Tuesday, April 16, 2013 • Blind pony to offer inspiration to children without sight

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, April 16, 2013 edition of the Lassen County Times.

When Gino Fleming’s prized Arabian, Star, gave birth, Tuesday, April 2, the foal, which Fleming called the golden cross, was perfect in every way except one. She was born without eyes.

While many horse owners might be discouraged, Fleming calls Stormy a “miracle” and considers the pony “a gift from Jehovah.”

He and grandchildren, Katie and Ryan, have christened the colt Stormy, and Fleming plans to teach her to pull a cart and give rides to blind children. He said he hopes Stormy will serve as an inspiration that it doesn’t matter if you’re blind — everyone still has a purpose in life.

Gino Fleming plans to keep Stormy and her mother, Star, together. Stormy is four days old in this picture.

“She has no eyeballs,” said Fleming, “but she’ll find her way around. She has instincts just like we have instincts.”

He described how Stormy would run in very small circles, and how she always found her way to the water trough.

“She must sense or smell the water,” he said.

As if on cue, Stormy ambled over to the trough and Ryan cupped his hands and let her drink from them.

“That trust is something you don’t usually see in a colt this young,” said Fleming. “She’ll also come up to be petted. She loves to be around humans.”

Fleming has been raising Arabians for a while.

Ryan Hinkson, left, and his sister Katie stand with Stormy, the blind pony and her mother, Star.

He used to raise appaloosas and Quarter horses, but said, “When I got Arabians, it was like going from a Honda to a Harley. They’re amazing horses.”

Fleming also empathizes with Stormy.

“I have compassion for her because I was almost the same way,” he said.

As a child in Chicago, Illinios, Fleming was in and out of foster homes and orphanages. At the age of 12 he ran away from his last foster home and hitchhiked around the country.

That was a long time ago, but Fleming said, “Some people, it takes a lifetime to get over their childhoods.”

He said it took him most of his life to get over his. He credits his success to his Jehovah Witness faith and the love of a good woman, his wife, Laura, who passed away last year.

Although Fleming loves his ranch in Doyle, he plans to move to Reno soon where he will find a place to board Star and Stormy.

He worries about what will happen to the ranch.

Gino Fleming hopes to teach Stormy to pull a cart like this one and give rides to blind children.

“I believe land is a gift, something to be used, not go back to the desert.”

Looking over the corrals and the field where alfalfa once grew he said, “I’ve looked for this all my life, and now I have to leave it.”

Nevertheless, he maintains a positive outlook and feels Stormy will be able to fulfill her mission better in Reno anyway.

“It would be nice to go to fairs and give blind kids a ride,” he said.

They can use him as an example — a blind pony but he’s still useful, Fleming asserted. This way children can know they also have a use regardless of their disability.