"Smile! It keeps your brain from falling out when you're frustrated!" - Clinton Anderson (Downunder Horsemanship)

"They say boys never grow up, their toys just get bigger. I say I never grew up, my 'My Little Ponies' just got bigger!" - Me

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wayne County

So this is Wayne's story.....hmm......another really long one!

In February of 2002, at 24 years old, my life long dream of FINALLY having a horse of my very own came true! I wasn't quite ready to buy a horse just yet. I had just graduated from college two months before, and still hadn't found my "computer engineering" career job (there just wasn't much out there in IT jobs in Michigan after Sept. 11th happened), so I was working as a bank teller at the time making a little over minimum wage.

But Wayne's owner was getting ready to have hip surgery and needed to thin down his herd fast, and Wayne had to go. He knew how much I loved that horse, and wanted me to have him, but otherwise, Wayne was going to auction with the others, and let's face it, a 16 year old, "out of style", "unbroke", "wrong color", "too short", "not modern enough pedigree" Haflinger breeding stallion would not have faired well at an auction, despite his wonderful temperament. I didn't have enough money for the purchase price at the time, but I really didn't want to let Wayne go, and thankfully his owner really wanted me to have him so he knew Wayne went to a good home and was willing to work with me. So we drew up a payment contract, signed over his papers, and Wayne was mine!
Ironically, my first horse was a 16 year old "unbroke" breeding stallion! Talk about the cardinal sins of first horse buying! I went all out on that one! But thankfully, if you read from my previous post, I had a good 10 years of horse experience behind me already, and I had known Wayne for some time before taking ownership of him, so everything worked out just fine! But it's still amusing the reactions that I sometimes get from people that don't know my past with horses when they find out my first horse was a 16 year old "unbroke" breeding stallion! (I say "unbroke" because I had started him under saddle already a few months before I bought him, but he was still VERY VERY VERY green!)

So into my ownership came "Wayne County", the 13.2 hand, mister personality plus Haflinger stallion; the flaxen red chestnut that shined like a copper penny with the thick flaxen double mane, a thick flaxen forelock that hid his near text book perfect blaze, flaxen feathers on his feet, and a flaxen tail that grew long and full despite his tail bone being docked like a draft horse (a phase the Haflinger breed went through years ago). I couldn't have been happier!
Wayne, the day I got him!  2-20-02
His name was kind of funny. Who names a horse "Wayne County"? Everyone says he's a "Detroit Boy" when they hear his registered name. But actually, he was born in Wayne County, Ohio. And being a W line stallion, he had to have a name that started with W. So I guess Wayne County was the best his breeders could come up with! lol!
Checking out his new home at Scheids!
But Wayne made the move to Scheid's Quarter Horses, since I was still working there as well as at the bank. One paycheck a month from Scheid's covered his payment, and the other paycheck paid for his board, so it all worked out well! Yes, I paid for my first horse ENTIRELY by shovelling manure! Hey, where there's a will, there's a way! And talk about a spoiled boy! Heated barn kept at 70 degrees all winter! Big box stall of his very own! Mares to keep tabs on, and youngsters to baby sit. What more could Studly-Do-Right ask for!
Babysitting Maggie!
They only had one pasture, so he was turned out in shifts with some of the other horses. With the old mare Mindy when she wasn't in heat, and shut in the one small run they had next to the pasture when she was. Turned out with the weanlings and yearlings to baby sit, he was good at teaching them manners. Turned out with the pregnant embryo transfer mares, they were already pregnant, so he never bothered them, he was just happy to have himself a herd. Sometimes with Slim, the big 16.2 hand gelding boarded there. Those two were a comical sight, considering the height difference, and that Slim seemed to think Wayne was his personal scratching post, much to Wayne's dismay, and Slim also seemed to find it fun to grab the butt of Wayne's blanket or sheet and pull it up, to which Wayne would stomp and protest, because those leg straps have to go somewhere! He was even turned out with Scotch Margarita when Rita came home from the trainers. That one floored me, but Pat didn't seem to see a problem with it, since Rita was on regumate and never came into heat, and thankfully, they did fine together, considering what Rita is worth!!!
Hanging out with embryo transfer mares Lady and Ebony!
And Wayne went "into training", getting ridden several days a week, and learning fast! I taught him everything he knows! By May of that year he went to his first horse show! We didn't show, but I did stall him at the show for the weekend, and walked him around while the show was going on, then rode him in the arena in the evenings. I wanted to see how he handled the show environment, considering he was a stallion, and had never been to a show, at least not since his previous owner had purchased him as a 3 year old. Wayne handled it like a champ!

