Updated: 11/11/2013 6:14 PM KSTP.com By: Heidi Enninga
For the Schueler sisters, taking care of the livestock at their farm near Willmar, Minn., early in the morning is a daily routine.
The two have been around horses most of their lives, but 11-year-old Mercedes has a special place in her heart for a 24-year-old gelding named Vibes.
At about 5-feet and 90 pounds, the little girl is dwarfed by the 900-pound animal, but Mercedes said she is surprised the big horse trusts her.
That trust is built by care and companionship, touch and respect. Only when that is established can Mercedes and Vibes go for a ride into the woods.
While a horseback ride through the woods is nothing unusual—it happens frequently in rural Minnesota—the only difference for this pair is that Vibes is completely blind.
"A lot of people, when they have horses like this, just say, well he's blind and good for nothing. Let’s get rid of it," Kristine Schueler, Mercedes' mom said.
The Schueler's never considered giving up on the blind horse. The family knew when they bought Vibes that he had lost the sight in one eye by accident; what they didn't know is that he would soon lose his good eye to cataracts.
"I was kind of worried about if I could ride him anymore," Mercedes said. "I never thought I'd be riding a blind horse."
Mercedes’ soft words of encouragement are enough for this old, wise horse to know he can move confidently forward in the dark. The animal has so much confidence in his young rider that when they come to a log across the trail, Vibes simply steps over the obstacle when his young rider tells him to.
The bond between the old horse and his rider is absolute.
"Other people have tried to ride him, and he's just not comfortable with them," Kristine Schueler said. “He doesn't act the same, and so him and her have amazing trust."
Appropriately, the horse's full name is Positive Vibes.