Honesty Reunites Horse with Parents
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Honesty Reunites Horse with Parents
by SBH Clay

On one level, this is a story about two women, Cheryl and Sandi, and a horse named Candy. On another level, it is a story about love outshining despair, hope mastering doubt, the conviction of life outweighing the dread of death, and truth cutting through dishonesty. (To enlarge the photo of Candy when she was two days old, click on the photo or link)

The story starts on April 17, 2003. In the black of night, someone crept into a boarding stable west of Houston, Texas, and stole Candy, a three-year-old Quarter Horse owned by Cheryl and Paul Snyder. Whoever took Candy knew that she had just been moved there from another barn. The thief also knew that she was affectionate and amenable, attributes that made her an easy mark.

Cheryl was overcome by grief when told her beloved mare was gone. She took 10 days off work from Wal-Mart, where she is a tissue-paper stocker, to regain her composure and to mount a massive search. Soon she learned three sad facts: that rustling is a profitable business in horse-happy Texas, that stolen horses are rarely recovered, and that the likely fate of an embezzled equine is the slaughterhouse. There are two such plants a few hundred miles north of Houston.

Fifty days later, I saw the Snyders’ plea for help on a local horse rescue website. It featured photos of Candy, a detailed description of her markings, and a generous reward “for the safe return of our child to us.” The news broke my heart. I wanted to push it out of my mind, to avoid the pain. But I couldn’t bear being a Bad Samaritan. So I e-mailed Cheryl, asking how I could help. That was the start of a regular correspondence and the birth of a friendship based on our shared certainty that Candy would be found – not by luck, but by God, whose love for His entire creation is never-ending.

The Bible was Cheryl’s lifeline. Every morning she found comfort and renewed hope in one of King David’s Psalms. The day we met online, she had already taken to heart Psalm 50’s “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10) “And horses,” she inserted. Five days later, Psalm 55 assured her that if she would but “cast (her) burden upon the Lord,” He would “sustain” her (Psalm 55:22). She did. So He did.

As the weeks wore into months, Cheryl refused to be influenced by the negativity that was starting to swirl around the unsolved case. Some well-intentioned people said that if she hadn’t found her horse by now, she was either dead meat – literally -- or had been spirited too far away to be tracked down. Others let her know it was time to “get” something -- as in “get real,” “get over it,” “get a life,” “get another horse.” Then there were those who shared their own stolen-horse horror stories, none of which had happy endings. Cheryl refuted those comments with “I really do not think the Lord would allow my heart to be completely shattered after bringing Candy into our lives when she was six months old.”

When she purposely looked for evidence of God’s tender love for her family, she found bountiful proof, manifested in the kindly concern expressed by loyal friends and perfect strangers. People offered to post the flyer at their neighborhood stables, in tack stores, and on websites. Many who saw the flyer passed the word along, and promised the Snyders they would keep a sharp eye out. Several individuals called to report possible Candy sightings. One man from Dallas who was “99 percent sure” he had seen her being ridden at a local stable told Cheryl, “If this is your little horse, I don’t want the reward.”

When the sightings came to naught, it was extra hard for Cheryl to keep the faith. At one such low point, I wrote her a “letter from God.” It said, in part, “My daughter, My kingdom is within you. That means you will always find My peace and joy and love – all the qualities that Candy embodies -- when you look for her inside your heart instead of searching only out there. You and Candy live in Me, and because there is only One of Me, you are one with Me and with each other. I have not allowed you to be separated for an instant. I keep intact what I create. I don’t discard any of my creations or allow them to disappear. Nor do I disappoint. Candy is not missing from My sight.”

Around the six-month mark, Cheryl was riddled with guilt for having brought Candy to the new stable for halter training instead of keeping her at the original facility. “I feel like this is all my fault,” she mourned. We dealt with that obstacle by realizing that she had done nothing immoral, sinful, evil – not even foolish or unreasonable. “You did what any caring horse-mom who wants her child to flourish would do,” I encouraged her. “Don’t hurt one of God’s little ones by blaming yourself. Candy doesn’t blame you. Neither does your Maker. The sentence ‘Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error’ (from Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p 568) comes to mind. You and Candy are both innocent – incapable of harming or being harmed. And the guilty party’s error is already being corrected and will be overcome by Truth, a synonym for God. There is no law that says you and Candy must suffer for another’s guilt. You are governed by God’s laws – laws of Life, Truth, and Love, which carry no penalties for right-doing.”

