Taryn McLaughlin has been a volunteer for Second Chance Ranch since age 13. She is now 21 and attending veterinary school at Washington State University. She also interned for Dr. Gary Bergsma during the 2007 racing season at Emerald Downs.
As he was bred to be a racehorse, I am sure that Foxy Daniel’s (Letsboogietonight–Native Fox) owners were slightly disappointed, to say the least, when in his first out as a two-year-old, he finished ninth out of a field of nine by 33 lengths! This was his first and only race, as one can imagine. His owner’s disappoint-ment was to my benefit, as this failure of a racehorse turned out to be my star Thoroughbred dressage horse, best friend and therapist, and one that will never leave my side.
Although some of his history between the race-track and when he wound up as my equine partner is lost, I do know that Foxy Daniel, aka Jesse (also known as Cadence in the show ring), was used briefly as a jumper before he developed arthritis and bone spurs in his hocks. The odd thing about winding up with Jesse is that his previous owner had been a member of my pony club when we were growing up, and I remember competing against him in an eventing rally. Shortly afterward, I made the transition from eventing to dressage, and I found my partner and best friend in Jesse, who had also just made the transition from eventing to dressage.
As a hot and very skinny Thoroughbred off the track, Jesse was not without his problems. I remember several occasions during that first month of having him when he would randomly take off during my ride, with the wide, white eyes that all of us Thoroughbred owners recognize as the “please don’t let it eat me!” look. But it didn’t take long for him to develop an unfaltering trust in me, and me in him. We became inseparable and, to this day, I trust him with my life.
Jesse and I learned together. New to dressage training – both of us very green – we worked together as a team, developing an ever-strengthening bond and continually improving. Together, we competed through fourth level, all before my 15th birthday. We trained movements through Intermediare I and II at home and were recognized on several occasions as one of the top competing pairs in dressage. Jesse was rated by the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) as the number one Thoroughbred in the United States during our show career together. In 2001, he was given the high point Thoroughbred award by Thoroughbred Horses for Sport.
Outside of the dressage arena, I took the opportunity of working with a horse that trusted me without question and trained him to be ridden at liberty (without a saddle or bridle). We can do tempi changes [an upper level lead change in dressage, performed at one to four stride intervals], an incredible extended trot and lateral work, all by just the physical communication achieved through him responding to simple changes in my weight. He is a one in a million horse to have taken care of a young girl like me in the way that he did.
The bond between Jesse and I is much more than just skin deep. I firmly believe that we are deeply connected both physically and emotionally. Beyond the feeling that I can anticipate him and that I know exactly what is going through his mind, we share something more.
The most recent example of this deeper connection occurred on February 2, 2005. While working at a farm in a nearby town, I injured my lower back severely. While on my way to the hospital, I received a phone call telling me that Jesse had been hurt and was lame. They had not yet determined what was wrong. At the hospital, I was diagnosed with a serious compression frac-ture in my first lumbar vertebrae, but I was more concerned about my friend at home. As it turned out, Jesse had also broken his back by getting cast in his stall and had sustained several compression frac-tures in his withers. Through this trial, Jesse and I spent our time recov-ering together. Today, we both contend with the long-term effects of our injuries, but are overcoming them day by day.
I don’t know if it is possible, but if it is, Jesse is my soul mate, and I will always value him as a part of my life. He has made me a stronger and better person.
Now in his twenties, I have decided to let Jesse retire and spend his days as a baby-sitter for the foals at our farm, by far one of his favorite pastimes. He will spend the rest of his days as my horse, getting fat and happy as every loved horse should, and I find comfort in knowing that even after he is gone, I will forever have the memories of a bond with a horse, stronger than most will experience in a lifetime.
Foxy Daniel (OK), 1989, g., Letsboogietonight—Native Fox, by Reigning Royalty.
Raced one year, 1-0-0-0.