As it should go, my daughter, Kristen was having a conversation at the hair salon with Kelly. Kelly is one of those instantly likable people.  She glows with expression and love just surrounds her. Kelly happened to mention that her family wanted to surprise her mother with a ‘bucket list’, last horse ride at Oak Openings Metropark for her 81st birthday in July.  The problem was that the horse people Kelly had talked to wanted Miss Mert to be in a round pen or on a lunge line, or at arm’s length. Shurly an 81-year-old woman that had not ridden in some time needed to be tethered – somehow.  Kelly explained to Kristen that her mother had been an accomplished rider in her time. She kept her horse’s bridle hanging in her house and would never dream of putting it away from sight. Her dream was to ride in the beloved park, she had previously ridden in, one last time.


Kristen knew in a heartbeat that she was meant to talk to Kelly that day. Our horse farm is located right across from Oak Openings and we were privileged to have the honor of Keith’s* horse Satin, at our home along with our horses. Satin was a one of a kind sweet ‘babysitter’ horse that was comfortable and everyone loved and could ride.  It could not have been better, could not have been more coincidental or God-given, Kelly was meant to talk to Kristen.

Plans were made and Miss Mert was going to come to our house for the ride.  We all wondered if Miss Mert still could hold a walk or trot on a horse. Keith, an avid rider,  reassured us that he would be watching closely as he, myself and Miss Mert would ride in the park.  Meanwhile, Kelly’s family would be setting up a surprise birthday smorgasbord with all kinds of food and birthday cake for Miss Mert to come back to after her ride.  All the family would be there as well, Uncles, Aunts, Grandsons and Granddaughters, nieces, and nephews…they would come.


Miss Mert came with a smile on her face bigger than the state of Texas.  She was dressed to ride in her jeans and her navy blue and white checked blouse. When she saw her horse saddled and ready to go, tears streamed down her cheeks. Lots of hugs and thank you’s were exchanged, then she said,”Someone may need to just give me a boost up. I have not done this for a while.”  Keith came to assist and Miss Mert got on her horse like she had been riding routinely. The smile on her face said it all! She was in heaven and ready to ride…she turned her horse and off we went down our driveway to Oak Openings, waving all the way.

Miss Mert needed no assistance. Her balance was superb if we trotted or cantered – she did not waiver.  You could clearly tell she had been quite the rider in her time. I admired her zest and charisma as I stayed behind, Miss Mert took the front lead beside Keith talking the whole way. My heart flooded with joy seeing her ride in the Park.  I felt privileged to witness the actual event. After a time, we turned around to go home. As we came to our driveway, we decided to ride across the front pasture to the back where the barn was. Miss Mert looked at Keith and said: “Let go.” With a little slap of her reigns to the back of the horse, off she went and cantered across the large 12-acre frontage to the back barn.

As we slowed down, she realized her whole family was there to celebrate her 81st birthday.  Once again, tears and hugs and joy surrounded us all. Realizing her family had brought her birthday lunch, she was so very thrilled. The food was grand and the topper was little cupcakes that were decorated to look like horses.  

We ate, brought out the Dr’s buggy and drove her family around the farm with our sweet Haflinger, Wasabi. Soon the food was cleared and slowly family members left one by one as we all said our ‘Goodbyes’.  We all knew Miss Mert had the best birthday anyone could have had. And all of us that attended definitely will never forget how a horse ride was worth more than all the riches in the world.


Miss Mert’s family told us that kept she has kept her bridle hanging in her home ever she stopped riding many years ago. Holding the reigns and being on a horse once again was on her bucket list.  She accomplished her goal and did it very well. Something I’m sure all of us aspire to do one day too!


*Keith West is RAMM’s resident cowboy.  He is locally known for starting and training horses.




  1. Dawn Durell

    July 3, 2018

    Loved this story Debbie! Miss Mert is quite the lovely lady still and I am happy you shared this warm story! Great writing too Debbie!

  2. Kristin Gratz

    July 7, 2018

    After I read this wonderful story about Miss Mert, I couldn’t help but think that we all will be in her shoes one day. I know that I will want my one last ride To be on my bucket list. Horses seem to bring out the magic in us and the confidence. When I ride I know I forget about any problems or worries I have in life for that short amount of time. It’s just me and my horse! I’m sure that’s how she felt and it brought back all her memories from riding!