Once over that hurdle, there was another to surmount: the notion that perhaps “I am being overly obsessed with finding Candy,” observed Cheryl. “If this were my two-legged child, I wouldn’t stop searching,” she reasoned. “So why would I search any less for my four-legged child?” We then talked about this being a God-directed, God-sustained mission, designed to bring us all closer to Love and give us super confidence in Love’s supreme power. We acknowledged that if we’re frantic and fearful, we’re letting self-will sway us. We were reminded by Psalm 46 to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Concluded a humbled Cheryl: “I will just make sure I open my eyes and ears more to the Lord.”

That was on November 3, 2003. Exactly three months later, Cheryl announced that she and Paul were moving to the Austin area, to live closer to his job. Though still convinced that “Candy never left the Houston area,” she was nonetheless willing to take this progressive step, even if it meant being farther away from where she felt sure her horse was being kept.

Fast forward another three months, to May 2004. For the first time, Cheryl was suddenly ready to entertain the idea of accepting another horse. Someone in Wyoming who was touched by Cheryl’s story sent photos of a newborn named Charmer, and offered him for only the $300 stud fee. “We are seriously considering having him join our family,” announced an elated Cheryl. “Perhaps we’ll end up with two horses – one to ride, and one to raise. I still have this hope deep in my heart that Candy will be found alive and returned to us, where she belongs.”

The same month, Sandi West entered the story. A single mom living in Houston with three children, ages 23, 17 and 15, Sandi had dreamed for years of owning a horse. She resolved that 2004 would be the year. The purchase would be made with her income tax refund. A glitch held up the refund until May. A few days after the check arrived, Sandi went to watch a farrier shoe several horses at a farm 25 miles north of her home in Houston. The owner of the property, Mr. X, mentioned he had a couple of young horses for sale. As they walked down to the pasture, Sandi had no idea why she had agreed to look, since her heart was set on having a Paint horse and logic told her that novices shouldn’t ride unseasoned equines. But the minute she saw the “gorgeous coloring and conformation” of Tweetie, she was smitten. The next day, Sandi returned with the $700 purchase price. She agreed to board Tweetie at Mr. X’s for a modest monthly fee.

For the next five weeks, Sandi drove the 50-mile round-trip daily to see her new best buddy, renamed Sweetie. She groomed her, fed her carrots, and rode her in the neighborhood. Being thrown several times didn’t phase Sandi, nor did the stomach bruises she endured from the saddle horn when Sweetie reared. Her friends asked why she didn’t “get rid of” the horse and buy a mature one. Sandi refused. She loved Sweetie, and envisioned getting past the bucking stage to enjoy a long-term relationship.

Mr. X introduced Sandi to a feed store up the road apiece, in Porter. One day in late June, when her 17-year-old, Clayton, was building a stall for Sweetie, Mr. X told Clayton that he’d seen a stolen-horse flyer at the feed store with Sweetie’s “twin” on it. The next day, Sandi and Clayton drove to the store, asked for the flyer, brought it back to the pasture, and held it next to Sweetie. A tearful Sandi then called the Snyders. Paul answered. “I think I’m looking at your horse,” she bawled into the phone.

Bill Parker, the Snyders’ private investigator, arranged to meet Sandi at the property two days later. He and Sandi washed the mud off Sweetie’s hooves and discovered the scar on the left front leg. At that, Parker called the sheriff’s department. Two deputies brought Candy / Tweetie / Sweetie to a barn, where she would be kept until the court date on July 8. (To enlarge the photo of Candy, a tired horse, click on the photo or link)

At the courthouse, Cheryl and Sandi met. They hugged. They cried. They sat side by side, often turning to look into each other’s tear-filled eyes. They publicly acknowledged that God had propelled Sandi to meet Candy. They agreed that the seemingly impossible had become possible because they had allowed Him to guide their thoughts and govern their actions. (To enlarge the photo of a Candy-Cane horse Christmas, click on the photo or link)

Though calling Sweetie’s rightful owners was tough, Sandi had no second thoughts then, nor does she have any regrets now. “Honesty was never a choice. It was instilled in me. I have instilled it in my children. A lot of people make fun of me for being so honest and trusting. That’s just the way I am.”

This happily-ever-after tale proves that honesty and love are always intertwined, are equally unselfish, and are actually inherent in everyone. The horse thief may not have displayed these traits – but only because he hasn’t yet recognized they are built into him. (To enlarge the photo of Candy and Cheryl, click on the photo or link)

When I showed the following quote (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 228, by Mary Baker Eddy) to Cheryl, she agreed it is a fitting tribute to Sandi and a fine ending to this story: “We should look with pitying eye on the momentary success of all villainies, on mad ambition and low revenge. This will bring us also to look on a kind, true, and just person, faithful to conscience and honest beyond reproach, as the only suitable fabric out of which to weave an existence fit for earth and heaven.”


Candy

Candy and Paul

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