My name is Tara and I love horses. Supposedly that is the first step to recovery, right?! I can’t imagine my life without these divine creatures playing a major role and am so grateful I have the means and the support of Boot City to have them. People often compare the hobby of horseback riding to playing sports or golfing or other “similar” activities, but there is one glaring difference. If you own or lease a horse you are responsible for the care and well being of an 800+ pound animal 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. It is kind of like marriage; you take a vow to care for them in sickness and in health.
So far 2017 has had it’s fair share of “sickness”, mostly in the form of injuries. Right, Sterling?
We like to selfie while on stall rest. Again.
Simon tried to pull his hoof off of his leg this spring, but miraculously was never lame. The injury looked really bad and made me kind of nervous so I haven’t been riding him. I want to let the hoof grow out more and he is really just a baby so the time off is fine.
Simon trying on a hunt bridle to prepare for what we hope will be his future career!
Jaguar is kicking it retirement-style. His hurt leg is noticeably off, but he’s happy as a clam out in his pasture with his buddies. He even trots and canters sometimes! I thought he’d be annoyed at being retired, but he’s taken to it pretty well. He still bosses everyone around, including the neighbor horses.
The handsomest 24 year old, grandson of Doc Bar, past AQHYA World Championship qualifying reiner, retired fox hunter, there ever was!
Coco (so far) is one of my “in health” horses currently. She has had PLENTY of “in sickness” over the past few years so she deserves it! We will make our way to a few more horse shows this summer as Sterling convalesces. Miles, miles and more miles are my goals for Coco this year.
Hanging out in her giant stall at the horse show. My favorite thing about Texas Rose Horse Park are the huge permanent stalls. It is so nice for the bigger hunter/jumper horses to not be stuck is some tiny 10×10 or even 12×12.
Last, but certainly not least, Casey has been the VERY best step-in hunt/whipper-in horse I could have asked for! He was a perfect gentleman all hunt season, enjoyed a few trail rides and now is FOR SALE! The plan had been to take him back to Montana, but Mom thinks it would be best for him to stay in Texas and have a busier job with someone who will appreciate him. Casey is one of those horses that you can truly grab out of the pasture, jump on and go and there is no drama. I know because we did just that 2 weekends ago. He hadn’t been ridden since March and I hopped on (with no lunge) and he trotted and cantered around like he was ridden yesterday. And he’s only FIVE! He’s got SO MANY great years ahead of him! So, you should buy him, or at least tell your friends to buy him. For reals.
Poor Casey’s biological clock stayed on Montana seasons so he didn’t start shedding his winter coat until JUNE! When he would get hot and it was wet, well, he would roll in the mud to cool off.
No, horses are not just a “hobby”. I can’t put them in a closet and forget about them until the next time I want to “play”. They are my lifestyle and I love every second!
Last Sunday was an eventful day for me, one with a LOT of happiness. I rode Coco for the first time and she was a dream! I also rode Sterling that morning, after a failed attempt at a trail ride the day before, and I rode Jaguar that evening. Since Sterling was now 100% a failed trail rider I would need to get Jaguar legged up for the remaining trail rides with my hunt friends for the summer. Riding an old horse cold turkey on long trail rides is not nice. They need many more rides to be fit enough to work on an ongoing basis. When I rode Jaguar something was off. He wasn’t lame, but there was a hitch in his gitalong that didn’t feel right. We only walked and trotted and I took him over a few low cavallettis, but I could feel something weird with his hind end movement. The right side had a bigger jerk to the movement and the left side was much softer. Had I been a betting person I would have guessed he was off on his right leg.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Sterling needed a shot so I thought I would have my vet look over Jaguar while he was there. I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from a work trip. My thought was that Jaguar was going to start needing some kind of joint injections, a pain management regimen for arthritis, or something similar to one of those options. He’s no spring chicken being 23 years young. He definitely is showing his age more than he had a year or two ago, but he had a fantastic hunt season and I love riding him on trail rides because he’ll do most anything I ask of him. My vet called early in the afternoon that he was already near my house so I told him to just go ahead and stop over even though I wouldn’t be home. He’d call me when he was finishing up.
This phone call has affected me far more than I would have dreamed it would. There isn’t really a name for what is wrong with Jaguar’s left hind leg, but there is something decidedly wrong with it. My vet thought for sure I would be able to tell him of a very specific event in which Jaguar had injured his left hind gaskin a few years ago and it was just now showing the full symptoms of what age and injuries combined will do to an animal’s mobility. The thing is, Jaguar has never ever been lame. Ever. Never had a hoof abcess. Never a pulled shoe that caused an issue. And never an acute injury requiring him to come out of work at all. Until now. My vet has diagnosed Jaguar with an injury to his left hind gaskin where it meets his hamstring and his stifle that will most likely not respond to any type of treatment and will require him to be in full retirement. No more riding Jaguar.
Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining
We are going to try a bute regimen for a few days to see if that might cut the pain a little bit. It will be promising if it does, but my vet sounded pretty skeptical of it working. The reality of it is that I will probably never be able to ride Jaguar again. He will now get his 100% deserved retirement.
Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998
I always thought that I’d know when I had my last ride on Jaguar. There would be some episode. Some illness. Some tangible reason when I would know that this was it. Not some vague nondescript injury that really isn’t that bad, but bad enough that it can’t be fixed and he can’t be ridden. I’m grateful that he’s otherwise healthy and I still have him, but I’m absolutely heartbroken that our partnership under saddle is done. No more fox hunts. No more trail rides. No more torturing him while I post without irons. As much of a mess as I am about this news I can’t even imagine how bad I’ll be when he dies. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second we have together. He’s going to embark on his retirement with a weight loss program and focus on being the best damn pasture ornament there ever was.
Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).
Little, baby Jaguar circa May 1993
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.