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Zest for life gives Prince George horse a chance to thrive despite physical challenges

Milton the horse was born with wobbly knees but despite the physical challenges his owner saved his life and now Dustie Hall has written a children's book that tells the story.

He was supposed to be put down because his legs didn’t work.

At least that’s what several veterinarians suggested after assessing the tiny, knock-kneed foal.

After seeing the little horse’s zest for life, though, owner Nicole Klassen just couldn’t do it.

She knew there was a better way to work through Milton’s physical challenges. Now the story of Miracle Milton has been laid out on the pages of an illustrated children’s book by Prince George author Dustie Hall to inspire anyone who might not quite fit into the world.

Milton was born early and that meant his legs were not fully formed.

“I’ve seen a lot of foals who have had issues and they go to first try to stand up and they give up and you have to encourage them to keep trying and Milton was never like that,” Klassen said. “It was like ‘I am super crooked but I am going to get up and nurse and nothing is stopping me’ – so he was just a real card right from the start. He just always had this incredible zest for whatever you were going to throw at him. He didn’t act like a disabled horse – he was into everything, so curious, he just wanted to do everything you wanted him to do – he was always playing with the water hose, always playing with a string, ‘oh, I’ll go play with this ball’ and he just wouldn’t give up.”

It was at the two-month mark that Klassen, who had consulted with several horse professionals, got word from yet another surgeon that the surgery to repair Milton’s legs would probably do little to improve his gait. With a heavy heart, Klassen made the appointment to have him put down.

Klassen asked a photographer friend to come out to take photos of the ill-fated foal so she’d at least have some images to look back on. When Milton was released into the pasture and he kicked up his little legs and ran around like the joyful soul he is, Klassen reconsidered Milton’s options.

Could she help heal Milton’s crushed knees?

Through some traditional and not-so-traditional medicines and alternative therapies, Klassen said, she was happy to see the physical transformation of Miracle Milton, whose sparkly, spirited personality is now matched with a near-healthy body of her five-year-old horse.

As with humans and animals alike there are ups and downs in life and Milton was in a slump about a year ago.  

“I honestly had no plans of riding him,” Klassen said. “I thought maybe he’d be a good equine assisted learning horse or a good therapy horse because he’s very, very personable and I have so many pictures of him playing dress up for occasions like Halloween and Valentine’s Day but last spring he actually started getting depressed on me – I was taking one of his pasture-mates out for training and he would look at me like ‘why aren’t you taking me out?’ and he would stand at the gate and look at me like it was never his turn and then he started getting a little stand-offish which is not his personality at all.”

Klassen wondered how it would be to get him ready to ride all the while being well aware of his vulnerable knees.

“By the time I got on him he would look at me like ‘it’s about time,’” Klassen said.

She rode him for months last summer and fall and ended up taking him up Bell Mountain, east of Prince George.

“We took a six-hour trail ride and he didn’t miss a beat and we got back to the trailer and he was ready to do it all over again,” Klassen laughed.

To have the illustrated children’s book published about Miracle Milton and His Magic Legs was something that’s very emotional for Klassen, she said.

“I am really, really touched that Dustie wrote this book,” Klassen said. “The first time I read it I cried and even reading the back of the book makes me cry, too, because this is so touching that his story now gets to be out there.”

Hall has always wanted to be a children’s book author and had this idea to write about her friend Nicole's horse, Milton.

“I watched his story unfold and Nicole would tell me about how this kid was such a goofball,” Hall said. “He was just so happy and had such a spice for life and he didn’t care if he had crooked knees and he just proved everybody wrong so he really truly is a miracle.”

Hall said she knows that sometimes children get discouraged in life – adults, as well – and perhaps to read about Milton’s challenges, about his tenacity and attitude, might inspire people to look at their abilities and challenges and be inspired to keep trying and doing.

As it is for everyone, life gets in the way and with challenges and setbacks to contend with, Hall finally found the right time to publish the book.

The struggle was finding the right artist to illustrate the book to capture the spirit and personality of Miracle Milton.

After years of trying and failing to coordinate with local artists, Hall turned to the self-publishing firm, FriesenPress, who offered up several artists, and it was an illustrator from B.C., JE. Corbett, who was the perfect match to bring Miracle Milton to life on the pages of Hall’s first children’s book.

“The illustrations in this book are second to none,” Hall said. “They are so much fun and so vibrant and so exciting. When I saw it all come together I knew it was finally going to happen. I got pretty excited, followed all the steps and put it all together.”

This book isn't the end of Hall’s Miracle Milton stories.

“There are more stories to tell as we follow his journey,” Hall said. “They are all about the power of positivity. So I am thinking of writing a mini-series. Once I had this one in my hand I thought the sky’s the limit.”

Those interested in the book can reach out to Hall directly for more information or to make a purchase at [email protected].

Hall will host her first book launch for Miracle Milton and His Magic Legs on Friday, July 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Books and Co., 1685 Third Ave. Everyone is welcome to attend.