My farrier and I were at a Christmas party hosted by a mutual friend and he asked me if I knew of anyone looking for a horse to use for fox hunting. He had a really nice off the track thoroughbred that was just too tall for polo. His sport of choice being polo, he wasn’t interested in keeping a 16.1hh gelding. I was, of course, not interested but would accept some pictures so I could share the information with my fox hunting buddies. Unfortunately I was nearly immediately smitten. Zapper was every girl’s dream: tall, dark and very handsome!
After Jaguar’s disappointing diagnosis last summer and his being unrideable, I borrowed a horse from my Mom for this hunt season. I have known all season the regardless of how much I loved Casey, he would have to go back to Montana at the conclusion of hunt season for Mom to show him. I had it in my head that I might hunt Coco next year, but she’s got the most value in the show ring so I don’t think it would be in her best interest to join the hunt field until she is older and a bit more seasoned. Without thinking about it too much I went ahead and scheduled to go see “Zapper” with my horsey bestie.
Zapper’s last race was November 26 and we went to ride him on January 2. Keep in mind that means he had been off the track for barely 45 days! Here is a link to a video of when we tried Zapper.
He had some leg injuries from some pasture shenanigans and was probably a bit sore from the track, but he is a lovely mover. We were extremely impressed by his disposition. It took a LOT of leg to get him to go forward. He didn’t look at anything. He tolerated us jumping on him from the ground. My farrier rode him first in a big western saddle with smooth rowelled spurs and Zapper showed no care. The hunt I whip for is not a fast and forward hunt, so requires a horse that can go forward over rough terrain just as well as it can stand still and await direction. Zapper showed strong propensity for the standing still part.
I scheduled my vet to do a pre-purchase exam a couple days later and after positive feedback, took him home within the week. Just what I needed, another horse! The first couple weeks required some care and medications for his pasture injuries and there will be a few more vet visits for the broken tooth, but I have a good feeling about him.
Simon snug in his blanket and and all wrapped up in his Back on Track wraps.
He is extremely easy to have around. I wrap his legs and give him meds without even putting on his halter! He is calmer than the other four at home by far. I’ll give him the month of January completely off and start hacking him a bit in February. I hope to ride him at at least one or two hunts in March, just to see how he does out and about and hoping he remains as calm and quiet as his disposition indicates.
Like I said, just what I needed was another horse. I changed his name to Simon. Zapper reminds me of a bug zapper so he is named for the ghost in Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost. If he ever requires a show name it will be The Canterville Ghost.
Simon the pasture puff. Still sporting his off-the-track bod. The next few months will be full of grass hay, Ultium and whatever it takes to pack on some lbs.
There are some things that happen in your life and for no apparent reason they are burned into your memory. I remember taking Daughty to Colorado with my Dad in the spring of 1992 almost like it was yesterday. I remember how the barn where Juniper lived smelled. I remember that it rained. I remember meeting the Wolfs, who owned the farm where Doc’s Juniper stood at the time. And, I remember when, eleven months later, Jaguar was born. I was 13 years old. Yah, I know, I just gave away my age.
We had had foals before, but from the moment Mom and Dad planned to breed Daughty to Juniper I knew this one would be mine. They wouldn’t let me have a 2 year old in 4-H until I was 15 and when this foal turned 2, I would be 15. I was beyond excited. As a foal Jaguar was mischievous. He would run up behind me and put his feet over my shoulders. I thought it was adorable until Dad reminded me how not adorable that would be when he weighed over 1,000 pounds so we put a stop to the silliness. He bit. He bullied. He acted like a normal foal and I absolutely loved him.
Showing as a yearling. We were Grand Champions at the county fair!
