Every morning I drag myself out of the house around 6:30 and head to the barn to feed the Tennessee Walking horses. Last Wednesday was no different until I unlocked the office door and walked in, not aware of most of my surroundings because I was tired, and ran straight into an enormous yellow butt. Dominoe’s Sundancer!
Sun, as I call him, had evidently made a great escape during the night. He was standing in the office playing with the telephone I guess he was trying to make a call but had forgotten he had to dial the area code first (don’t we all?). I took the phone from his mouth and tried to figure out how to get him to leave the office. He is a big horse, standing at about sixteen and half hands (hands are equal to four inches and are measured at the shoulder of the horse) and weighing in around twelve hundred pounds. The only problem is he doesn’t realize how big he is or that he is even a horse.
I first fell in love with Sun when he was three months old. A friend of mine called and asked if I would be interested in buying a colt she had. I had been looking for a new horse so I said sure. At her farm, I wandered to the barn paddock. There he was – a fuzzy yellow baby standing next to his momma. To get him to come over where I could look at his confirmation, I put some sweet feed in a trough. His momma started walking toward the food but Sun beat her to it. He kicked her to keep her away from the food which he devoured. I liked his attitude. Against everyone’s advice that a palomino Tennessee Walking horse (actually Sun isn’t a palomino – his skin is white so he’s a champagne. True palominos have dark skin under the light hair) is not a good show horse. I had to have him! Memories of Trigger dancing through my head... He came home with me.
Most people wean horses at about six months but my friend wanted this colt (who was already big and aggressive) out of her pasture. So, at three months, he was placed in a stall at my barn alone. I felt sorry for the little guy who stood there crying for his momma. I spent hours standing in the stall with him, crooning the Beatle song “Here Comes the Sun” and scratching his neck. To this day, if that horse hears that song, he rolls his big gray eyes and starts leaning into me for a good scratching (kind of like a big dog). Being the baby on the place, he got a lot of attention, too much attention. If I had a Coke, he had to have a Coke. Do not get around that horse with a red can – he will climb over you to get it. I let him have apples and corn chips – two more things he will kill you to get. He watches me while standing in the cross ties to see if I am going to the refrigerator and if I do, he wants an apple or Coke– NOW.
Trying to give him a normal childhood, I had a special pasture built just for him to frolic in. I could not put him in the pasture with mature horses (geldings, fixed males, are still territorial and would have harmed him with no momma around for defense). He did just fine for a while until he decided to see how high he could jump. One minute I was watching him slyly grazing and the next he had leaped over the fence, headed toward a very busy road. I outran the boys, leaped the same fence and then stood there, wondering what I was going to do. Singing his theme song, I ask him if he wanted an apple. Food? He came waltzing up, nuzzling me for the treat. Needless to say, he was never allowed outside again without a lead rope and a person attached to it.
True to his big size and, to be honest, his gangly back legs, he was not suitable for being a padded horse (the Tennessee Walking horses you are probably familiar with wear huge pads on their front feet to get that signature walk). He is a flat-shod horse who does exactly what the breed was intended for – a rolling even gait across the plantation. Unlike Quarter Horses or Thoroughbreds, the legs of a walking horse move in concert – both left legs go forward while both right legs move back giving the horse a smooth gait (the other horses trot – opposite legs move together – left back with right front- which makes it rough). We had a trail pleasure show horse. Every one thought he was gorgeous, except DQP.
At horse shows, due to some people being so cruel to their horses, the walking horse association has a Designated Qualified Person (DQP) who inspects the horse’s legs to make sure the horse hasn’t been “sored” (soring is where an oil, usually mustard oil, is dripped on the front legs to make the horse sore – in turn the horse will lift it’s leg higher because it hurts). Well, Sun, who has never had a cruel day in his life, walked jauntily up to the DQP tent to be inspected. But…he decided he didn’t like the guy who wanted to look at his feet. Before we knew what had happened, he had the DQP guy down on the ground and was trying to grab the guy’s shirt to shake him. All manner of thoughts went through my head – we’re going to get a ticket for this if the guy survives! Instead, the guy rolled away, got up, out of Sun’s reach, and told us to go back to the trailer. No ticket. Obviously Sun wasn’t sored, he stomped and pranced all the way back to his hay bag on the side of the trailer. At the next show, the DQP guy glanced at Sun’s feet, and waved us through – he wasn’t taking the risk.
Sun is not an easy horse. He’s smart and cunning. Like any child, he will test you every day to see if you are going to make him mind. But like any child, he craves attention and love. His momma (me) makes very sure he gets it.
Oh, and I got him out of the office with a feed bucket, singing “Here Comes the Sun…”
Have you ever been around a horse? What kind of experiences do you have? Are you familiar with the Tennessee Walking Horse breed? Sun would like to introduce you to them – he’ll be showing in Priceville on October 30th but without a Halloween costume.