Because what would have been his birthday was just a few days ago, I thought I’d round out April by introducing y’all to the second horse I owned, Red. We called him Little Red because he was a diminutive 1989 model, a 3-year-old fresh off the track and my first extremely instructive experience in owning an ottb. I made a lot of mistakes with Red and he could be a handful, but he evened out over the years I had him and one young lady spent a lot of time with him and even used him as a camp horse! In the demonstration sense–not that she put little kids on him.
All of the pictures I have of Red are actual film photographs, taken with a 110 or 35mm camera, and some are badly scanned, so apologies for the picture quality. Red walked off the trailer and into my life at the place where I first started riding in San Antonio. Our vet at the time found him on a tip for the barn owner, and I bought him from her a few days later for $600. He was 3, spooky, kicked, had no canter under saddle–just walk, rushy trot, and gallop. I was maybe 15 and had my work cut out for me. I don’t even know why I bought him as I had no business doing what I was doing at my age and experience level. But as soon as he walked off the trailer and onto the property the thought that popped in my head when I saw him was “I’m going to own that horse.” I’m sure 15-year-olds frequently have that thought. I was egotistical enough to act on it.
But I am so glad I did, because I think ultimately we gave him a good home. He and Anchor became good buddies. My mom bonded with him, and spent a lot of time grooming him. I slowly started him over fences, just poles at first. He never did figure out what to do with his front legs over fences–if I can find this one picture of me trying to show him in a schooling show jumper class I will get it posted–his body is 4 feet above the jump and his legs are just hanging. Yikes.
He was truly a sweet soul, although had his opinions about people messing with his back feet. Eventually we pulled his back shoes because it was the easiest option, rather than having to sedate him every time the farrier came. But he got used to people and life and settled in at Kings Bridge really well when I moved him and Anchor up there from San Antonio in 1997.
I mostly hacked him around the fields and didn’t jump him too much after the first few years we were at KBF, but a junior rider started riding him and really enjoyed him. She rode him regularly until she went off to college, and she even worked patiently with him over small fences, and got him going really nicely.
She even used him to teach campers horse anatomy! Red seemed to trust kids and always stood quietly for them during camp while they learned what a cannon bone is and what a stifle is and how to brush a horse. He loved having a job, as long as it wasn’t too much to wrap his head around, and I think he enjoyed little kids fawning over him and giving him treats.
Sadly–yes, sorry, this doesn’t have the happiest ending–Red was also a colicky horse and we treated him for ulcers two or three times. At 14, he needed colic surgery, and had a very rough time recovering from that. For a few months, he seemed to have good days and bad days, but I hoped he would get better. That didn’t happen, and we ultimately had to euthanize him after a second colic that required surgery again–I did not think putting him under the knife twice was fair to him, and ending his suffering was most important.
He was truly a gentle soul even if always remaining suspicious of most adult-sized people, and I am so happy that he introduced me to owning thoroughbreds. He kicked off my addiction to the breed, and the 11 years he had with me, my mom, and his junior taught me so much about horses and horsemanship that I can credit him with shaping a lot of my attitudes about how horses should be treated, trained, and cared for today.