The 4-H colt program started when the horse was a yearling. You had to show them in hand to exhibit their training and cooperativeness. Much to my delight Jaguar was brilliant. He learned new things faster than I could teach him. We won nearly every class we showed in that year. He could do Showmanship with the very best. He never put a foot wrong and would square his feet in about 3 steps. It was so much fun to show such a smart horse. His smarts would also lead to many of his greatest difficulties. Our first such experience was taking him to the Montana State 4-H horse show in a one-horse trailer. He was fine getting in to head to Great Falls for the five hour drive. Coming home was a different story, and I can’t say I blamed him those trailers are terrifying! We nearly had to beat him to get him in that trailer. He learned a valuable lesson, though and he’s gotten into every trailer since without a moments hesitation.
Showing in bareback as a 2 year old.
His two year old year just continued to show his brilliance. He never ever took a step wrong when I broke him to ride. I was terrified of him bucking so I did all kinds of crazy things to him before I even acted like I was going to get on the saddle. I put tires on the saddle. I concocted crazy contraptions with whips and raincoats to simulate a person. I’m sure that by the time I actually rode him he was relieved to be done with the shenanigans! We worked very hard all year and he was a very broke 2 year old by the time we got to the fair. The judge, however, was horrible. She decided that there was no way I could have possibly trained him so well on my own so wouldn’t give us higher than a blue ribbon (Grand and Reserve Champion were the winners, everyone else got a blue, red or white ribbon depending on how they did) in any of our classes. I was furious and so frustrated. Jaguar was starting to show a lot of promise as a reining horse so my parents and I made the decision to quit 4-H and move on to only show in the American Quarter Horse Association and National Reining Horse Association shows. I learned young that people like to punish others for being better than them at something, even if it was legitimately earned. Nice lesson for a 15 year old kid, right?!
Sadly I don’t have any photos of Jaguar reining. They are all in Montana, still. He was a fabulous reining horse, but the same troubles would always bubble up. As soon as Jaguar figures something out, he makes it more interesting for himself. Like spooking at chairs by the arena that have been in the same spot for 3 days, but he just now noticed them. Or anticipating parts of reining patterns and doing them before he’s supposed to. After three or four years as a reiner he had to move onto a new career because he knew all of the patterns and there was no way you could trick him to wait for cues.
Trail riding selfie
My Dad used him to rope on at brandings and to sort cattle. My Mom showed him in some local shows and basically won everything they could possibly win. They finally told me in 2006 that I needed to take him to Texas. I couldn’t really believe my Dad had actually given me the option to keep him. He always sold my horses and never gave me any input on the decision. It was bittersweet when they brought him down because about a month after they visited Texas my Dad died from a blood clot that was a result of an injury from an accident he was in while riding a horse he had. For that and a myriad of other reasons Jaguar is one of the strongest living reminders of my relationship with my Dad.
And how many 34 year olds have pets (if you can call a horse a pet) that they had when they were 13 years old? Jaguar has seen me through ALL of major life events. Think about it; prom, my first boyfriend, starting high school, graduating from high school, going off to college, graduating from college, moving away from home, my first job, my wedding. He’s been in my life for every single thing. I can remember getting mad at friends or parents in different times in my life and going out to the barn and spewing my frustrations to Jaguar and the other horses I had at the time.
Jaguar the fox hunter!
Jaguar turned 21 last Saturday. I don’t know why this birthday seems like such a milestone, but it really does. I love that horse to pieces! My parents bought and sold so many of my horses while I was growing up that I learned quickly to never get attached to them. I still don’t really get attached to them (or at least I think I don’t, we’ll see when I actually need to sell one!) like I feel attached to Jaguar. He bucks on most every fox hunt and acts like an idiot for the first 45 minutes of every trail ride, but when push comes to shove he’ll always step up. I can put any inexperienced rider on him and he’ll be absolutely perfect. I was trail riding with hunt friends last weekend and we had an episode that caused Jaguar to spin around faster than I could stay on and I remember falling on the ground and him stepping over me so the other horse running by wouldn’t step on me.
So, cheers to Jaguar! Easily the best horse I will ever have the pleasure of riding! And he earns extra credit points for being the absolute best baby sitter of baby horses you could ever ask for. Just ask Coco.