Star Lawson has dreamed about owning a horse since she was a child. But her dream didn't come true until four decades later, when she rescued a sick, abandoned horse. Today, she and her husband, Bill Lawson, have rescued and given shelter to more than two-dozen horses at their Maryland farm. Some were starving to death, others were abandoned and several were headed for slaughter. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, taking care of horses is hard work, so the Lawsons have help from many children.
Allie McCollum, 11, visits the Lawsons' farm, Higher Dreams for Horses and Children, twice a week. She takes care of Montana, the 20 year-old chestnut thoroughbred she sponsors.
"When I see Montana, I get so happy," Allie says. "When he is here and I call him, he comes to me. I miss him when I'm at school. He is like my baby."
Over the last two years, McCollum has learned to ride Montana. More importantly, she says, she's learned how to groom her horse, prepare his food and feed him. That's what Hayden Klemanski, 6, does, too. She looks after a horse named Opal.
"She is very nice," she says. "She will listen to you. And she really likes to look at people and she really likes to be friends with them. And she will do a lot of stuff for you."
Hayden's mother Helene Klemanski says her daughter's weekly visits to the farm have taught her about more than just horses.
"She has learned a lot of confidence in herself and being able to do things by herself," Klemanski says. "She is pretty much comes in and gets her horse by herself. The only thing that I do is put the saddle on, because she is a little too short of that at the moment."
Parental involvement is what makes this place a family-oriented farm and keeps it running, according to Star Lawson.
"We've been very, very blessed to have our sponsor families," she says. "It's not just coming and dropping your child. It's coming here and doing something together."
Lawson says every child donates time, effort and a small monthly payment to sponsor a horse.
"We usually have three children to one horse," she says. "That provides [the horse] with the food and the gear. They get their teeth done every year. They get their feet done every 6 to 8 weeks. They get their shots. They get blankets."
The children realize that what they do is saving their horse's life, and, Lawson says, they take pride in that.
"I think it enlightens them that they have a goal in life even at a very, very young age, a goal to fulfill," she explains.
Lawson says taking care of horses at her farm has inspired most of the children to read more about horses and even write about them. Many, she says, have found in these animals true friends and have become more compassionate and responsible. Others have become interested in pursing a career working with animals. That, she says, makes her even happier than the fact that she is living out her childhood dream.