Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Goodbye Sweet Shadow

Here at Sun Pony Ranch we are blessed to have some extraordinary horses with the patience and tolerance to help kids learn to ride and be confident around horses. Horses also have an exceptional spirit for understanding and empathizing with people, especially those with special needs, which is why they are so popular as therapy animals. We are not a Therapeutic Riding Center, but our horses are true heroes for the amazing jobs they do for all those who ...take lessons here.

We are sad to say we have lost our beloved Shadow, who was a most exceptional horse among the exceptional horses that we have. Shadow was found to have a large mass tumor in his ureter, making it impossible to empty his bladder; the vet could not even get a catheter past it. We are doing this tribute to him, as he was as special a horse as they come; truly one in a million.

Shadow was our “Do Anything and Everything” Horse. He covered the spectrum from helping the littlest toddlers to the youngest Beginner Riders, to the Advanced students who still had to learn to ride a “hot” Performance Horse.

He was the best horse to put the youngest kids on, and carefully toted them around with the softest steps. He was also the “Goal Horse” for those students who were advancing in their skills enough to have the challenge of riding a horse who would take them for a wild ride if they couldn’t keep their leg off. He was our “Been There, Done That” Parade Horse who was calm in the Parades we have participated in every year. Even with bands sounding off suddenly, sirens screaming, and clown horns blaring, Shadow stayed steady and seemed to enjoy the fanfare. He was our “Booth Horse” who came to fairs and events, to our booth where kids of all ages could walk up to him and pet him. He was our Pony Ride Horse, our Birthday Party Horse, our Ambassador Horse. He was our “Therapy Horse” who could connect with anyone having a difficult time or a hard day, and his gentle spirit would comfort them with a calming influence. Shadow could do it all.

Shadow’s story

Shadow came to us in April of 2005. In those days, there were “Kill Pens” where unwanted horses were sent to slaughter. Shadow was in this holding pen when a woman went through looking for horses that she could save and then re-sell so that she could then go and save more. She could only take a few at a time, so she really wanted only those that were in good condition. Shadow did not fit this criteria – he was thin, bony, and lame due to hooves that were in terrible condition. However, as she walked through the pens, Shadow followed her around. It was as if he knew she could get him out of there. She couldn’t leave this sweet, gentle horse there, so she purchased him along with some others. We needed some horses at that time and went to look at the ones she had. We immediately saw how well trained Shadow was as a reining horse and even on his sore feet he was giving us spin turns on haunches, slide stops, and side-passes. We thought he would be a wonderful horse to use for lessons for the more Advanced Riders. We bought him and immediately started getting him back into good condition with careful feeding and farrier work on his hooves.

After working with him to train him as a lesson horse, at first we would only use him for the more advanced riders. He quickly learned the English discipline, and soon was jumping 3 feet with his athletic talent. However, as a Western Roping Horse, he had been trained that when his rider squeezed their legs at the same time as pulling back on the reins, this meant to collect for taking off at a full gallop - in an instant. Beginner Riders usually make the mistake of squeezing tight with their legs to “hang on” and pull back on the reins because they don’t want to go fast. Since this beginner trait would make Shadow anxious to take off, he would jump around and then go off in a gallop when they could not hold him. So, we only put riders on him that were advanced, or to the level where they were able to learn how to ride a horse like Shadow.

But, it wasn’t too long before we realized Shadow would only do this with the older kids and riders with legs long enough to reach down his side. With the little kids, he was a “baby-sitter” and as gentle as could be. He quickly became the favorite for the 2 to 4 year old Toddlers in the “Mommy & Me” Classes and the younger kids in the Introduction Clinics for ages 5 to 7. Eventually, he became a favorite for the Little Buckaroos Camps that we began later for these younger kids. So many little kids learned to love riding horses because Shadow was so gentle and kind with them. But, he never lost his status as a “Goal Horse” for those students who wanted to advance to higher levels. They were learning to keep a relaxed leg and deep seat to keep him calm and relaxed. He took many a rider for a fast gallop until they learned this skill. All of our Camp Counselors, past and present, have Shadow to thank for learning to ride this type of performance horse well and acquiring those particular skills to become Advanced Riders. In the photos we are posting here, I have tried to find some of our Counselor staff learning on Shadow. Also there are photos, even from this past summer, where Shadow still would take some of his learning riders for a fast gallop. As they practiced, they finally were able to relax their legs and body to get a nice easy lope.

We think Shadow was about 12 years old when we got him. That would have made him 21 years old this year. He was so well loved by the hundreds of students and kids who came to Sun Pony Ranch. I have known a lot of horses in my life, and Shadow was uniquely Special.

Rest in Peace good friend and teacher. We will think of you now as you and your best buddy, Harley, gallop like young colts in the green pastures of Heaven. We were so lucky to have you brighten our pathway awhile.