We are a part of our new community here in the catskills, and altho’ many of our horses have travelled a distance to arrive, some are from very close by.
Several months ago, I met Ace, by accident. My trainer called to see if I wouldn’t mind being an extra set of hands for a training session with a tennessee walker that he was getting ready to ride. Thrilled, I went along, to a nearby farm, and was introduced to a big young black horse, beautiful, finely chiseled features and nice proportions. What really appealed to me was his energy, that youthful combination of interest and involvement and yes, a little healthy horse testing mixed in. Ace was living at one of those horse properties that we dream about, with huge fields surrounded by dark wood fencing, deep green fields and big run in sheds. He had a mare friend who was more suspicious, and followed us as we moved and worked with the young gelding in the paddock. Ace was about five, and had preliminary training but needed to be gentled to have a long future as a riding horse. The session went very well, with Dan working on dead-manning across the horse while I moved him, quietly around. Super nice horse, and I looked forward to seeing him again.
A few days later I got a phone call. Another local, the man who allowed a weanling to nearly starve to death last winter before dumping her with us, had two babies again, colts. He had decided, wisely, to not winter them. A mutual connection had been working on getting him to release the colts to us, and it seemed this was finally happening. (I want to point out here that I am changing enough info to keep this story from being connected to the person, but sticking enough to the important facts to tell you this tale.) I had heard about the colts for months and was hoping to get my hands on them; “Aggie”, the filly, has suffered lifetime damage from that winter, her first on the planet, arriving sick and angry and a bag of bones; I didn’t want to see that happen to the colts. They were now five months and had been weaned early because he was intending on selling them both at auction. Either sanity or economic reality intervened. Colts at auction are a lottery ticket worth as little at $5 these days, so it was wiser to let them come to me and pay a healthy ‘trailering fee’. So we struck a deal; I would pay the trailering costs, and the colts could come to Rosemary Farm. Gleefully I agreed. Sending babies to auction is traumatic and dangerous to their health, and if we could spare these two that journey it could change their life.
The next day they arrived; I hadn’t met them until the trailer opened, and two shy and scared colts peered out at me. One was a small sorrel pony colt, hiding behind his adopted ‘brother’, who was a beautiful tall chocolate appy, with a tiny snowflake blanket. Each had halters pulled way too tight, but both were receptive to leaving the dark space and coming out into the path. Molly’s band was watching eagerly, leaning over the fence to see them. The colts were naturally scared but they appeared in decent condition overall, aside from the halters imprinting on their heads. As we lead them away, I heard banging and neighing inside the front compartment of the trailer. “The mother of that little pony colt is in front”, I was told, “she’s going to auction right now unless you want her”. He had me at ‘she’s going to auction’, and he knew it. “Well, let me have a look at her”, I tried to sigh nonchalantly, but fooled no one. The fellow opened up the solid metal partition and revealed the tiny beautiful jewel of a mare; a sorrel paso cross in good condition but frantic. She hadn’t seen her son in a month, even on the trailer ride. For a small increase in our ‘trailer fee’, she could stay. Do I even need to write that she became ours?
I had the oversized solid stall ready for the colts, but had nowhere prepared for another horse. I walked her over to where the colts where stalled (there is a video of her greeting them over the stall wall). I also don’t need to type that she was beyond thrilled to see her son again. She didn’t know the appy colt, and he ‘clicked’ at her to say, “I’m only a baby!” even tho’ he was nearly as tall as her. I made a decision, and allowed her in the giant stall with both boys. What a joyful reunion. Even tho’ “Lexis” milk had dried up, she was still his mother, and he is the most beautiful thing she has ever created. I learned that she had been purchased just before foaling, from auction, and was ridden thru. Only five years old herself, she already has the emotional scarring of a horse with no herd and no anchor. Jumpy, suspicious, mistrustful. Poor girl, the least we could do was give her back her colt, and give her colt further parenting. Quickly she established rank with the appy colt and both became ‘her boys’.
A little time passed, and with halters removed and a routine established, the new trio began to feel a home. We auctioned off naming rights on the colts to cover their initial care, and the appy became Sawyer and the sorrel pony colt became Hamlet. Colts are easy to love and they have been joyful to get to know. Now back to Ace, the horse that this was supposed to be about. Soon after the colts arrived, I received a call from a neighbor, who wanted to confirm that the babies were indeed with us. “I’ve got the dad of that appy colt”, he told me, “It’s my tennessee walker Ace”. This was an interesting bit of news. I knew that Ace was a gelding and was young, but anything is certainly possible. Apparently before this fellow bought Ace, he had passed through the hands of the man who had all the babies. And before he had been gelded, he was turned out with the mares. Eleven months later, one of the trail mares, Honey, foaled out, to everyone’s surprise but Mother Nature. Even more surprising was that it was an appaloosa! This colt was Sawyer. Honey is a morgan cross and a great trail horse, who used to be the favorite of another local horse owner. Seems like horse get sold and passed around a lot amongst these guys; sadly, Honey was sold again after the colt was pulled off her, to the unknown. The fellow was getting out of horses. The trail mares went to auction, but Ace sold to this other neighbor; who was now telling me that Ace is a Tennessee Walker, a gaited horse. “Ace is a Tennessee Walker?”, I ask, “then how did a walker and a morgan have an appaloosa colt?”…”Well, we’re not exactly sure”, says he, “We don’t know all of Ace’s background”. OK, here’s where we get to the ‘tall tale’ part of this story.
This fellow tells me that Ace was captured wild, in Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, as a yearling colt. He says that there are wild Tennessee Walkers running around there, and that certain times of the year, folks are allowed to catch and keep them. Another friend of theirs goes regularly and catches young horses, that can still be tamed, and brings them back and sells them. That’s where Ace came from, says he, with conviction. “So you telling me that he was a wild Tennessee Walker captured in Kentucky?!”, I think my voice rose an octave. “Yup”, he concludes firmly. I actually think he believes this, and whether there is an ounce of truth to it, he really liked the horse. “You should keep that colt yourself”, he advised me, “his daddy is a great horse, he will grow up like that”. I knew that he felt strongly about Ace because he was hiring a trainer, which is a commitment of time and money. I was glad that he had him, safe. Wherever he was from!
I have to include here that I never saw Ace move quickly so I never witnessed whether he was gaited. I wasn’t looking for it at the time. This story amused me, but in my research I cannot find anything to support it. I would say that I would take some video of the handsome Ace with the mysterious background, and share it for input, but now I have to say that this is where the tale gets sad. I got a message yesterday, that Ace had a field accident recently which broke his leg, and had to be put down. That magnificent young horse is gone. His only mark on the world, the little babe in my back field. His owner is quite distraught, and I know that if there was anything reasonable to be done, he would have. I don’t know the details of the accident, but seeing where he lived, the beautiful safe fencing and fields…. well, it means it could happen to any one of us. Accidents with horses are frequently swift and devastating.
When I heard the news I felt sorrow for our colt, even thoughI understand that is a human reaction; they never knew each other. The colt that is here now is a beautiful boy, tall and gregarious like his dad. I never knew his mother, and maybe that doesn’t matter either. A great piece of advice that I have received from more then one horse person is ‘to focus on the horse in front of you’. And so I am with Sawyer, who grows in trust every day here, who now must build his own history at Rosemary Farm.
But here’s to you Ace, you mysterious and handsome horse, happy trails over the rainbow bridge. We’ll take care of your boy.