Rescuing horses is part of my genetic make-up. Some personal attributes are learned behaviors (nurture), some are in your blood (nature). I’m a strong believer that both shape who each person will become. I’m also a strong believer that my mom passed the equine rescue attribute on with nature and nurture. Stormy is a direct result of one of my mom’s rescue efforts.
A few years before I was born, Mommy owned a cute little appy gelding (we’re kind of an appy family), but he was young and a little temperamental. He didn’t like small things scurrying around his feet, particularly dogs. Unfortunately at the time my mom had some neighbors with small children who scurried, and had little respect for private property and boundary markers, like fences. She worried that these aggravating neighbors’ kids were a lawsuit waiting to happen, putting her in a dilemma of what to do with her horse.
In the middle of this internal struggle for my mom, “the gang” decided to take a Saturday trail ride. My mom LIVED to trail ride; she happily spent all her days off climbing mountain trails. On this particular day the group decided to ride to Frozen Head State Park, then from there ride the main trail up to the fire tower. This was probably a 20+ mile round trip. Stanton Heidle took his appy mare Kristy, who was pregnant, and bare foot, and rode her all day across the pavement, and then rocky trail. Kristy came from the same breeder as my mom’s appy gelding, and my mom knew Kristy pretty well already. After watching this poor mare struggle to carry a loud, obnoxious man with heavy hands, on the ride home my mom offered to switch horses for a ways. After riding each others’ horses for a while, they struck a deal to trade horses, and each rode his or her new horse home.
Kristy would not be hurting any small children who couldn’t respect property lines, but for a while it didn’t look like she would be doing anything else either. Returning from a rough ride, Krsity laid down and ignored the hay, grain, and water my mom tried to tempt her with. I’m amazed the mare didn’t colic or stress founder. After she lay down for an entire day, my mom had the vet out. Kristy miscarried her foal, of course, and dropped an alarming amount of weight. It took several weeks to bring Kristy’s health back around.
At that time my mom worked second shift, so my grandfather (his name was Paul, so my brother and I called him PaPaul rather than Papaw) volunteered to drive over and feed Kristy every evening. The vet recommended feeding Kristy strait oats after she finished her round of antibiotics. So of the morning, Mommy fed Kristy with steamrolled oats, and of the evening PaPaul fed Kristy with oats… after a fashion. He didn’t understand the concept of a scoop of oats out of a feed sack, so my grandfather faithfully, everyday, made this horse Quaker Oatmeal complete with butter and sugar. It’s no wonder her weight and bloom bounced back so quickly.
With good nutrition, and a good farrier, Kristy made a recovery and my mom began riding and eventually showing her. Then a couple of years later she decided to breed Kristy (ApHC Sarsis Cinnamon) to Don Redman’s appy stallion, Blacky (ApHC Clays Thunder Bar), and the result was Stormy! When I can get around to scanning some old photos, I’ll try to post Stormy’s baby pictures. She was the cutest foal ever: jet black body with flour sprinkled across her rump. Storm Cloud Sarsi turned into a blanket app, and from there continued to grey out the rest of her life as a unique blue roan with spots and black points.
My mom started showing Stormy as soon as her 30 days training was completed. Stormy went to Bill Warner of Westel, TN to for her first 30 days because at the time my momwas taking care of a toddler (Me!), and had another baby on the way (my brother). After Preston was born, she had Stormy out constantly. I was literally raised on this horse’s back. My mom’s cousin Karen lived on the backside of Lone Mountain, where their favorite trail was located. A few trails through the woods, a few miles on backroads connected my mom and Karen, so on weekends, my mom would pile me in front of her onto her saddle and we would ride to Aunt Wanda’s house. By the time we arrived at Aunt Wanda’s (Karen’s mom), the ride had usually put me to sleep, so they would leave me inside for a long nap with Aunt Wanda, while my mom and Karen took Stormy and Lightening up Lone Mountain. By the time they returned, I was awake and ready to ride home. This ritual started about the time I was 2 years old. I don’t even remember most of these early rides.
In addition to regular trail rides with Stormy, I also spent a lot of my childhood in a play pen. My dad worked a lot of overtime, and my mom didn’t like to leave Preston and I with a lot of baby sitters, but this didn’t leave her a lot of opportunity to ride. Her solution was to get Preston and I to take our naps in a playpen out in the middle of the pasture so that she could ride laps around us. This worked until I got big enough to crawl out and be underfoot. At that point it was just easier for my mom to put me on the horse to keep me from getting stepped on. It was all over at this point. Nurture kicked in to reinforce the nature I’d already inherited from my mom and I strengthen my innate addiction to horses. Now I was able to attend shows, and could even participate in lead line! And let me tell you, lead line was not a cush class like it is now. There was none of this, “And the judge just couldn’t decide because you’re all such good riders. Everyone wins!” We had to work for our trophy. Back then, kids ALWAYS dressed up for lead line, and the judge placed the class. Never did every rider win. Stormy always won; in the previous pic you can see my mom leading me around on her during a lead line class. Hello first place. In this picture, however, Preston got to ride Stormy, so it was a red ribbon for me. I rode Lightening and dressed like Rainbow Bright. White horse, cute kid, what’s not to love? But Preston dressed like Cactus Jack (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you NEED to watch The Villain) and rode Stormy (aka “Whiskey” for that class) and he beat me. Like I said, Stormy always won. Her unique coat pattern always attracted the judge’s attention, and her abundance of self esteem usually sealed the deal. Somehow she had a way to convince most judges she met that she should win every class she went into. Talk about animal magnetism!