Eleven-year-old Mary is incredibly passionate about horses. Her aunt owns several horses, which is what first sparked Mary’s interest in them. She loves to play with, groom and feed the beautiful animals, but she wanted to learn how to train them too.
Battling mucolipidosis, a life-threatening neurological condition, Mary is limited in the types of activities she can engage in. However, she remains determined and keeps her spirits high by dreaming about the speed, wind and sunshine of a horseback ride. When asked what her one true wish would be, Mary told Make-A-Wish® that she wanted to be a horse trainer.
Mary’s wish came true in May 2015, when she and her family traveled to Kentucky, the horse capital of the world.
On the first day of her wish trip, Mary and her family celebrated a very special Mother’s Day together watching horse races at the famous Churchill Downs racetrack. The following days in Kentucky were filled with relaxing, quality time together. From the vibrant city to the peaceful country horse farms, Mary's family had the opportunity to explore the best sites of the Bluegrass State.
Mary had her first close interaction with horses and their trainers on Wednesday. After watching some horses' morning workouts and taking a backside tour of Keeneland, Mary visited Maple Crest Farm in Lexington, where she met with professional horse trainers and rode a beautiful black horse named Merlin. Mary got to brush the horse and learned all about horse care and training.
“Seeing her ride the horse was amazing. She is a tough girl, and it was amazing to see her to be able to do that. The smile on her face—we’ll never forget that,” said Mary’s mom.
The next day of Mary’s trip was truly unforgettable. In the morning, Mary visited Split Rock Farm, where she got to meet world-class jumper, Derek Braun. She also got to ride a pure white pony named Max, which she jokingly renamed “Marshmallow.” In the afternoon, Mary went on a tour at the renowned Hagyard Equine Hospital, where she saw ponies, met with veterinarians and learned more about how horses are taken care of. In the evening, Mary and her family went to a Grand Prix at the Kentucky Horse Park. They enjoyed VIP seats and ended the night by handing the ribbon to the winning rider.
The last day of Mary's wish trip brought her back to Louisville for a backside tour of Churchill Downs and another front-row seat at a horse race. Her wish trip had come full circle and had included some incredible sights, people and experiences along the way.
"It's been an unbelievable experience for her," said Mary's mom. "For any child to just have the opportunity to have their dream come true, that's something special. This is something we could have never done for her."
When asked about the best part of her wish trip, Mary said, “I didn’t have a favorite part. It was everything.”
All of Mary’s daily worries were pushed aside as she immersed herself in the equestrian world. The wish trip filled the entire family with an incredible sense of joy and strength, and together they made memories that they will treasure forever.
Reflecting on the experience, Mary’s family was overwhelmed and inspired by the generosity of the Lexington and Louisville communities. “Thank you," said Mary’s dad, “and for anybody who is able to give, go for it.”
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