Ashleigh and Peter (April 11, 2008)

Ashleigh touched our life . . .

Ashleigh is a sweet, brave 10 year old who was born with cystic fibrosis. I got to know Ashleigh when she was just a baby. Her mother, Melody, brought her along when she came to look at a horse I had for sale. They did not buy the horse, but we became friends and got together occasionally over the next few years.

In the summer of 2005 our families met at Coldwater for a week of camping and riding. Ashleigh was 7 years old and very shy... but she loved the horses. Her mom told us how much she wanted to ride. Because of her illness, however, she was too weak to handle any of the ponies they had tried. Even then, Ashleigh's coughing spells were so overwhelming that she lost all strength and could do nothing but cough sometimes as long as a minute. Afterwards, she was so weak that it took real effort for her just to stay astride a horse.

Mutual love: Ashleigh and Wildfire
During our camping trip, we let Ashleigh borrow our horse, Wildfire, a beautiful 28 year old welsh quarter horse cross, who seemed to know exactly what to do. She would stop and stand perfectly still when Ashleigh coughed... she would munch on a few branches or just be content waiting until she got the "go" command from her little friend. Wildfire also had respiratory problems and coughing fits, but her kind rider never got upset. Ashleigh let Wildfire stop and cough, then she would give her a pat, tell her she would be alright, and off they would go.

My children and I watched Ashleigh and Wildfire in amazement. The pony reacted as though she had been trained to deal with handicapped riders, but she hadn't. In fact, she had been donated to a handicapped program several years previously, and came to me because she was too fast for the children to be comfortable! By the time our camping trip was over, Ashleigh and Wildfire were inseparable. My 9 year old son, Abram, and his siblings all agreed that Wildfire needed to go live with Ashleigh.

Ashleigh and Wildfire have since done amazing things. They have herded cows at Kaiser Farm in Alabama, they have ridden the trails at Gulf Island National Seashore, they have swam bareback in their farm pond. And last year, they competed in the PHJA horseshows. They were in every show that took place when Ashleigh was not in the hospital.
Photos here

Cystic fibrosis takes it toll
Unfortunately, Ashleigh was in the hospital quite a bit last year. She has lost a huge amount of her lung capacity and is now is need of a lung transplant. The disease has taken its toll on this little girl and she is unable to do many of the things that we take for granted. She cannot go to school or run around like you and me. She cannot saddle her pony anymore without help... and only on good days can she ride. Her strength is waning, but her spirits are high... she wants to ride on some new trails she's heard about. She loves her pony more than anything.

Ashleigh desperately needs new lungs
It breaks my heart to see her lose out on the things she loves to do. We have considered getting a specially fitted saddle bag made to carry Ashleigh's oxygen bottle so she doesn't have to stop riding. This will help temporarily, but what she really needs is new lungs. The surgery is risky, and very expensive, but the new lungs would be disease free and would give Ashleigh the chance to do the things she loves again.

Together we can help
Please look at the photos
here and read the fund raiser information, and email me or call me if you have any questions. If a few people carry a large burden, it can weigh them down and overwhelm them quickly, but if a great number of people each do a small part, then the burden hardly seems like a burden at all.

Please join me in carrying a small part of this burden so the family is not alone!

Thank you,
850-393-3033 /



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