Monday, March 21, 2011

A Horse of Many Names~The Wonder of Little Red, The Great-Great Grandson of Secretariat

A Horse of Many Names
The Wonder of Little Red
The Great, Great Grandson of an American Legend

The red foal dances
As the red sky is dawning
Life begins anew.

A haiku by Sheril Stansberry

A Horse With Many Names by Kateri Nelson

He probably didn’t even have one when he was born on March 29, in Ocala, Florida. In fact all he inherited that day was an umbilical hernia -- a surgery his owner couldn’t afford -- so three months later, the chestnut foal was relinquished to a local rescue.

Taken away from his mother before being weaned, the baby experienced a very traumatic first trip to say the least: he was traveling solo and could hear his mother’s desperate cries for miles. But already he was showing the world how brave he was: in his tiny narrow chest was beating the heart of a champion. You see, our hero had Secretariat’s blood flowing through his veins since his dam, Beautiful Wonder, was Big Red’s descendant. So at the end of June, the brave little foal arrived at Beauty’s Haven Farm and Equine Rescue.

Besides an umbilical hernia, the baby also had a badly infected foot so definitely needed overdue veterinary care. The first days were of course very scary: who were all these people and what did they want from him? But quickly good-hearted volunteers showered him with love and attention and helped him adapt to his new surroundings. The rescue named him “Armani”, for his elegance and classy demeanor. Once his umbilical hernia was repaired and his foot treated, Armani was put up for adoption, finally ready to tackle life.

A few months later, when I was the grant administrator for American Humane Association, I received a call from the rescue asking for financial help for a mare in need of urgent veterinary care. Then, for the following weeks, the rescue kept me posted through their blog on all the horses they were helping, including a beautiful foal named Armani, who was looking for a new home. Of course I couldn’t even think of adopting him: we lived 1,800 miles away which meant several days in a trailer for a very young horse, something that would’ve worried me to death. But I had secretly bonded with him, even from a distance. In all the pictures of Armani posted on the rescue’s website, the young Thoroughbred seemed to float, his feet never touching the ground. Born and raised in Montreal, I had grown around Thoroughbreds; my uncle was breeding them and leaving the muggy city in the summer to visit his farm every Sunday was one of our favorite activities. Later on I became familiar with Secretariat and the famous French Canadians in his life who always made me very proud of my heritage; how could I not be in love with this foal?

A couple of weeks later, I left American Humane but kept in touch with many of the shelters, including Beauty’s Haven. Then at the end of October the rescue and my husband started to plan The Big Trip: Dean was trying to get Armani transported to Colorado and the rescue really wanted the foal to go west, so together they made the impossible journey become reality, without my knowledge.

In early November, on a warm Friday night, Dean proudly announced that Armani had been traveling for three days and would be home in six hours. I couldn’t believe it: the most beautiful foal in the world was coming home and I would finally get to meet the horse I had already nicknamed “Little Red”, in honor of his great, great grandpapa.

Armani arrived in the early hours of the morning. Fortunately he was not alone; he had been traveling with a couple of horses, including a Gypsy Vanner stallion that was going back to Oregon after servicing the ladies in Tennessee. Needless to say, the trailer was fairly large and luxurious. Nothing was too good for our little rescued horse. At least I thought he was little until the driver unloaded him. At the tender age of seven months, Armani was already 14.2 hands and was walking on stilts. In fact, you could almost hear the bugle call when he walked down the ramp; he had the confidence of a champion.

Unfortunately our unseasonably warm weather didn’t last long; a few days later, our new adoptee experienced his first snow. Quite a shock for the young Floridian!

Over time, his personality blossomed. He showed more and more assertiveness, and developed a mischievous side directly proportionate to his great intelligence. Armani quickly found his place in our little herd of three horses and rarely needed to be reprimanded by his elders, even today. Fortunately for us he exhibits a similar behavior with humans. In fact, I’m still amazed that despite his painful early life and the long trip to Colorado, Little Red is as confident as he is. The son of a king, he deserved a name reflecting his noble birth and his great courage. So Sir Tristan of the Round Table became the obvious choice, especially for our 9-year old son. Since he arrived, our horse with many names has picked up a few inches -- just yesterday, three weeks or so before his first birthday, we measured him at 15.2 hands. The veterinarian thinks that he will reach 16.2 or 16.3 hands at maturity. Then Tristan will hopefully calmly carry us on his back despite the bugle call that will resonate in his head, and the beating of hooves pounding deep in his heart.

All photographs courtesy of Kateri Nelson


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