Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Heartbreak and Promise

Tucker at 3 weeks old
Is there anything more exciting than a new horse? You have all the potential of that new partnership, all the dreams you hope to achieve, planning out your life together. Finding the best trainers, reading books, auditing clinics, trying to be the best horse owner you can be to give that new horse the best life. All blue skies and sunny days ahead.

Except, things don't always go as planned. That incredible new prospect gets a career ending injury, and you now have a gorgeous pasture ornament that's only 5 years old. The new horse doesn't really like your path in life, and would rather be a dressage/reining/endurance horse instead. You get hurt and can't compete for months of recovery or find yourself going in a different direction.

Or in my case, the most perfect young horse you could have ever hoped to own becomes violently sick and has to be put down before his 3rd birthday. Smashing your dreams into the dirt.



You try and do everything right. Routine vet care. Carefully choosing your nutritional program. Lots of grass and sunshine. Getting the chiropractor and massage therapists to help with the growth spurts. Engaging groundwork to keep his curious mind active. Good farriers to keep him balanced.

Tucker at 2 years
I really wrestled for weeks on how to move forward after losing Tucker. Maybe I made a mistake buying a young horse (3 weeks old when I finalized my purchase), after all there are a lot of things that can go horribly wrong early on. However, I came back to the same conclusion I'd had before I purchased Tucker in the first place; I will never be able to afford the type of horse I want if I wait until it's a 4 year old.

Tristan around the peak of his career
The goal with Tucker was to find a horse that would eventually fill Tristan's shoes. Tristan has been more than just a horse for me, he's been a life partner with whom I have achieved more in my riding career than I had ever expected or dreamed was possible. He helped me become a better, more confident rider and improved me not only as a horsewoman but as a person. Finding a horse to come behind him and help me continue on my journey has not been an easy prospect. I wanted a kind, thoughtful, sensitive, athletic horse with a great sense of self preservation. The Connemara crosses I've dealt with over the years have fit that profile incredibly well, with one small caveat. Most 15-16hh-ish Connemara crosses of riding age range from $15-40k, an amount of money I can never hope to have on hand in the reasonable future.

Enter Tucker, a young horse with incredible bloodlines. His dam is a large bodied 17hh Anglo Trakehner mare who consistently breeds award winning babies. His sire is an athletic and supremely well mannered Connemara stallion who passes on his level headedness to his progeny. The perfect combination.

Tucker around 3 months
Taking the plunge on Tucker was scary but incredibly exciting. Here was the exact horse I wanted at a price I could afford, all I needed to do was wait for him to grow up. There was a bit of worry when he first came home at around 10 months old for weather or not he would be easily handled. I'd worked at other farms before with wild babies, some even dangerous or intimidating as young as 2 years old. However, my fears were stomped down quickly with how well mannered and sweet Tucker was. For the first few days, I actually worried that he was ill because he was so quiet and amiable. Within the span of nearly 2 years with him at home, I can count the number of times he stepped out of line on one hand with fingers left over.

The first day Tucker came home to SC
I think that made losing him even harder. He made it so easy and fun to watch a baby grow into such a beautiful and kind young horse that the ending was even more tragic.

I remember a conversation I had with Beth (Tucker's breeder) just days after we lost him. "I just want him back, I want the same horse again."

Tucker just under 2 years

With an incredible stroke of luck, Tucker's mom was expected to foal in June and the newest breeding hadn't been spoken for yet. I immediately put my name on the list but the worry was if it was a filly, Beth had hoped to keep her and put her back into the breeding program. I was so desperate that I offered to buy a filly and lease her back to breed. I just wanted that baby so bad I was willing to do anything. We made plans to wait for Ella to foal out and go from there.

Thomas right after birth
May 31st I received a message from Beth that a colt had been born with Thomas' first baby picture (unnamed at the time). Not going to lie, I immediately started sobbing when I saw that first picture and kept crying for nearly an hour after. It was like all the pain, loss and eventual hope and joy poured out of me all at once. I was once again thrilled by the idea of starting over again with a young horse, and absolutely terrified of feeling that deep sense of loss again.

The problem with animals is, we know at some point in time we are going to lose them. Terrible, but unfortunately true. The only other possibility is us going first, but that's not important at the moment. All you can do is search your heart and decide if the pain of losing them is or isn't worth the time spent loving them.

So I took the plunge again. I bought another baby, this time we had signed paperwork only 12 days after Thomas' birth. It's scary all over again but all I've been able to learn from Tucker's death is that it came from a freak cause that will hopefully be highly unlikely to repeat itself.

Thomas at 1 month
I was incredibly lucky to be able to take time to drive down to Florida this past weekend and meet Thomas for the first time. He's still young and a little timid with people, but being able to lay my hands on him for the first time for a friendly scratch healed my heart in a way that was sorely needed.

Still scared, but looking forward to the future once again.

Miss you always, Tucker.

Tucker at 2.5 years