In June he went to his second show, and this time we did the halter class both mornings. He whipped the competition! And again I rode him in the evenings, and in the warm up arena during the show. Still a perfect gentleman!
So in July we started the walk/trot classes, and it was all up hill from there!
First class under saddle, English Walk/Trot
We showed English walk/trot all that summer at open shows, while working on his canter at home. He was often the only non stock horse breed at the shows! The judges either loved him or hated him, we either kicked butt, and got the gate! We continued doing halter (and doing very well at halter), started doing trail classes, and started learning western and how to drive. We went trail riding at the state parks. We did Fourth of July and Memorial Day parades. I also started taking Dressage lessons at Rowe Stables that summer (my first official riding lessons ever), usually riding lesson horses, but sometimes trailering Wayne in for lessons. I even got my dressage instructor to take a ride on him, who has a very strict "I never ride stallions" rule. lol!
In 2003 we started showing again first thing in the spring and showed all summer long at the open shows. We continued our dressage lessons and started canter classes (now that he finally figured out how to carry himself in a nice collected canter under saddle and got all those pony legs going in the right direction, he's a draft horse, he's not really meant to canter under saddle, but we finally got it). Did more trail riding and parades. Played around with some saddle seat, and continued to do a little western. He really didn't get the whole neck reining thing, but thankfully from the dressage lessons he learned to steer very well off my seat and legs, so we could fake the neck reining thing pretty easy! And did more driving, learning to drive in a team, and to skid logs out of the woods to cut up for fire wood. He's a pullin' pony alright! Much stronger than he looks!
And we also started working cattle! Yes, Wayne became a cow pony! Going to round robbin practices for team sorting and team penning! What a blast that was! And Wayne picked up on it quickly, and loved moving the cows around! Didn't matter if they were using calves, or the big team roping steers that were nearly as tall as he was, Wayne still moved them where they needed to go! Of course, everyone laughed at me and my little "show pony" as they called him, but Wayne soon showed them that he could play this game just as well as their stock horses! Granted, team penning was a little harder for him, he couldn't quite keep up with those quarter horses running back and forth across the arena, but in the team sorting pen, his small compact frame was a perfect fit and very maneuverable! We had a blast! Never got the chance to make it to a competition in either sport, but the practices were just as fun!
In the fall of 2003, the National Haflinger show was being held at MSU. You didn't have to qualify to show, and since the show was so close to home, I figured what the heck, we'd go to the National show, just to say we went! It was our very first (and only) Haflinger breed show! We only entered Dressage and English, as he wasn't "modern style" enough for any of the other classes. We rode in the Intro Dressage class and ended up placing 10th! And we had a great ride in the English class, and out of 22 horses, we ended up placing 10th! I was floored and thrilled! Not bad at all, considering Wayne was the shortest horse in the class, the only flaxen red chestnut in a sea of honey blonde Haflingers, and at 17 years old, the oldest horse in the class! We even got to ride against Aristocrat TOF in that class, who at the time was the top Haflinger stallion in the nation, and the model horse for the Breyer Haflinger model! Great fun! So Wayne was top ten in Dressage and a well earned top ten in English in 2003, far more than I ever expected at that show! What a thrill!
Unfortunately, the day after the National Haflinger show brought an end to Wayne's riding career after two outstanding and very jam packed show seasons. The new barn I was boarding him at had recently taken on another stallion to board. A big 16 hand QH stallion that was rank and out of control (the type of stallion that gives stallions a bad name) and belonged to a newbie horse owner. There are very few horses that I refuse to handle because I feel I'm in serious danger around them, but this horse was definitely one of them. He needed to be gelded and put into some very serious training before he hurt somebody! But his owner was going to barrel race him and stand him stud and make lots of money (sure, if you don't get yourself killed in the process, that horse is WILD and AGGRESSIVE)! In my personal opinion, he had no business being a stallion, and had no business being boarded there! But what do I know, a paycheck is a paycheck I guess.

