My Tennessee Walking (Event) Horse

I Test Drove a Saddlebred” had such a great response yesterday, I felt compelled to share the story of the best cross-country horse I’ve ever owned, whom we lost two years ago today.

Maggie came into my life as unexpectedly as she exited it. I was driving to the barn and a trainer friend of a friend called to tell me about a mare she needed to unload, and fast. She described the horse as having done a bit of jumping and dressage, and said she was sound as the day she was born but most recently had been collecting dust in a field in Virginia. I still to this day have no idea what I was thinking when those three words leapt impulsively out of my mouth: “I’ll take her.”

The inevitable What have I done? moment arrived about a week later, when a fat bay mare with a long, matted mane and a rampant case of rainrot stepped off the trailer at my farm. Her eyes, though, were something else: shiny and coal-black, smoking with an expression of street-smart independence. “I can take care of myself,” they seemed to say. “I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone.”

I gradually put her into work, and her fitness increased in direct relation to her fiestiness. She was headstrong on the flat but incredibly bold over fences, and within two years she was confidently eventing at the prelim level. She loved cross-country more than anything and always gave me the feeling that if I’d pointed her at the moon, she would have jumped it–or tried, at least.

Cross-country schooling at River Glen (TN)

Red Hills Horse Trials (FL)

At some point, I decided to look into her past to see if I could find anything out about her breeding or where she’d come from. Nothing seemed to add up. Her hotness indicated thoroughbred, and that’s what I registered her as with the USEA, but she had no tattoo and didn’t look the type–she was stocky and big-boned, with a neck set high on her shoulder. Her flamboyant movement, marked by an extravagant front end that just seemed to go up and up, indicated warmblood… or something else entirely. Another distinguishing physical characteristic was her physical toughness–she never took an off step as long as I owned her.

After contacting her past three owners, I’d traced her back to a nameless Tennessee Walking Horse trainer in Crossville, TN, where she’d been in training as a young horse. I put an ad on Craig’s List to see if anyone in the area recognized her, but being a plain bay mare in the heart of Walking Horse country, it was to no avail. Apparently, she was purchased from the trainer to be shown by a junior rider in Tennessee Walking Horse jumping classes but turned out to be too much for the girl, who sold her to her vet, who sold her to the h/j trainer I’d gotten her from.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I skeptically contacted an animal communicator to see if she could shed some light on her origins. Without prompting and with only rudimentary information about my horse (name/age/color), the communicator said she saw images of Maggie in the past with something heavy and painful tied around her ankles, and of being cornered in a stall by a man. I started crying when I heard that. Maggie’s fighter personality suddenly made sense.

Pine Top Horse Trials (GA)

As much as I loved Maggie, I had two more horses waiting patiently in the wings for my attention, and I had neither the time or finances to campaign three horses at once. I knew Maggie could have a great life making someone else’s cross-country dreams come true, and the perfect buyer emerged almost immediately, and they clicked, and she didn’t even mind Maggie’s unorthodox breeding, so I knew that it was fate. As I watched the trailer pull away, whisking Maggie away to a wonderful home in Texas, I knew in my heart that I’d done the right thing.

Less than a month later, I got the nightmare phone call: Maggie had ruptured her colon, and they couldn’t save her. The new owner and I both were devastated. That was two years ago today.

I miss you, Maggie. Thank you for reminding us that no matter what body we’re born into, not matter what difficulties obstruct our path, no matter what people’s expectations are for us, if we stay strong and follow our hearts, we’ll find our place in the world.

Go Riding.

Trail riding at FENCE (SC)

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