Vicky and Salaam

Vicky Beelik rises early each morning to drive out to the Billiwhack Ranch in Santa Paula, California, where she boards her white Egyptian Arabian, Salaam. Vicky was diagnosed with epilepsy last year and was hospitalized for 10 days. Her doctors told her that she should never ride again because it was too dangerous for her to be on a horse with her condition. However, this was not about to stop Vicky from riding.

Salaam is not Vicky’s first equine friend. Her first horse, Ice, was her spirit animal. They were connected in a way that not even Vicky can explain. After Ice passed away, Vicky  was devastated and didn’t believe she would ever find another horse like him, so she stopped looking for one.

“He found me,” Vicky stated as she described the day she brought Salaam home with her. It was an immediate connection, much like the one with Ice, and she knew right away that Salaam had to be hers. Because of their incredible bond, Salaam was able to help Vicky during her healing and gave her the motivation to ride again.

Vicky and Salaam train every day by going on walks, runs, hikes, or simply by doing exercises in the arenas at the ranch. Salaam is unlike most Arabian horses in that he is very mild tempered. He puts complete trust in Vicky to guide him on the right path, and in return, Vicky trusts Salaam to take care of her if ever she can’t take care of herself.

There were situations during her illness where she was unaware of what was happening around her. Salaam sensed that and stood completely still until he felt that she was ready to continue. Their bond is unexplainable and one that has blessed Vicky.

Despite a near-death condition during her hospitalization, Vicky and Salaam continue to train together. They compete in Endurance Races that are 50+ miles and have to be completed within a certain time in order to place. The endurance races come with two parts. The first part is run on horseback and the second part is run by the rider on foot alongside the horse. These trails are not flat or smooth, but are rocky and uneven inclines and declines over miles and miles. It’s no surprise how Endurance Racing got its name.

Vicky feels that the races aren’t about winning. It’s about finishing and being proud of your body for accomplishing such an intense activity.

Last week, Vicky loaded up Salaam in her trailer and drove down to San Diego where they were finally ready to compete in their first Tevis Cup Race since the hospitalization. However, during the 12th mile of the race, Salaam took a fall and the onsite vet declared him lame. Vicky was devastated.

They returned home and now instead of working on Vicky’s recovery, they will work together to heal Salaam with therapy so they can continue their rides not only as horse and rider, but as friends.