I pulled into the barn the day after the National show to find this stallion on the loose. Apparently his owner had been out to visit, and hadn't latched his stall door shut correctly, and Indy had let himself out of his stall. He had run full tilt at the fence to Wayne's pasture, shattered the wooden fence rails as he crashed through them, and attacked Wayne. And unfortunately, the two Belgain mares that Wayne was madly in love with were standing just on the other side of the fence from him. And Wayne, having been a herd stallion pasture breeding mares for so many years (and who seems to think he's ten foot tall and bullet proof), was determined to stand his ground and defend "his" Belgain mares. Wayne took a beating, but Indy didn't come out much better, Wayne gave back just as much as he received, and we had two very beat up and bleeding stallions by the time we were able to separate them.

Thank god Wayne's a tough drafty little bugger for his size, or he'd have been dead for sure, but unfortunately, he got kicked hard in the side of the knee during the fight, and tore the collateral ligament on the outside of his left knee. Flexion tests, x-rays, and ultrasound confirmed it. And there was nothing to do but stall rest him, and hope and pray, but at 17 years old, the chances of it healing properly were slim to none. Maybe MSU could do something for him with surgery, but at his age, that was risky too, and I couldn't afford surgery anyway. I was sick, I was furious, I cried my eyes out, I wanted to go after the other stallion owner and make her pay for what her horse had done! The barn owner called the other owner and told her what happened, and she showed up with a trailer that night, loaded up her horse, and took off. We never saw or heard from her again. I was sick! The one thing I had wanted all my life, that I had worked so hard for all through college, had likely just been ripped right out from under me!

Of course, his knee never healed right, and while he was sound enough to be a pasture pet, his riding days were definitely done. So Wayne's been living the retired pasture potato life for the last 7 years. We did try going to a show in 2004 to do the halter class just for fun, but his limp decided to show up that day in a couple of his trot strides, so needless to say, we didn't place. That was his last show.
Wayne's last show. 2004
Arthritis has set into that knee over the years, and definitely not helped by a few of the barns I boarded at. While there were promises of having his very own pen and turned out all day, and it was that way for the first few months and Wayne proved he was a good natured, easy to have around stallion, they all reverted to that "stallions need to be kept in a stall at all times" mentality that so many people seem to have when it comes to stallions, and started keeping him locked away in a stall with no turnout, despite my protests and his good behavior. And that was murder on his knee! Standing around all day with little movement, caused arthritis to run wild, and his knee just got bigger and bigger. My mom even started going out on her days off to take him for long walks just to get him out of his stall for a while (he really is like an over grown dog at times), and I'd turn him out in the arenas or anywhere I could at night when I was there, but of course it was never for long enough, and he had to go back in his stall when I left.

So I'd find a new barn to move the furkids to, and the process would start all over again. Seriously people! Yes, he's a stallion, but he's not your typical stallion! Give him a chance, he's never done anything to show you he needs to be locked up, yet you lock him up anyway! Let him live outside and stop helping his knee destroy itself! The last barn started out the same way, then went to locking him in a stall in the back barn that was pitch black except when someone was in the barn and turned on the lights, his only company a goat that shared his stall with him, and the 2 year old stud colt locked away a few stalls over who at least had a small window to the outside world in his stall. Needless to say, Wayne didn't handle that well at all, his knee got worse, he got depressed to the point he stopped eating, I went looking for yet another barn.

I had just started a new job and moved to a new area, and got lucky enough to find a barn two miles down the road from home that had room for three horses. And had individual turnout pens for Wayne. The owner was leery of taking on a stallion, but agreed to let me bring him down for a one month trial period and if all went well, then I could bring my mares down too. Unfortunately, an F3 tornado (unheard of in our neck of the woods), came through the area just before we were to bring Wayne down, and destroyed the barn owners home and some of the barns. Thankfully no one was hurt, and I am glad Wayne wasn't there when that happened. So his move to High Point Stables was delayed a couple months, as he continued to live in that dark hell hole they had put him in, and he continued to get thinner and thinner from refusing to eat anything but his grain. It broke my heart, he was obviously miserable, I almost put him down.

