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The Horse That Saved My Life

The story of how a horse brought a new meaning of life to a girl who had lost all hope.

There is no bond that compares to one of a horse and their person. Horses may be pretty easygoing and get along with several humans, however, they are known for picking one person and giving their loyalty to the one chosen person.


How it all started


Izzy Yama has had several horses over the years. She may not have had a traditional upbringing in rodeo, but she hardly missed a barrel race. Yama grew up with her old trustee steed Cubby who helped bring her confidence up and who helped her fall in love with the sport of barrel racing. She started running him when she was about 12 years old.

The confidence of the team grew higher and higher. Cubby took Yama through the journey of barrel racing. Though they weren’t winning, Yama didn’t mind. She enjoyed rodeo and just being around the scene. Yama decided to high school rodeo her freshman year. She competed all season long traveling to about sixteen different rodeos all over the state of Utah.

“Rodeoing in Utah is no joke,” she expressed, “it was tough and it was competitive.”

Yama enjoyed running against the tough girls in the state. She had high hopes of finishing out the year strong… until an event she never could have expected occurred.


“He got hurt the week before state finals and I didn’t get to go.”

As if it wasn’t bad enough that he was hurt, she received news that would impact her forever. “We found out it was a career-ending injury.”

Learning that you will never be able to compete on your horse again is one of the most devastating feelings in the world. It feels as if everything you have worked towards gets pulled out from underneath you. It is easy to lose all hope. The easiest solution when everything you have worked is thrown out the window is to give up.

Acquiring Wilbur Instead of giving up, Izzy made an investment.



We found a little horse for $1,700 that had been run on the track. We went and bought him.”

This was Yama’s first introduction to Wilbur. Purchasing a colt requires so much work compared to buying a finished horse that is ready to compete. Wilbur was time worthy project. When Yama became his owner he was only four years old, which left a lot of hours of Yama’s time to invest in the black gelding.




Izzy thought that her life was finally falling back into place. As a sophomore in high school, she had a new horse and found a boyfriend. This was so reassuring after having such a challenging end to her freshman year. Things were starting to look up. However, as soon as they were put back together, things started falling apart.

The Downward Spiral

“Until my senior year I was in a pretty abusive relationship.”

The boyfriend wasn’t the person she thought he was. “He was the type that was very upset if I chose something for me over going to support him.” The relationship continued in a downward spiral. “I gave up countless barrel jackpots to go watch him do his own thing.” When in a relationship like this it seems that people often get the feeling of being trapped. Healthy relationships count on encouragement from one another. You often rely on a partner to encourage your hopes and dreams. This boyfriend was not that rock in Yama’s life. “He was very adamant that me and Wilbur would never work” she expressed. “[He thought] that I sould sell him and buy something that would be competitive.” This was a very hard time for Yama to stay in a positive mindset. She was constantly being fed negative thoughts and started to believe that she wasn’t worthy enough. The fall of her senior year the relationship ended. They were almost together for two years. She gained a hatred for the world and had no purpose left on this Earth… except Wilbur.

“My friends had all left, but for some reason was still there.”

She was training him and loping circles on him every day. As it goes with futurity colts, the team was having some issues.

“I hated him probably just as much as I hated everybody else. But I kept him.”

That was the sole thing she had to live for. Yama had lost all hope. She was very sick, wasn’t eating, and was pretty bedridden.

“He honestly saved my life.” The horse encouraged her to get out of bed every day and eventually they started running the barrel pattern. “That was a pretty special thing for him. It’s even more special that he wins now.”

The Turn Around

As a lot of young horses do, Wilbur stated thinking he knew more than Izzy and the fighting began.

“It was pretty much a constant up and down battle.”




Check out this podcast to hear the ride through the troubles that Yama encountered that almost caused her to give up.





The Result of Never Giving Up Izzy wanted to sell Wilbur and start over. In her mind, it wasn’t worth the fighting anymore. She had struggled for years. But Yama decided to keep her horse and gained a new sense of purpose in her life. Instead of giving up, she signed with Colorado Mesa University Rodeo team. She has continued taking Wilbur down the rodeo road and still competes on him today.

“Wilbur has been my hardest trial and biggest blessing”




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