NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – When the staff at Rainbow’s End stables heard a loud crack come from their barn’s snow-smothered roof, they knew what was next.
“We heard one snap,” stable owner Sue Shaw said. “And that’s when I looked up and found the rafter that had snapped. We started shoveling, but I had to get the horses out of there.”
Eleven of the therapy horses that work with special needs children were out of the snow that was weighing down the 50-year-old barn’s roof above them. Shaw shrugs off suggestions that she risked her life to save the animals.
“I did risk my life for the horses, but how would I sleep at night if I just let them stay in there?” she said, recalling last week’s collapse. “We heard a snap there, a crack there. The sounds started getting closer and closer to together, and it just went down. My daughter and one of the girls, they immediately started wailing.”
The horses they saved aren’t just any horses. Among the many they help are autistic children. Over her 15 years at Rainbow’s End , Shaw has noticed some magical communication. One story involves a kid, gently grooming a horse, and noticing something most wouldn’t.
“He’s brushing and he’s seriously saying, I’m itchy, I’m really, really itchy,” she said, motioning her hand in a circle the way the child did while brushing the horse. “This horse, three days earlier had hives all over her body. You couldn’t see them though.”
Shaw is positive that the child somehow knew what the horse had felt only days earlier.
“I think part of it is many of the autistic kids are non-verbal, and of course the horse is non-verbal. But they find a way to know what each other is thinking,” Shaw said. “They seem to have this line of communication that I don’t have.”
But over the years, the helpful nature of Shaw and Rainbow’s End has apparently communicated plenty to the local community. When the roof fell down, help came forward, from other stables that volunteered to take in the horses, to people like roofing contractor Paul Badeau.
“She’s all about helping people,” Badeau said. “I wanted to help her.”
He offered, with great persistence according to Shaw, to repair the collapse free of charge.
“It has been nice to see all the generous people come forward, particularly this guy,” Shaw said, referring to Badeau. “He called me and begged me to help work on this barn.”
Badeau points out he’s not alone in helping raise the roof, mentioning that he got a half-price deal on the lumber he’s using from a local Lowes.
“And she does a lot of good,” Badeau said. “So, this is the least we can do.”
But what Shaw did not know at first, was Badeau had a more personal connection to the magical horses at the end of her snow-covered rainbow.
“I have a nephew who has slight Autism,” Badeau said, his tough, gravely voice starting to waiver. “I just thought what she was doing down here was really good. Trying to make people whole again, you know.”
Now, the neighborhood is returning the favor, hoping to bring Shaw’s horses home as soon as possible.