He's a modern day cowboy with a message. Leslie Fender has logged two years and more than 7,000 miles on his four-legged best friend, "Angel," to spread the word that there is hope after a stroke.
Once paralyzed down the right side of his body, an experimental operation changed everything for Fender.
"I had a major stroke ten years ago. And I was the first person to have surgery done with a stent that went from my brain all the way to my carotid artery," he says.
The surgery was successful, giving him a whole new perspective on life that he wants to share with other stroke victims. So he found "Angel," and started training her. Then in April 2012, the pair set off on the journey of a lifetime.
"It changed my life so much that I wanted to do this," Fender said.
They started in Texas, but have traveled all over the country, from Michigan to New York and now back to Florida. We caught up with him in Pinellas Park, where people like Daniel Woodard were surprised to see them.
"That's something you don't see all the time in the city," Woodard said.
Two little boys riding by in an SUV were thrilled to see a horse and get to pet her on the nose. "Angel" is a 9-year-old quarter horse. Fender has had her since she was two and calls her his best friend.
"She's been the best thing I've ever found, or she ever found me, or I ever found her," he said.
They're up at dawn, ride until 5, then Fender pitches a tent while Angel grazes nearby. It's a cowboy's life, under the sky...and the stars. Next stop: Orlando, then Daytona Beach.
Fender says Angel loves the beach, and he loves sharing his experience. Says the cowboy wearing chaps and a hat, "Even if you have a stroke, you get things done, you work good and you work hard, you can do whatever you want to do."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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