APHA
No Fences—Every Horse and Every Horseman has a Story

Family Bonds

Splash overo Paints Fern and Willow demonstrate that maternal instinct can bond mother and daughterand sometimes sisters, too.

By Abigail Boatwright
Photography by Kirstie Marie Photography

On a beautiful spring morning, two flashy Paints gallivant around a lush pasture in Kaufman, Texas. The older of the two is APHA world champion reiner Sheza Beautiful Gun, nicknamed“Willow.” The foal is her daughter, Beautiful Lil Cash, better known as “Fern.” Although Willow’s own life began with a traumatic start, she’s grown up to become an exceptional mother—thanks to owner Cheri Crow Wallis’ loving care—and young Fern reflects her dam’s kind spirit more each day.

Rocky Start, Resilient Recovery

When Cheri glanced into her pasture on a bright May morning in 2010 and saw a tiny overoPaint filly standing by herself, alone, she instantly knew something was wrong. The filly’s dam, Sheza Beauty Too (QH) was nowhere to be seen.

“Willow was just standing by her mother, who was lying dead on the ground,” Cheri said. “It was shortly after Willow had been born, so we think the mare must have had a uterine rupture, but we’re not sure.”

Cheri and her husband, Nick, immediately headed into the grassy field to catch the orphanedfilly, but they had to move cautiously; another Paint mare in the pasture, Willow’s half-sisterSheza Beautiful Chic, was protective of the helpless foal.

“ ‘Beauty’ kept trying to take Willow from us,” Cheri said.

The couple carefully extracted Willow from the herd, bringing her into the barn so they could take better care of the youngster. Their veterinarian—on site to assess Willow’s health—noticed Beauty and her own foal standing near the orphaned filly; he suggested letting Willow nurse with Beauty, since the mare seemed to already accept her.

“We opened the stall door, and Beauty came in and nuzzled Willow,” Cheri recalled. “So,Willow was raised by her half-sister, alongside Beauty’s own foal.”

Despite that early victory, Willow’s future health remained uncertain—orphan foals, after all, sometimes aren’t as robust as those that nurse alongside their dams, and diminutive size can sometimes impact performance abilities down the road.

“You never know if orphans are going to be strong enough or if they’ll ever get big enough,” Cheri said. “But Willow did. She bloomed and was the easiest horse to start under saddle that we’ve ever had. She’s been a dream from the very beginning.”

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This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.

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