RICHMOND, Texas -- Two sisters will compete and perform at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this week thanks to a horse helping them both recover from a tragedy still impacting scores of families in Katy.
In December 2014, two teenagers died in a rollover crash. Several students were in the bed of a pickup truck leaving a late-night bonfire. The truck flipped. Terra Kubala, 16, and Trent Weber, 17, were killed. Weber was Amanda Loving's first boyfriend back in the 8th grade.
"No one stops thinking about it. No one," said Amanda of her friends still grieving the loss.
But the trauma proved even worse for her younger sister, Maya.
"When people my age started dying, it was just, like, unreal to me," said Maya, now a Katy 10th grader.
That realization of mortality brought panic attacks, depression and intense anxiety.
"I think the core of it was realizing that young people can pass away and that accidents happen and you're not safe," said the girls' mother, Patty Loving.
The family needed a solution, and they found it in a stable.
His name is Romeo. He's a 12-year-old cream-and-brown-colored paint.
Equine therapy worked and has, over time, made Maya forget most of her worries.
"I wouldn't be thinking about anything but riding. I would be focused. Like I could breathe. No anxiety, no depression. I just felt like safe," Maya said.
"I've seen a wonderful difference. In both my girls, yes," her mom said.
"I've gotten a lot better," Maya added.
So much better that this week, she and Romeo will compete at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Western and English saddle competitions.
And the calm, reserved horse has had so much of an impact on Amanda as well that she will be performing at the rodeo on the Stars over Texas Stage as lead singer in a band with her father.
One of the songs in their set is about the horse that is helping change all of their lives.
"Romeo did you come to show the way?" Amanda sings in the chorus of her song. "Can you help her make it through another day? Come and run beside me, in a field without your pain."
"I hope people get just a sense of perspective and how life is short. Just to cherish everything while you have it. And just keep pushing through the hard times," Amanda said.
Hard times that continue for grieving families and friends in Katy. But for two sisters at least, the path to moving on starts with a horse -- a horse maybe helping lead them to a better day.