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The Gentle Spotted Saddle Horse: SD's April Fool
In October 1999, after having lost two foals within six weeks of each other, we visited the Ohio Quarter Horse Congress and stopped off to see a two-year-old filly that was advertised as a Spotted Saddle Horse at a nearby farm in Columbus. Her registered name was SD's April Fool. We observed her quiet, sweet temperament and were particularly taken with her wiggly nose, by which she lovingly sampled our hands and clothes. She did not once try to bite or buck or resist handling. She instantly won us over. We bought her on the spot.
The following Saturday we were back. Although she had never loaded before, she walked calmly into our trailer. We tied her head, fastened the back gate, and were ready to roll. Fifteen minutes later, in the middle of Saturday traffic in downtown Columbus, we heard a thump as the trailer shook violently. Something was wrong. Traffic was so intense, though, that we had to keep going several blocks before we could find a driveway to pull into. At last we could come to a stop to examine the situation. Cars continued to whiz past us.
It was worse than we had imagined. The filly had somehow managed to pull back and break the tie. Her body was caught between the top of the center bar and the ceiling of the trailer. She was so tightly wedged in that she could barely breathe. Nevertheless, she was quiet and calm. Her eyes showed no sign of panic or fear, but they followed our every move. There was no one around, and we did not own a cell phone. The only solution was to remove the center bar ourselves and pray that this filly would not bolt out of the trailer or drop dead from the shock.
Somehow the two of us managed to break the weld on the center bar and lift it out while still holding a lead line on this trusting filly. As we removed the center bar to the side of the driveway, and waited for the filly to explode, she looked at us calmly and walked off the trailer as though nothing unusual had ever happened. The cars continued to whiz by her, but she just walked along the edge of the highway with me at her lead. She was still calm, cool, and collected. After about ten minutes of walking and stopping and looking for cuts and bruises (and finding none!), I led her quietly back to the trailer minus its center bar. This time I did not tie her head. As hail, driving rain, thunder, and massive lightning followed us north for the remainder of the trip, the trailer behind us was quiet. This little girl was a real trooper, and we marveled at what a treasure we had found.
This was our introduction to SD's April Fool, a registered Spotted Saddle Horse. A Spotted Saddle Horse, according to the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, is a horse with at least two square inches of white above its knees, excluding any facial white. The horse must perform a gait other than a trot: a pace, a rack, a running walk, a flat walk, or a single-foot. Many gaited horses nod their heads from side to side while they perform their gait. Although many Spotted Saddle Horses have at least one Tennessee Walking Horse parent, they may also have Missouri Fox Trotter, Kentucky Mountain Horse, Morgan, Standardbred, or Icelandic blood. To be registered, a Spotted Saddle Horse must pass the scrutiny of a Spotted Horse inspector, who insures that the horse does indeed have an acceptable gait other than a trot.
We started riding April about six weeks before her third birthday, which indeed was April Fool's Day. She was afraid of nothing--water, deer, plastic tarps, balloons, flags. She did not flinch at motorcyclists that came within a foot of her. Children under five rode her without a bridle or bit. She was, in fact, so exceptional that we rode her on main roads with a great deal of car and truck traffic. Needless to say, we were delighted to breed her. Her two Spotted Saddle Horse fillies, WIW Rythm Queen and WIW Dixie Melody, double registered as Half-Arabians, bring us much pleasure.
In 2002 Jackie and Herb Stevenson came to our farm and fell in love with April Fool. Jackie, a superb horsewoman, bought April for trail riding and soon was riding her bareback. Realizing that April could be an integral part of her therapeutic program, April, with the new name of Spirit, helps participants learn more about themselves through their communication with horses. Of Spirit, Jackie proudly says, "she is very joyful, affectionate, mischievous, and reminds us to kick up our heels and play" at the same time that she helps folks to build self-confidence, deal with crisis, develop more flexibility, and find more creativity.
Although she is a healing Spirit to Jackie, when we come to visit at Jackie's Moreland Hills home, Spirit still answers to the name April and remembers us. She is a sterling representative of the Spotted Saddle Horse: smooth-gaited, gentle, responsive, sensible, and safe enough for children as well as adults. She is the quiet, confident soul who trusted us to get her out of a very tight situation. In return, we trust her to help her many new admirers find their own inner strengths.