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Heller High Water

by John Loftus

Wednesday, October 27, 2010—On a sad note, Chinook Pass’s stablemate, Heller, age 25, was euthanized in the wee hours last night after colicking. He was the gentle soul, a chestnut, given to Jill [Hallin] by the Penneys 21 years ago as a four-year-old when he broke a leg without having broken his maiden at the track. Jill started teaching him dressage at Reber Ranch, but when he heard the racehorses running around the track there he’d get all excited, so she and Curtis put him back in training. First he went to Yakima Meadows, where he finally broke his maiden—in a dead heat! Later he went to Spokane, where he managed to pay his way, although he would never again visit the winner’s circle.

After his truncated racing career, Heller came home, learned dressage, and was a training horse for countless little girls.

One fell in love with him so much that Jill sold him to her. That girl loved him through her teen years, but when she went off to college had to say good-bye and send him back to Jill. That girl is a veterinarian today.

Back at home, Heller continued doing dressage, trail riding and teaching for many years. He was always favored because of his gentleness. “Can I ride Heller today?” the little girls would ask.

As with all horses, there are many stories to tell. Another one of his students was what Jill described as a “typical horse-crazy girl” who had painfully broken her elbow in a fall at another farm and now had deep-seated fears of getting back in the saddle. Heller cured her of those fears. He lived in the shadow of an equine legend, Chinook Pass, who was the leader of their little band, but to the young girls, Heller was a rock star.

Heller High Water (for that was his full name) competed and won class honors in dressage at Donida Farm in August and carried little girls on his back for his last lessons this past Saturday.

When Chinook Pass died, his pet goat, Ellie, was moved to Heller’s stall. She wouldn’t settle there—insisted on staying in Chinook’s stall—so Heller moved to that stall, which had been slated to remain empty for a good long time. And today Chinook’s stall is empty for a second time, and Ellie has been twice bereaved.

Good-bye, Heller High Water. You were a nice horse, dearly beloved by a generation of young girls and a fine companion to Chinook Pass.

Heller High Water (CA), 1984, g., Golden Eagle II—Worthy Cause, by Viking Spirit.
Raced for three years, 23-1-1-1, $3,182.