My day started at 5:30 this morning. We were scheduled for a video shoot at 8 a.m. at Oxbow’s East Campus equine facility. This was to be part three of a series of videos introducing DJ – the abandoned horse Tony and Brita and two of the Oxbow students were rehabilitating. Near death when they rescued him, we’d been filming the horse’s progress and talking to the boys about their own journey toward healing. I thought I was prepared for what I was about to see. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
The change in DJ was astonishing. His body was filling out nicely from a diet of protein enriched grain and hay. He’d gained enough strength for his hoofs to be trimmed. His sunburned nose had healed and his coat, once patchy and virtually non-existent, was shiny in the morning light.
That, however, wasn’t the most surprising part of the day. D and J, the two boys responsible for DJ, looked equally as changed. As D explained how the horse’s scars were now almost invisible thanks to the nourishment he was receiving, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the animated young man’s face. Two months ago he had barely two words to say. He seldom made eye contact and spoke softly. Now his soft drawl was quiet, but confident. He handled the horse with ease and the horse responded to D’s petting like a puppy, nudging the boy when he stopped and putting his trusting head on D’s shoulder.
D is going home tomorrow. He’s finished the therapeutic journey he began at Oxbow months ago. And he is a changed young man. In so many ways. As he hugged the horse goodby, and handed J the training rope, I wondered what part of his experience he’d remember most.
“I’m grateful,” he said. I thought there was a catch in his voice. “For these people. This place. For my parents and what they did for me in allowing me to come here. I never realized before they would do anything to help me get better.”
He handed off the rope and headed to the car and a new life. I’m headed to the video edit bay, hoping I can do justice to the story of the rescued boy who has become a strong young man. – By Jennifer Jones, Oxbow Media Specialist
Check the Videos page on Oxbow’s website starting Sept. 15 for updates on the story of DJ.