Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Strider's Story

Strider is no longer with us but he has been on my mind lately.

When Brett and I were newly married and I was just getting back into horses, we went to Mendocino on vacation.  We were toying with the idea of getting into endurance riding and there is a woman in Mendocino who successfully competes in endurance events (has won and placed in the Tevis Cup).  She also organizes riding vacations.  We arranged a mock endurance ride at her place.  We rode 25 miles,



mostly in the redwoods and coastal hills,










but ending with a lovely canter along the beach.







As a result of that 25 mile ride, we reached two conclusions.  First, we did not want to be involved with endurance rides.  We couldn't walk for days afterwards.  The ride was beautiful, the horses wonderful, the experience top notch.  But trotting for mile after mile after mile was exhausting.  My hat goes off to people who compete in endurance -- I just can't take that many hours in the saddle.  Second conclusion, Brett was in love -- with Strider, the horse they gave him to ride.   Strider was huge, a good 17h, and strong.  Brett was a novice rider and Strider took good care of him.  He was steady and bombproof and all heart.  We offered to buy him.  He wasn't for sale.  Of course not.  He was worth his weight in gold. 

A few years later, he was for sale.  He had worked as a trail horse for 10 years and Lari, the owner, felt he deserved a nice retirement.  Plus, he had bad feet which were hard for her to manage.  We bought him and brought him home.  She was very honest about his issues and was clearly attached to him.  He had split his head open at one point, and she sewed him up herself because the vet was too far away.  She and her staff called him Snackbar.  He had a huge appetite.


When he first arrived at our place, he was a bit thin with marks from ill fitting tack. 










Starman on the left, Srider on the right


He and Starman (my horse at the time) became best friends.










One day, I noticed that he had a jockey club tattoo.  I traced his record and discovered that he was born at the same place as where Seabiscuit retired (Mendocino area).  He had great lines, going back to Native Dancer.  He sold for $40,000 as a yearling and was raced two or three times.  He never placed.  He didn't have a competitive bone in his body.  He was happy to just amble through life and he was happiest on the trail. 

By the time we purchased Strider, Brett already had Flash.  So, we looked at Strider as a back up horse and as a horse for the kids and guests to ride.  Camille was afraid to ride him because he was so tall (and, at the time, she was so small).  My son did ride him a few times but riding wasn't really his thing.  Brett's son, Scott, came up and rode Strider a few times.  He fell in love with Strider as well.
Kyle on Strider

Brett on Flash, Scott on Strider




Strider's feet were an ongoing challenge.  He had large flat platters so to go on the trail, he had to have shoes.  If he lost a shoe, he was immediately bruised and lame.  It was also a challenge to find a saddle that fit him.  We ended up getting him a very expensive custom saddle.  I still have the saddle although it doesn't fit either Flash or Jackson.  I just can't bear to part with it.

The daughter of our neighbor was interested in taking lessons and learning dressage.  We had a trainer coming up to work with us and the girl, Allison, started taking lessons on Strider.  They fell in love which was interesting because Strider was sweet but also aloof.  He didn't seem to care whether we came or went and I never felt a strong bond.
But when Allison walked into the barn, he lit up like a Christmas tree.  One sad day, Allison's mom told me that they were going to move to the San Diego area to be closer to the family business.  We offered to sell them Strider.  She thanked me and said she would talk to her husband about it but didn't think he would agree.  In the meantime, Allison entered her first show with Strider.  It was just a schooling show and they did the two Intro tests (walk and trot) but he carried her around like he was Mr. Grand Prix and she looked great in her show coat.  After the test, she ran up to me with tears in her eyes and told me that her dad had said yes, she could have him.

So, Strider went to live with Allison.  They pulled his shoes and worked with their farrier to try and get his feet healthy and strong.  He was pretty lame most of the time but they made progress with three of his four feet.  He wore plastic boots most of the time.  Since he couldn't be ridden, Allison taught him to smile and do all sorts of tricks with clicker training.  He thrived. 

Then we got another call from Allison's mom.  The family business was tanking.  They were going to lose their home and needed to find a place for their animals.  Would we take Strider back?  Of course we would.  The day we picked up Strider, Allison gave him a bath and sobbed alligator tears into his neck.  It was the hardest thing to load him up and drive away.  We put shoes back on his feet, which were still awful despite their efforts, and turned him back out with Starman.  We had x-rays taken of his feet because he seemed a bit gimpy and unbalanced.  They showed  that his coffin bone was dropping.  Laminitis.  We put on special shoes and that helped.

One day, Brett came home from work and when he went down to feed he found the run-in shed covered in blood.  Strider was standing with his jaw going one way and his tongue going the other and nothing looking very connected.  He called our vet and then loaded Strider into the trailer to haul him to the equine hospital.  He expected that he would have to put him down but they were able to wire his jaw back together.  He lost a few teeth (Starman kicked him in the face - we found teeth marks on Starman's hock) so his tongue kind of hung out of his mouth but otherwise he was no worse for the incident. 

Unfortunately, laminitis eventually did him in..  There came a point where no shoes kept him comfortable and painkillers weren't enough.  We called Allison and she came up to say goodbye.  Then we put him down.  I think he was 19.  It's been a few years since he left us but I think of him often.  He was all heart.

15 comments:

  1. Annette... thanks for sharing the story of the very sweet Strider. Horses like that are rare...so glad he had you to take good care of him.

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  2. Lovely story - what a wonderful horse with a big heart.

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  3. Why do you make me cry so early in the morning? Strider was "ALL HEART", a great horse. I thank him for many memories.

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  4. What a sweet story. thank you for sharing. How blessed he was to find yall :)

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  5. Taken way too soon, but he was lucky and happy for most of his life. What a wonderful horse.

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  6. Needed a tear-jerker alert for this lovely story. So glad you found each other, and that Strider had his own little girl to love him too :)

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  7. What a great story, thank you for sharing.

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  8. What a sweet horse--I'm sorry he didn't live longer. That's really sad, too, that he got kicked in the face that hard, but amazing that they could fix him back up.

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  9. Crying here...I am so glad you gave Strider a home, not once, but twice. What a wonderful boy he was for you.

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  10. Great photos in this post. Ozzy and I do 50's and I think it's funny when people shrug and say, "So what? You just sit there for a couple hours, right?"

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  11. What a great story. Strider is so lucky to have found you and Brett, and Alison too. And of course it goes both ways.

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  12. A moving post. Strider sounds like a one in a million sweetheart, and poor Allison having to give him up--the horse of her heart! Jackson has Native Dancer and Princequillo (sire or something like that to Secretariat) on his mama's side, boy can my boy run like the wiiinnnnddd! I am super surprised someone would take you on an "endurance" ride of 25 miles without having had built up to that. My friend and I are training for one in the spring and spend 5 hours in the saddle at a time! I am so sorry for the loss of your wonderful boy....

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  13. He was such a lucky horse to have you take such good care of him, with all of his issues. What a full and wonderful life he had. He sounds like he was a terrific horse. Thank you for sharing his story with us :)

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  14. This breaks my heart. There is no time limit on grieving, particularly for an animal companion. He sounds like a special soul who was well loved.

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.