“I leaned against my horse, Hotrod, for support, my head pressed into his neck. Hotrod was a muscular, chestnut Quarter Horse with a chiseled head and a mischievous eye.

It was a July day, the sun was bearing down, and I had just slid out of the saddle after a trail ride. My helmet was loose—most of my hair was gone. My blood pressure was low, a side effect of chemo. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Without Hotrod supporting me, I’d be on the ground. As if he knew my precarious state, Hotrod stood motionless until I gathered the strength to walk to the barn.

That summer I battled cancer. Friends brought meals. My family took care of me. Hotrod gave me courage. I had a routine. The day before chemo, I’d take Hotrod out for a trail ride. Before the first chemo, feeling invincible, we galloped across hills, the wind whipping his mane. Three chemo infusions later, losing all pretense of invincibility, it took all my strength to saddle Hotrod. Hotrod sensed I was sick. The exuberant, powerful horse was uncharacteristically docile that summer. He was my guardian, my steed, my strength, my hero. He carried me across the battlegrounds of cancer.

Today, seven years later we share a secret. Once, I was afraid and Hotrod shared his courage with me.” —Anne S.

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