Betty Gottberg, now 81, has always loved animals — horses, in particular. When a friend offered her a free horse, the Marietta resident’s dream of a lifetime was fulfilled at age 74.

Lawana Smith Higgins of Double S Farm in west Cobb knew a gentleman who was trying to place a Belgian Clydesdale named Hightowers Martini.

“Lawana is dear to me,” Gottberg said. “She knew I wanted a horse all of my life. When her friend’s wife passed away and he wanted to give the horse to a good home, (Lawana) made sure I got that horse. He said he couldn’t put a price on it. He wanted to find a good home for it.”

The gift was life-changing. “I love (Lawana) so much for that. She’s such a wonderful person. Getting that horse has changed my life. I got that horse late in life, but she’s seen to it that I got that horse,” said Gottberg, who grew up in Gainesville, Florida. She and her late husband moved to Georgia to be near family after they retired.

Martini is like the horses used in Budweiser commercials, according to Gottberg. “He’s huge. I bought a ladder to get on him. He’s so big. You have to have one,” said Gottberg, who is 5’4” tall.

Gottberg had never owned a horse before Martini. “My family, some of my uncles had horses. I grew up riding horses. I just have a love for them. I love them so much. I’ve never stopped loving animals,” Gottberg said.

Gottberg grew up in the city. “We didn’t live in a place where I could have a horse. My father said, ‘We’re not moving someplace just so you can have a horse,’” she explained.

Gottberg recalled riding a pony when she was young. “My sister helped me get on that pony and I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world. I’d never forgotten that,” she said. That love endured as she continued to ride through the years.

Martini provides comfort to Gottberg. “I go out and talk to my horse in the morning when I get down. We all get down once in a while. I just go out there and talk to him and I feel so much better when I do,” Gottberg said.

Gottberg cleans and cares for Martini with the help of Higgins, who feeds Martini in the morning. At age 74, Gottberg began showing horses, including Martini, who has garnered a wall full of ribbons. She has shown in Western, English, Halter and Amish two-wheel cart competitions. “I’m still showing, believe it or not,” said Gottberg, whose daughter, Brenda K. Hinson, supports her by attending all the events with her.

Gottberg also channels her love of animals by painting portraits of horses and other animals. “It’s so relaxing. I love to do it. A lot of times I (paint) someone’s animal who’s passed. My heart goes out to them because I know how it feels to lose them. I paint with such heart. Sometimes I have tears in my eyes because I know how it feels,” she said.

“I’m such an active person,” she added. “My animals keep me going. I love them so much. I’m just an animal lover.”

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