When I told my friend Lydia Dequine that I was going up to Dubois, Wyoming to look at a Thoroughbred that was on Craigslist, she immediately said she would join me. The lady I talked to about the horse said, “You will like him, you just need to come see him." She worked for a dude ranch just outside the Wind River Indian Reservation. She told me that this gelding wasn’t really working out for their program. I figured that meant he was probably a little too “hot” to be a dude horse.
I was kind of in need of a new event prospect. The horse I was trying to develop wasn’t at all brave, so I wanted to find another horse that would be a better fit. So Lydia and I jumped in the truck and drove up to Wyoming. When we pulled into the ranch I thought, “Where am I going to even try out this horse?" The ranch was on the side of a hill with sagebrush and boulders everywhere. No round pen, arena, or even a cleared off flat place. When we walked down to the pens where they housed the horses, there was this big bay Thoroughbred in a tiny pen by himself. He was seriously (probably 200 pounds) underweight - ribs and hipbones showing and no muscle tone. He looked terrible.
Sue and Lydia with their friends Jane Worrall, Nichole Ackerman, Annette Reals, and Mary Jane Hosch at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo courtesy of Jane Worrall.
We decided since we had made this long trip up, we might as well check him out. I asked Lydia to trot him in-hand back and forth a few times. Then, even though I felt kind of bad about putting tack on this skinny creature, I went ahead and got on. We walked around in the sagebrush and went down the road a little ways. All he wanted to do was go back to the other horses. I finally rode to the end of the road where there was a little area where I could put him on a 15 meter trot circle. He was being very ornery, but with time he began to soften his body and come into my hands and listened to the aids! I rode him all the way back in a walk on a loose “on the buckle” rein. The wranglers watched as we rode back and one asked me if I wanted a job!! I looked into the horse’s mouth and he did have a tattoo, but I could not read the whole thing. The wranglers told me that he had come off the Wind River Reservation and that’s all the history I received. I think he was probably claimed off the track and lived his first winter trying to survive out in the sage with the Indian ponies.
My friend Lydia, who always had “cowgirl sense” and kept me seeing reality, looked at me and said, “You know Sue, this is not a rescue!" She was right, but I could not leave this animal in that small pen. I also felt like he was trying and maybe with time, he would become a good horse. I ended up bringing him home.
River (right) with his buddy Ray (left) at the Abbe Ranch Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of Sue Gaskill.
That was 2015. I’ve spent a few years putting weight and tone back on this horse. I’ve evented him at the lowest level, trying to gain his trust and confidence. This year, when I found out that the 2018 USEA American Eventing Championships were going to be in Colorado, I made it our goal to try to qualify. We've had clean cross-country rounds since last August, but didn’t have the placings. We finally achieved that at the Abbe Ranch Horse Trials in June, where we placed second on our dressage score.
My inspiration, friend, and advisor Lydia passed on in 2016, but her memory will live on - I am dedicating my ride at the AEC to her. We may not place, but the once skinny Thoroughbred that I named “Wind River TB” and I hope to have a good ride in her honor. Ride on!
It’s the turn of the world’s best Eventing athletes to stand under the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games spotlight over the next few days as all but one of the horses presented at this morning’s horse inspection at Baji Koen Equestrian Park were confirmed for action by the Ground Jury.
And they're off! Eventing kicks off today in Tokyo (Thursday, July 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET), with the first of three Olympic dressage sessions. Competitors from 29 nations will go head to head, vying for a spot on the coveted Olympic podium.
There were a few last-minute dramas at the first horse inspection for the Tokyo Olympics which took place in the main equestrian park at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre at 9:30 a.m. JST today.