This past March I attended the ADCS Festival of Driving Show held at the Dale Creek Equestrian Village in Litchfield Park, Arizona.  I was joined by my miniature horse Spragues Orion Royale Herby otherwise know as “Snoopy”.

Snoopy is a 31″ American Miniature Horse and he is 22 years young.  He is a strawberry roan and has the personality of a gentle giant.

For this two day show I entered him in nine classes  which were either show ring driving or obstacle classes.  On Saturday he did very well in four of the five classes placing in the top six in all four.  Snoopy gave me all he had and was pretty tired by the end of the day.  He earned a well needed meal and a super rest for the rest of the day.

Now I had been having some issues with his back hocks, as they are showing signs of arthritis, so it was not surprising that Sunday morning he was a bit stiff.  I spent the first thirty minutes trying to limber him up at a walk.

When they called out first class of the morning we made it about two times around the arena and it was obvious that he was not comfortable driving so I withdrew him from the class.  At this point I decided that he had had enough and that we would get packed up and head for home.

Snoopy is now on a joint supplement and an arthritis medicine Equioxx and he is doing very well and is moving more normal.

It was a sunny May fourth and I had an appointment for my dog to be groomed.  My husband and I dropped our dog “Kandi” off at the groomers and then decided to get breakfast out.

By the time that we had finished breakfast, we headed home to get some work done before picking up Kandi.  I got the call from the groomer about noon and I asked my husband if he wanted to go with to pick her up. We headed into town and got Kandi and then headed home with her.  As I was driving, I noticed that my husband kept stretching his left arm and then rubbing his left shoulder.  I asked him several times if he was alright and if he needed to go to the doctor. He kept saying that he was alright, so I proceeded to drive home.

When we arrived home he decided to sit and take a rest. I asked again if he was alright, and again he said he was.  I told him I was going out to drive my horse Sailor for about twenty minutes and I would be back in.

Now, what happened next was Beyond The Expected!  As I was coming around the front of my property, I noticed a van sitting in my driveway at the gate.  My first thought was that the FedEx truck was delivering a package. Then about thirty seconds later, I heard sirens and they were getting close. Coming up my road was a fire paramedic truck pulling up to the driveway. By this time, I realized that the van was an ambulance and I knew that my husband was the one who called 911.

What was going through my mind at this time was how am I going to get Sailor unhitched without him being spooked by all of the forthcoming commotion.  I decided to drive him straight into the side of my round pen which would keep most of the activity of the paramedics out of his view. After taking a few deep breaths to calm myself, I started talking with Sailor in as calm a voice as I could mustard at the time.  For him, this was not his normal routine so keeping him calm was necessary because I didn’t need to get hurt.  I managed to get him unhitched and walked him to the barn and stripped his harness off as quickly as possible.  I could see the confusion in his eyes, but I also knew that he trusted me to keep him safe. By the time I was heading to the house, one of the paramedics was coming to find me.  As it happened, my husband was having a heart attack, so the quicker he got to the hospital, the better his chances would be to recover.  The paramedics did what they could for him at the house and then loaded him into the ambulance.  This whole time the paramedics were in contact with the heart center at the hospital.  By the time I got myself together and to the hospital, my husband was already in surgery having a stint put in. He made it through the whole ordeal, but he will need double bypass surgery to fix other arteries to his heart.

By now you are wondering why I am telling you this story. “Sailor” is a Friesian Sporthorse that I have been working with now for over eleven years.  We have become great partners and we have competed in many combined driving events across the country. During this experience, Sailor had no idea why I unhitched him in such a weird place and returned him to his stall in such a strange manner.  During the whole process, I could tell that he was concerned by watching his body language.

The bond that one develops over the years working with a horse is beyond words.

This bond showed itself about two weeks later when I hitched Sailor up to go for a drive on the course on my property.  My husband decided to ride along, and I only let him after making him promise that he would not try to move the carriage around and just be a passenger.

I headed out on the course at a walk as I usually do for a full round on the course.  Then, when I asked Sailor to trot he went about fifty feet and then went back to a walk.  We repeated this about four times at which time I realized that he knew there was a special person on the carriage and that he needed to be very careful on this particular day.

We drove at a walk for about thirty minutes and not once did Sailor take a wrong step or do anything that he was not asked to do.  You could see that he was stepping with such care, almost like walking over eggshells. I would not have even realized Sailors concern if I had not been working with him for those eleven years. I have learned all of his normal ways of going and this day was so different.

For all of you who only have your horse for a couple of years and then send them down the road, you are really missing out on the relationship that you could be having with your horse. This is not the first time that one of my horses have reacted in this almost human way, but most of my horses I have owned for many years and most until they have passed away.

“Beyond The Expected” is truly what this whole experience was about!