My horse Jack AKA: Jackson or Jackass depending on the situation, is getting up there in age. He turned 24 in March and for the last two years he has been getting a little touchy with his health. Seeing him struggle a bit has me feeling a little nostalgic so I’m going to share a few memories of my brown eyed handsome man.
My parents own a dairy farm and although all of us girls wanted a horse the right one never came along. Until one day we came home and a colt was waiting for us in the heifer barn. My great uncle John bought him from a horse jockey and dropped him off. Jack was about 9 months to a year old when he came to us. He was a playful colt and liked to pull my sister’s hair, pick the cats up by their tails, and throw his jolly ball around. We couldn’t pasture him in with the cows because Jack hates cows. He would chase them around until they broke through the fences so Jack was by himself.
Although we loved horses we knew nothing about training one. When he was about 2 1/2 “riding” lessons started. Jack became somewhat of our local bucking bronco for friends and relatives to try their hand at. He had this habit of rearing really high until his rider tumbled backwards. I remember all the rodeos we had in his pasture and shake my head now. It is not how you train a horse but I know better now.
Around the same time a neighbor’s mare showed up and she ended up staying. Thankfully Isabel was trained to ride and she became the first horse I rode on a regular basis but we never really liked each other. We tolerated each other. So one horse turned into two, then three, then four, and soon we had five horses. Jack was turned into a gelding when he was nine and there are many days where he still has the temperament of a stallion.
He was nine when I left for collage in Montana. I met a great couple there who took me under their wing and taught me about horses, their behavior, and how to work with them. A year later we took a road trip and brought Jack to Montana. I boarded him at my friends house for the next three years while they helped me train him. We had a lot of adventures while we were there and Jack turned into a great trail horse (mostly). He rarely spooked even when we kicked up Mule deer and ran across rattle snakes. He would go up and down ditches and step over logs without trying to jump over them. We had a great few years there before we moved back to Wisconsin.
Back home to the north woods of Wisconsin Jack met back up with his fist love, Miss Isabel. Isabel and two of Jack’s sons, Goliath and Blaze, still lived at my parent’s farm. While I lived there I worked with them on ground work and was able to sell Blaze to a lovely girl. She was one of the flag girls in the Spooner Rodeo a year later and I was so happy to watch them gallop around the arena. Jack and I spent many hours exploring the various logging trails in the area. He impressed me a few times with his ability to gingerly step over various brush and logs that most horses would balk at or freak out about. Not to say he was always good. Half the time I had to fight him for every inch of ground to leave his darling Isabel behind. Jack has a tendency to be stubborn and tries to muscle his way in whichever direction he wants to go.
Jack has been at our hobby farm since 2012 when we bought it. Until last year his only pasture pals have been the goats which he pretends aren’t there. He doesn’t bother them, like cows, but he doesn’t like their company either. I think he has been happier or at least more engaged since we brought Melody home last year. Unfortunately he has been more difficult to work with because she is here and he feels the need to show off for her and act like a 5 year old stallion some days. He’s been getting better now that my sister has been riding with me and it is nice to go out with someone again. Jack and I have only been having solo adventures for the last 10 years now.
His health has been in a slow but steady decline for the last 3 years. It started with a gum problem that made it hard for him to eat. After we were able to heal this problem arthritis in his joints made riding a bit more difficult. His arthritis is easily managed with exercise and bute (phenylbutazone) which is a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory before and sometimes after a ride depending on how far we travel. He has also become increasingly picky with his water which causes him to become dehydrated. For the last two springs he has been getting mites from somewhere which we treat with ultra boss, a pour-on insecticide for livestock. This year during his spring vet check I was told he has developed a heart murmur. Weight retention will be harder and he may start to tire faster. If he starts to tire easily our riding days will be over.
Keeping weight on him this summer has already been a little challenging. I think the hot, hot week we had a while ago was really hard on him and he definitely slimmed down in a short amount of time.
I hope we have several years of riding adventures left but he has always been better with kids than adults and will continue to be a great teacher for my kids.
Jack and I have been together for 23 years. There are many adventures, arguments, happy moments, and pissed off ones (on both sides) in those years. He is a hard animal to get along with but he’s mine and I love him.