiated the deal with three different tenants over the next three consecutive years
She learned how to care for (little) Red, how and when to feed him, how to clean his stall, how to get rid of his mange, and how to brush his coat till it gleamed.
And she did the near-impossible. By herself, this non-riding, nine-year-old girl broke her (FREE) two-year-old, scrawny, uncut colt. Their partnership took them to local rodeos to race through poles, around barrels, and to their fair share of goat tying.
Yes, she had some help along the way. We all do, don't we?
Bob Jenkins “rented” his barn to a little girl who kept his lawn mowed, Bonnie’s parents bought (little) Red’s hay, and Mr. Duckworth willingly traded bags of feed for buckets of bunnies – a whole other remarkable tale.
Today, Bonnie Stewart has a barn full of horses and daughters who share her passion. As manager of Brazos Valley Equine Hospital’s Navasota clinic, it won’t surprise you to find out that Bonnie’s job description consists of getting stuff done.