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Rum Car

My horse is now deceased, but he raced at Portland Meadows back in the early ’70s. His name was Rum Car. He was bred by C. R. Newton and born on February 15, 1972.

After his racing days, Rum Car became an eventing horse and won a championship in 1981. I have the cooler. My sister and I first met him at a stable in Northern California in 1989. He was 17 years old and was in the most terrific condition. He’d been in all the local horse shows in the San Francisco Bay area and usually won. It was love at first sight and we purchased him without a vet check, because we knew that we wanted him in our lives for the rest of his life. We didn’t do anything with him except ride him, and he taught us just about everything we know about horses. He was always the barn favorite and always the horse who would calm down the newcomers. Some were even put right in his paddock with him.

I took him to Europe in 1994 when I thought I might move there. Things didn’t work out and we came back. In 2001, my sister and I moved to Wisconsin and, of course, Rum Car came along too. We found a perfect place for him to retire at Grand View Equestrian Center in McFarland. He thoroughly enjoyed himself there and once again was the barn favorite. He had a best friend and protégé named Charlie Brown. He and Charlie (who was six at the time and had the same coloring) would race up and down the pasture and the only way you could tell the two apart was that Rum Car was always in the lead. At 30, he was still in terrific shape and going strong. He was even featured in a clinic on older horses because of his excellent condition.

In November of 2004, Rum Car was diagnosed with a tumor in his bladder. At 32 years old, surgery was not an option for him. We decided to go on just as we had, but now it was with heavy hearts. Two months later on a cold day in January he laid down outside in the snow and wouldn’t get up. I was at work and got a frantic phone call from the barn. When I got there, I was able to coax him up and get him in the barn. We observed him for the next few days, but we knew it was over. He seemed more than ready to go. On January 13, 2005, we kept our promise that he would never suffer and let him go. The vet said it was the easiest death she had ever seen. We had him cremated whole and his ashes sit in a huge oak urn in our living room.

He had been retired for 8 1/2 years and those were probably the best years I had with him. All there was to look forward to was just spending time with him at the barn. Even though I loved riding him, I loved just being in his company even more.

I’ve never met a horse like Rum Car. He touched our lives and the lives of so many others in such a special way. I’ve been trying to get his win photo from Portland Meadows, but it seems to be an impossibility because it was so long ago. I do have lots and lots of photos of him. He was a beautiful bay gelding and he packed a lot of muscle – I suppose from his eventing days. He was the sweetest horse I’ve ever known. If you fell off him (unless he was spooked) he would stand very still, not wanting to step on you. He was also as hot as all get up. Even at 32, there were times that as he left the paddock for the barn, he thought he was in the starting gate and would just explode out of the paddock. The barn owner let him because she loved him, and because he was old, she said he was entitled to do as he pleased. When he was still being ridden, too many flying lead changes (and he did these beautifully) and he would be ready to fly to the next county. He was a very hot horse.

To this day, I still can hardly make it through a day without shedding a tear for him. He was so special. I know there will never be another horse for me like Rum Car. It was a tremendous honor to have been his caretaker for 15 years. Rest in peace, beautiful boy.
—Myrna VandenBerg

Rum Car, 1972, g., Nictrum—Carrie Me, by Credit Me.
Raced two years, 34-1-1-5, $1,989.