When Lauren Mullins was 14 years old, two things happened that changed her life. First, her dad signed her up for her first horseback riding lessons with Prestige Equine. The lessons were a birthday present, and she instantly fell in love with the sport. But shortly after starting lessons, Lauren was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her life changed in ways she never imagined, but her love for horses didn’t falter.
Two years later, Lauren is still battling cancer but doesn’t let her health keep her out of the stables. She always dreamed of owning her own horse, and after the Make a Wish Foundation denied her request, her friends and family rallied together to make her dream a reality.
Clarissa Laughlin, Lauren’s trainer, was determined to help. She started brainstorming ideas and talking to other trainers in the area. Her plan was to start a fundraiser to help Lauren buy her own horse, but her friend Cathy Hanson had a better idea.
Hanson met Lauren the year before on a trail lesson. She told iHearthorses, “I was impressed with her [Lauren’s] desire and dedication to learning to ride even while battling cancer.”
When Laughlin expressed how discouraged she was that Lauren couldn’t have a horse of her own, Hanson knew she could help. Twelve years ago, Hanson went to purchase a weanling from a good friend, but the sale had one stipulation. Hanson could only have the weanling if she took another horse, one named Smokin Aroan, as a gift. Hanson agreed, and she went home with both horses.
Smokin Aroan eventually turned into a successful show horse. He won several PCQHA year end titles in Trail and Western Riding, many Circuit Championships, and he also qualified for the AQHA World Show. After all that, Hanson knew he’d be the perfect match for Lauren. She introduced him to Laughlin and Lauren’s parents and decided it was time to pay forward the gift she received so many years ago.
One day at the barn, Hanson and Laughlin presented Lauren with her new horse. Hanson said, “We were all crying. I think she didn’t believe it at first. She came and gave me a hug and I told her that he was her horse and that all she had to do was to love him. She told me she already did. That was the best.”
Smokin Aroan has had a successful career, but it’s not the ribbons or trophies that mean the most to Lauren—it’s the irreplaceable bond between horse and girl that will support Lauren regardless of what the future holds.