Joseph: The Toughest Pony Who Ever Lived

This is a story about Joseph, the first horse we ever rescued.
In the spring of 1996 I tried my best to rescue a small black pony from the hands of a very unkind person. This pony had been tied to a tree for a year. 

The people who had the pony would not allow him to go elsewhere. There had been many calls to our animal protection agency from concerned neighbors and others. On one occasion the sheriff and the animal protection agency went to this home and were met by a woman with a gun. She was very unstable and unpredictable and had to be treated with careful discernment. This woman was the one who eventually let us bring Joseph home. It was not easy though.

One night we drove by the pony's home and saw this woman hitting him with a whip. He reared and fell over backwards. My heart sunk. I wanted desperately to save him from that life.

I drove past this pony every day on my way to work. He lived along Seven Mile road, just east of the Spokane River. Seeing him stand there day after day with his head hanging down was a continual reminder of how powerless so many are. In this one case alone, he was powerless over his own life and I felt powerless in helping him. My mind became preoccupied with brainstorming ways to get this woman to relinquish this pony.

I hoped that if there were enough pressure placed on her she might be willing to release him from this life of misery. I contacted her and shared with her my interest in 'adopting' this pony. Initially she was agreeable. I felt I might burst with exuberant celebration, but paced myself for the time and preparation for bringing him home.

And then I received a devastating phone call. The week before we were to pick him up I received a call from her telling me that she had changed her mind. This call came on the same night that I had seen him fall to the ground after she had whipped him.

At this point I was feeling especially helpless and hopeless. I hoped and prayed that the pressure put upon her by animal protection would win this pony's freedom. I contacted our animal protection agency to let them know that his feet were long and he was in poor shape. A few days after reporting the pony, I received a call from the woman. Apparently, she had just had her ninth child and she was willing to let the pony come to me. She told me that she just had too much going on, so would let the pony go. My plan to motivate her toward the right decision had worked. I cannot describe in words how utterly overjoyed I was. Pete and I were so happy; we cried tears of relief and happiness.

The woman had called him Black Magic and said he was ten years old. He was shaggy and old. His thin body was disguised by his long coat, which later we learned was due to Cushing's disease. His head hung down as though he had seen it all and was resigned to a life of being tied to a tree. Our veterinarian assessed the pony to be 'ancient' and suffering from lack of nutrition and care. We renamed him Joseph. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce has always been one of my heroes. His dignity, perseverance and honor were values I saw in this little pony.

We brought Joseph home on July 16, 1996 and lead him to one of the pastures. We removed his halter and lead rope and asked that he explore the field. Joseph's skinny little body exploded into a run, a prance, a gallop, a beautiful sight. We learned that Joseph was a Hackney pony. He picked up his feet and moved ever so gracefully with the wind blowing through his thick black mane. Seeing him run brought us feelings of immeasurable reward for his freedom. 

Before long, Joseph was running in the pasture, kicking, bucking and galloping alongside Apple and Jesse, the mares who would become his herd. In these moments Joseph was emancipated from the misery of his former life. In this moment, I felt deep sense of peace.

Within the first month of Joseph coming home to us we were in a wildfire. The fire burned 3,000 acres and 9 homes were destroyed. We were at the end of the path. While we lost 30 acres of trees the animals and buildings were spared. We found ourselves again so grateful that our Joseph was not hurt.  His life had once again been saved.

Joseph became Apple's security blanket. Apple was an old appaloosa mare whose vision was failing. She had always been bossy, yet co-dependent. In her later years her co-dependency grew increasingly strong. She followed Joseph everywhere, to the point of annoyance. On more than one occasion we witnessed Joseph hiding from Apple. She would be pacing and running with her 'Indian shuffle gait' making loud whinny sounds as if to say 'help!! I lost my pony'. Joseph would be standing on the backside of a building, peering around the corner every now and then to see if she was still looking for him. When she would finally find him, she relaxed, but not without pinning her ears back as if to scold him for having been out of her sight.

Joseph lived with us for 14 years, from 1996 to 2010, until he simply got too frail to continue on with quality of life. It was extremely difficult to let this little pony go. He had given so much for so long and now we needed to do the kindest act for him. Our vet came out and humanely euthanized Joseph as we surrounded him with love. He has remained in our hearts and will forever be there.

In honor of this beautiful, little old pony, the horses graze and run in ‘Joseph’s Field’.


  1. Oh how I love to read that Joseph, even after all the abuse he'd been through, shone with such great personality -- hiding from Apple! What a heartwarming image! Not for Apple of course; but the animals are so carefree they can playfully choose with whom to spend their time! You tell the story so well, Kit. I look forward to learning more about the animals -- past and present -- of River's Wish!

    1. It means so much to me that you are a part of making this blog and journey possible. Thank you Mary Pat.


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