Kirby, aka Kirb, Kirbs, The Kirbmeister, came to Cindy Prince in September 2013. He had been bought at an auction as a long yearling a year or so prior by a rescue who outbid the killbuyer for him. He was then "traded" to another rescue and at some point in time, Kirby had "a trailer accident" in which he punctured the cornea of his left eye which was then surgically removed. As winter was approaching in 2013, the rescue needed to rehome a few horses and ultimately closed its doors. Cindy came across this photo and his story on September 6, 2013. "Who", she asked herself "is going to take in a very young, one-eyed Arabian?" Well, the answer of course was "Me!" And with that, she made plans to pick him up in two days.
On the evening before they were to set out to pick him up, Cindy dislocated her left kneecap while dancing at a wedding reception. They arrived home from the hospital with her leg in an immobilizer and crutches under each arm around 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning. They were to be on the road by 8:00 a.m. and there was brief talk of postponing the trip. However, with Nate and her friend Jennie coming along, they saw no reason to delay. They picked up Kirby and Jennie's first horse, Max, and headed back home. Cindy spent as much time and did as much with him as her crutches would allow, but there was not much she could do. She was also right in the middle of studying for the Baby Bar Exam and working full-time. However, by the middle of that week, just being on her feet for more than a few seconds began to cause excruciating pain in her left calf. The only relief she could get was to sit or lay with her foot raised up. A few short days later, the pain became too much to bear. The hospital discovered that she had a DVT (blood clot) in her left calf and believed it to be caused by the immobilizer. She was instructed to stay off of her feet as much as possible until the medication could clear the clot and the immobilizer could be removed. Thus began the days of watching Kirby from afar.
When she was finally able to spend time with him, she adored his quirky, goofy, no-sense-of-personal-space self. He was lovable and affectionate and seemed completely unaffected by having only one eye. He was eventually moved over to the barn with the rest of the unwanted equines they had and everything was going along great. Cindy took the Baby Bar Exam in mid-October and hoped and prayed that she had passed while dreaming of the future.
By December, a routine physical showed a potential problem. Her doctor assured her that she felt it was just tissue, but ordered a biopsy "just to be sure." On December 18, she received word that she had passed the Baby Bar Exam. And on December 30, she received word that she had Stage 2 breast cancer. Her world came crashing down around her and there it stayed for the next few months.
The treatment was a nightmare in itself. The chemo-induced depressed immune system gave rise to other ailments. Cindy spent days on end barely able to function or even stay awake due to pain medications. Sleep was dreamless and the days and weeks and months blurred together, but in the end, all she could think about was Kirby. What had she done? She should never have brought him home when she can't even care for herself, much less him. Why did this happen? Does he even know who I am? Questions upon questions she asked herself, but not one question about law school entered her head. That didn't matter. Kirby did. In the past, she had mused about starting a rescue some day, but that was nothing more than whimsical thoughts in reality. Career. Money. Fancy car. Latest fashions. Pedicures. Manicures. Hairstyles. That is what life is supposed to be about, right? So, with the enormous expense of a rescue with zero income to come out of it, that was just something that would happen when she won the lottery, though she never played. But, cancer, Kirby, changed all that.
It took some convincing, but her husband Nate, finally agreed. And in August 2014, shortly before radiation began, Pony Tales officially opened its doors and obtained 501(c)(3) status. We started small with just two official rescues that October, but by the spring of 2016, we were caring for more than 30 horses, donkeys, and ponies. The donations are always few and far between and Nate worked and still works extra hard and tirelessly to ensure that the horses (and his family) will be cared for. It was then that Cindy began to pursue dressage in the little bit of free time she had. She took a few lessons from an amazing coach and trainer, but Kirby had blossomed the previous winter and was ready to go under saddle. His beautiful Arabian moves would fit right into the dressage arena and the trainer was willing to take him on, one-eye, Arabian, and all.
Over the next year, Kirby had his ups and downs in training. He was always such a good boy and never offered to buck or rear or anything. His missing eye caused him some balance issues, so picking up the right-lead canter was difficult for him and took several months to achieve, but he got it! He loved being a fancy stable pony and everyone adored him. They mused about entering shows in the spring of 2017 and how he would be a judge's favorite because he was just so Kirby. He loved his stall and his turnout buddy and the work muscled him up to where he was almost unrecognizable as the goofy, gangly little guy he once was. Once again, everything was going great.
By spring though, time and finances had put any sort of showing on the back burner and the days melted away one by one. Kirby began to have minor instances when in training, but then the next day, he would behave perfectly. We talked of bringing him home and just letting him chill in the pasture for a few months, but by July, he seemed to have gotten over whatever it was that may have been bothering him. On July 12, everything changed. He was not himself. He was foaming at the mouth, shivering, "sucking" on his hay. The vet was called, but he would not let anyone near him to evaluate. He seemed to improve over the night, but by later in the day on the 13th, he was getting worse. He was loaded up and taken to Stillwater Equine Hospital where he spent the next few days. All blood work came back normal, but over the weekend they seemed to find a treatment that was working. He was able to return home that Monday and seemed to be himself again, though he had to continue on his meds.
By Wednesday, he was gone. One vet was present when he passed while another was on the phone. It was a horrible experience that none of us will ever forget. The necropsy came up empty. All we are left with are memories of the happiness he gave us and heartbreak with no solace to be found in an answer. We have no answers, only questions: What happened to him? How did it happen? What could we have done? Why him? And finally, Why did this happen? To that question, we think we may have an answer...
Kirby came here for a reason. His presence helped Cindy through the worst time of her life and put her on the path she is meant to be on. Without Kirby, Pony Tales wouldn't exist today. He is the inspiration behind it all. While we wish he could still be here with us physically, he is and will be here forever in spirit. In the walls. In the pastures. In every joy we experience. In every heartbreak we suffer. In our hearts. And in the souls of every horse that enters our gates. Forever. He is the heart and soul of this organization and that is why he came here. Cute, quirky, goofy, sweet, lovable Kirby, set into motion this amazing, difficult ride we are on right now. Him being here has led to dozens of equines being saved and finding their forever homes during his lifetime alone that was cut way too short.To honor his life and his spirit, learn how to become one of Kirby's Crusaders and help us carry on his legacy. Forever and always, Kirby. We love you.