Friday, July 22, 2011

Why His Name Is Junior

I was not able to have my own horse growing up, but I was incredibly fortunate to have Megan, who shared her horse with me.  His name was Carob. 

Carob was a sweet and self-contained jumper with incredible athleticism and a long and interesting life story.  He was born in Utah and trained in chariot racing, a breakneck sport that left him with sure feet but permanently swollen joints.  After making his way to Wisconsin, he was taught to do barrels, which made him miserable and left him desperately unhappy, thin, and dull.  When Megan bought him, there were hopes he'd be better at jumping, but really there was no telling how he'd turn out.

He turned out phenomenally.  Carob was not huge, but could jump the moon.  He was lightning fast, incredibly agile, and technically correct.  With a good rider, he could work through a national-level jumper course with ease and finish ready for more.  Carob was also tolerant of youth equitation patterns and basic hunter courses, and would compete in a flat class with willingness.  He was very difficult to ride, and it took me years to make "us" appear effortless.  I'm grateful for that- he made me a good rider.

Most of all, though, I just loved Carob.  He was a fast and loyal friend, a challenge, and an outlet during my teenage years.  When I left for college 1,200 miles away, I missed him.  On visits during school breaks, every day started with a trip to the barn (and then I'd make time to visit people). 

When Carob was retired a few years later, I'd visit him at the equine old folks' home.  There, I'd feed him carrots and brush him until he walked away, then hang over the fence and just watch him.


By 2007, Carob had been retired for many years.  He was 28, his health was failing, and it was time to ease him out of this world.  I flew back to Wisconsin.

Saying goodbye to Carob was sad but I was grateful to be there with Megan. After Carob was gone, the two of us spent the rest of the day together.  She gave me his halter, which I treasure.

Later that day I called Cabbage.  He listened to my story of our day filled with Carob, and then told me his new colt had been born that same day, just hours after Carob died.

I asked Cabbage if we could pay tribute to Carob with this new colt's name, and he agreed.  And so the leggy, fairer-than-the-rest foal was named after the horse I loved first, and nicknamed Junior.   

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