Melisa’s story: love of horses keeps spirit high

Melisa Williams is first a horse devotee. Here, she is seen on her patio with one of the cats at her family’s farm home. (Alan Dooley photo)

When you Google the phrase “quiet courage,” the face of Melisa Williams comes up.

Actually, it doesn’t. But it should.

“I remember the accident,” Williams told the Republic-Times Monday afternoon at her home, where she lives with her parents on J Road. “I remember everything,”

On Feb. 10, Williams suffered injuries in a vehicle crash on icy roads in north central Texas.

“I remember rolling down the hill. When we stopped, I became aware I couldn’t move my legs. I knew it was going to be bad then,” she said. “People came immediately to our aid.  I remember being lifted from the truck and placed in an ambulance. And then I was in the hospital.”

The girl driving the truck sustained a shoulder injury.  Another young lady in the passenger seat sustained a broken collar bone. Williams, sitting in the back seat of the Ford Ranger truck, was paralyzed from the waist down.

She was hospitalized for several weeks and returned only recently to Monroe County.  Williams was in her last semester at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Tex., where she was on course to earn a degree in equine science and management.

Horses, after all, have been her first love for years. Homeschooled from second grade on, Williams had developed that passion for horses at her small farm home in rural Monroe County. She took part in the Hoofbeats 4-H Club, which further fueled her love of horses.

She followed that devotion to Ohio at age 18, where she worked for two different trainers.  From there, she moved to Oklahoma, where she continued her close association with horses and their training.

Then it was off to Texas.

“Texas is horse country,” she explained. “Kentucky may be the home of thoroughbreds, but quarter horses are the rule in Texas. That’s where you learn the business.”

By then, Williams was deeply engaged in reining – a performing method some call western dressage.  In this exercise, the horse performs circles and spins in a thrilling movement called a sliding stop.  The horse varies between a lope and gallop, and must appear to be responsive to its rider and precise in execution.

Some who know Williams have accorded her the highest accolade a horse trainer can achieve – she’s a horse whisperer, they say.

“I appreciate that very much,” she said.  “I think that’s a misunderstood term, though.  It doesn’t mean that I can ‘talk’ to horses. To me, it means that I read them well. I understand them and am sensitive to their looks, movements and postures.  I hear and see them well.”

But suddenly, all this is behind her. Now, a young lady who was so active was sitting in a wheelchair outside her home.

“I intended to come home someday,” she said. “But this was a little earlier and in a different way.”

She’s not sure about her plans, but it will involve horses in some way.

“First, I have to get as strong, as mobile and as independent as I can,” Williams said. “I’m supposed to start rehabilitation next week in St. Louis.”

Her college education is on hold, but the school has assured her that she can graduate.

“I’m doing some work online and also by correspondence,” she explained. “I would have graduated in May. It will be next semester now.

“But,” she added, “I will continue to be involved with horses, anyway I can.  I can’t imagine anything else.”

Of the horses she has worked with, perhaps the dearest to her is her mare, Gracie. Coming from a farm in Texas that had a high quality herd, Gracie had fallen on hard times.

“She was thin when I got her,” Williams said of the horse that was at college with her.

Under Melissa’s loving care, though, Gracie has returned to vibrant health.

Gracie is going to follow Williams to Monroe County.  The man she worked for in Oklahoma retrieved her from the college and taken her to his farm.

And Gracie’s not coming home alone. That same trainer who took her under his care until she could head back to Williams has bred her with a famous stallion that does have pages of referrals through Google – really, this time – known as “Whizkey N Diamonds.”

Gracie is 35 days into her 11-month gestation period with what may prove to be a spectacular colt. The normal $15,000 breeding fee has been waived by the famous stallion’s owner.

While Williams was recovering in Texas, local 4-H buddies and others from the community banded together to make things easier for her once she arrived at the family home.

Some 4-H members helped make the Williams horse barn and pasture area accessible to Williams. Rural King donated fencing supplies, and local farmer Dale Haudrich donated limestone for a barn pathway.

The group got together to provide the labor to build these gravel pathways that will enable Williams to get to the horses.

Before therapy starts next week — and before Gracie and her growing foal arrive — there’s another big day slated for Williams. This Friday, there will be a evening for the community to welcome Williams home and support her on the journey ahead. The mouse races fundraiser takes place at Lou & Michelle’s in Waterloo starting at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

“A lot of people have been working awfully hard to make this a success,” Williams said. “I hope it is.”

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