But finally, in September of 2007, Wayne made the move to High Point, and after a couple of rocky weeks of settling in and adjusting to having freedom and horses around, Wayne finally proved himself a good boy, and we got to stay! It did my heart a world of good to see him outside every day grazing and wandering around, happy to be out and with other horses for company in the pasture next to him, and my little guy got his spirits and personality back! He's even gone to being on pasture board now instead of stall board, and seems content with retired life. And thankfully there's been no locking him away in a stall, so he's been living the good life at High Point!
Getting fat and happy at High Point! 2007
His knee is definitely in bad shape. He's lost 50% of his range of motion in that knee. But he's learned to compensate for it, and learned how best to get up and down to roll and lay down with it. He's learned he can't trot very well, so he pretty much goes everywhere at the walk or the canter. And he's learned to do flying lead changes every few strides to compensate for that knee when he does one of his full gallop runs from the back of the pasture to the gate to see what's going on, always afraid he might be missing out on something. And my farrier has been a blessing in keeping him trimmed for the best possible breakover and movement he can give him, and is gentle and patient with Wayne when it comes to trimming his feet. I have his knee x-rayed every spring to track it's progress, and we suspect from the x-rays that the joint that's been destroyed by the arthritis may actually be beginning to fuse itself together, which would be a blessing, because once fused, there'd be little pain to no pain anymore.
Just up from a nap!  5-15-10
He's 24 years old this year, and other than his knee and his teeth (which have worn out early on him due to lack of dental care his first 16 years and too much dental work to correct that lack of care after I got him, and while he can eat grass and soaked senior feed just fine, hay he just can't chew anymore, but he doesn't seem to mind the soaked hay cube diet one bit, he's always right there waiting for those three meals a day in the winter), and a lot of grey hair on his face, he's still in great health. Honestly, if it wasn't for his bad knee, I'd probably still be riding him today! Sometimes I wonder where we'd be after 8 1/2 years together had his riding career not been cut short so soon.
Handsome as ever at 24!
Sadly though, I know I'll probably lose him to that knee long before his health fails. He has his good days and his bad days. Thankfully more good than bad still, and in general he's always in good spirits and seems content and happy with life. So as long as he seems happy, I'll do what I can to keep him that way and as comfortable as I can. I'm just not ready to part with my little man yet! I know most people would have put him down long ago, but as long as he seems content, isn't showing me that he's miserable, his appetite is GREAT, and I can afford to keep boarding him, I have a hard time with putting him down just yet.
So we take things month by month. I'd miss not having my plucky little pony around! Even on my worst of days, Studly-Do-Right always has a way of making me smile! He's still my best bud, quite a character, definitely a goofball, and seems to have a knack for coming up with some of the most off the wall situations to get himself into that make a doosie of a story later on.
Come on mom!  The barn's this way!  6-7-10
So that's Wayne's story! Guess that means Lady's next!


  1. Wonderful story, and so glad you have him in a place where he's able to enjoy his retirement. He's still a beautiful guy!

  2. I felt so angry for you when I read about the other stallion wrecking his knee. To have worked so hard for a dream, and to have it snatched away from like that is more awful than I have words for. For your horse to suffer such unnecessary pain is dreadful.

    What a lovely horse :-) One of my horses also has a ruined knee, and he is only 16. So it's nice to know that someone else is loving an unsound horse for all the rest of their days.

  3. Thanks Kate and Kippen! He's definitely something special!

    What is it with knees getting ruined? One of my mares got kicked in the knee back in February by another boarders mare and now needs surgery if I ever want to ride her again. But right now I have to finish paying for my wedding before I shell out $2,000 for knee surgery on my horse. Ugh. She's 16 also. But definitely good to know there are others out there that still love them, even if they are just pasture potatos now! lol!

  4. Oh my gosh, I've heard the story before, but I am tearing up over here reading about his accident with his knee (well, accident, negligence...). Especially after ALL you guys accomplished, all on your own! Just heartbreaking.
    Despite all that, you have, so, so much to be proud of...I didn't know all the details-pretty cool:)
    Wayne is still the most handsome boy at the barn and I'm so happy to be able to say hi to him and rub his adorable nose when I go out there. He has been GREAT for Miles as well-a steady companion for him since they've been pastured next to each other, and I'm so grateful to him-I hope they continue to be pasture buddies for many years:)

  5. Studly-Do-Right...love it! Wayne is beautiful. I hope you are able to enjoy a few more years with this engaging guy. :-)

  6. What a great story and how pretty he is. You did such amazing things with him, and then to have some idiot ruin it. Wayne is very lucky to have you and it's such a pity your riding was cut short.