November 19, 2001
Leah's rhinestone romance
by Adele Noetzelman
No one can deny that there's a special bond between a girl and her horse. For 14-year-old Leah Miller and her paint mare, Rhinestone Romance, that bond has been tried and tested. Recently, the two friends came close to parting forever when Romance suffered a life-threatening illness and required emergency surgery.
Early on a recent Friday evening, Leah, a freshman at Monroe Junior High School, settled Romance into a stall at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe. With Leah's 4H club, Moondust Equestrians, the two were scheduled to perform Saturday and Sunday at the Snohomish County 4H fall horse show.
As the evening wore on, Romance began to show signs of colic, which is symptomatic of various digestive and intestinal ailments. A veterinarian's examination revealed that Romance was indeed very ill, and the horse was taken home to her stall at Moné Farms in Woodinville. There she was treated and watched carefully for the next 24 hours with Leah at her side.
On Saturday night, the veterinarian determined that Romance had an impaction in her large intestine, which would lead to her death if it were not surgically removed. Although Leah's family was unable to pay the $6-8,000 surgery fee, a friend offered to cover the cost temporarily, while others vowed to help repay that loan by taking up a collection.
Romance was taken to a veterinary hospital where major surgery was performed. She came through the procedure extremely well and is now recovering at home in Woodinville much to the delight of Leah.
Leah and Romance first met when both were two years old. Leah's mother, Moné Farms owner Danielle Miller, was asked to begin training Romance.
The young horse was brought to the stable and the two youngsters became acquainted. Danielle taught Leah to ride a pony at about the same time.
The toddler was soon winning lead line classes at local horse shows. Leah rode her pony, Taji, for eight years, until she was too tall to ride him and he was partially blinded by glaucoma. Her mother purchased Romance and surprised Leah on her 10th birthday with the ribbon-bedecked mare.
For the past four years, Leah and Romance have worked together as a team. They show in Western, English, jumping, and Western games classes, earning bronze, silver and gold medals in 4H competitions.
In August, Leah was hired to show a Pony of the Americas stallion in the Regional/World POA Show in Albany, Ore., where she placed third overall. The dedicated young horsewoman took Romance with her in order to prepare for the Evergreen State Fair which would follow in Monroe. In September the pair performed in the state 4H championship in Puyallup.
An active member of Moondust Equestrians 4H club for many years, Leah is currently the club president. She willingly helps new and younger club members learn horsemanship skills.
At Moné Farms, Leah teaches children's riding lessons, trains horses, helps with summer day camp and assists her mother's riding students with problem horses and skill development.
Friends of Leah and Romance are collecting donations to help with the cost of the surgery.
Contributions may be sent to Moné Farms, c/o Adele Noetzelman, 1325 Suncrest Drive, Snohomish, WA 98290.
Checks should be made payable to Moné Farms, with notation "Romance Surgery Fund" at bottom of check. For more information, call (425) 345-5727.
Adele Noetzelman is the assistant leader of the Moondust Equestians 4-H Club.