All her life, Opal Hagerty has had a passion for horses. She grew up in the saddle and owned horses of her own, but age and health forced her to slow down. At 95 years old, it had been decades since Opal had been around horses. She missed the freedom of cantering through an open field and the simple joys of being in the barn. It was no secret that this life-long cowgirl wanted one more ride. Thanks to the Dreams Do Come True program at Cypress Court Retirement Center, Opal finally achieved her bucket-list wish.
Once a Cowgirl, Always a Cowgirl
Opal has lived at Cypress Court since 2011. For the past five years, Cyprus Court Wellness Director Judy Lucous has made it her mission to grant as many dreams as she can. She started the Dreams Do Come True program to help senior residents fulfill important bucket-list wishes. Some people have asked for hot air balloon rides, motorcycle rides, and boat trips. Not everyone knows what they want right away, but Opal has had the same wish for years. She asked for one last trail ride, and that’s exactly what she got.
When Opal’s health started to fail, she was forced to sell her horses and her home. The heartbreaking decision came after an entire lifetime of riding. Opal first started riding in junior high, and it’s also how she met her late husband, Don. Together, Opal and Don shared a beautiful life with three children and multiple horses. Don was a WWII veteran who served at Pearl Harbor. When the war ended, Opal and Don settled down to a life where they could raise their children and ride horses. They retired in 1997 and spent every day together on trail rides. Opal told The San Diego Union-Tribune,
“I have wanted to ride horses all my life. I always found it wonderful sitting up on a horse and being able to look at everything around me. I loved the freedom of it. “
A Wish Come True
Don passed away in 2014 at the age of 92. Opal continued to live at Cyprus Court, but she never had the opportunity to even pet a horse or smell its fur. Mobility issues prevented her from getting back in the saddle, and traveling with an oxygen tank made excursions difficult. That was until Mark and Marika Matson of Temecula Carriage Company heard of her wish. They offered Opal a free horse-drawn carriage ride through the city’s vineyards, and Opal gleefully accepted.
When the big day arrived, Opal dressed like the cowgirl she is in a fringed suede jacket complete with cowboy hat. She greeted the Matsons and their 16-year-old Belgian draft horse named Blossom knowing her wish was about to come true. After caressing Blossom for several minutes, Opal climbed into the Cinderella-style carriage for her hour-long ride through beautiful California scenery. It was everything Opal had wished for.
“It was the most beautiful ride I ever had. I’ll remember it for the rest of whatever life I have left. “