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The Story of Waylon: A Tale of 2nd Chances, Change, Resiliency, Recovery and Love

By Patrick Dunn

Meet Waylon (on the left); he is an off the track thoroughbred from Louisville, KY. Waylon had a short life as a racehorse but quickly found himself without a purpose and a home. Often racehorses don’t have a use after retirement, and like Waylon, are neglected. I found Waylon living alone with a young lady who could not provide for him. She cried with grief and happiness as we pulled away with the promise of a better life. Waylon was underweight, had poor feet, and needed to be loved back to health. He was a sweet, but anxious boy who was unsure where his next trailer ride would take him.

Rescue horses can be difficult to rehab. It is hard to tell how they will respond to a new owner, and other horses. Well, Waylon didn’t struggle; he showed an immediate gratitude and newfound energy for his loving environment and new friends. From grooming, to walking, to riding; his strong but safe energy is a testament to the resiliency of horses and love.

Soon after the move Waylon met Felipe. Felipe was a rescued draft horse that had a hard life as an Amish workhorse. Waylon and Felipe became best friends immediately and played in the pasture like colts. They never wanted to come into the barn and stayed glued to each other’s side. This happy duo was soon to become an equine therapy power team for years to come.

Over the years, Waylon and Felipe helped hundreds of individuals, groups, families, and couples find their way in their recovery. They powerfully held the space and were very often a large shoulder to cry on. They role played as fathers, brothers, wives, children, victims and even persecutors. They were pushed, brushed, chased, bribed, ridden, and throughout it all they stayed non-judgmental loving partners.

I have been blessed to observe this team over the years empower, embrace, and change people’s lives. To think at one time these magnificent creatures were unwanted is hard to conceive. In the last few years their herd grew and the power team transitioned to act as protectors and mentors to new facilitators and teammates. They welcomed all to the farm with grace, integrity, and safety to create a space for recovery and growth.

Felipe died suddenly last summer. It was a shock to all, especially Waylon. They had been through so much together; Waylon become depressed and isolated. He stood at the gate waiting for a reunion that did not happen. But the sun continued to rise, and although it was hard to accept such a great loss, Waylon and the herd evolved. Waylon’s acceptance of the change allowed him to start to fill the large role of his beloved partner. The show must go on and Waylon’s new role empowered him to create a new paradigm of healing at the farm. Who could have fathomed that such a great loss could generate energy of love, acceptance, and growth.

Today Waylon is still one of the primary co-therapists at JourneyPure at the River. He understands neglect, he emphasizes with grief, and he shows up everyday to be the non-judgmental, loving force to support others on their journey.

In life, things do not always go as planned. There are times when we can resist acceptance because we do not agree with the result of our situation. It is okay to grieve, be sad, and not like the situation you are in. But the sun will rise again, and like Waylon, with faith and purpose the future will brighter than we ever can imagine.

horse by fence
Waylon
horse with tongue out
Felipe
Waylon and Felipe
Waylon and Felipe