For days I’ve been coming up with excuses to not write about retiring my Quarter Horse Huckleberry.
A month ago I decided it was time he went to pasture. Wednesday the hauler pulled into the Los Angeles Equestrian Center early and there went my plans for a long goodbye. Huck stepped into the trailer and, as instructed, I closed the door behind him so he wouldn’t back out. The trailer echoed the whinnies and kicks of impatient racehorses also destined for Northern California. “Thank you for looking after my boy,” I managed.
“You’re welcome,” the hauler shook my hand. “I’d better get going.” I caught a fleeting glimpse of Huck’s face through the trailer window before the truck rumbled out the long driveway and I broke down in the parking lot.
Eight years earlier, I’d stood in the same spot as my dear friend Mike Chipko trailered in my sorrel trail buddy. On account of his good nature and penchant for laziness, I called him Huck. People frequented his stall to offer him carrots or a pat. He liked the company.
In fact, Huck insisted on it. If anyone ambled behind us on the trail, no matter how much I egged him on, he’d show me who was boss by slowing to a crawl until those riders caught up and he could flick his ears back and forth at their horses.
In this way I met a fellow USC alumna riding her Thoroughbred. We talked about college days and soon I received an invitation to join the Friends of the USC Libraries Board. Because of Huck, I reconnected to USC in a fun and meaningful way.
Another riding buddy became Huck’s “Aunt.” Whenever he saw her, he nickered for her attention. I brag he took Blue Ribbon for Talkiest Horse. When I loaned him to a high school student taking lessons at Bennett Farms, Huck made me proud and won a real Blue Ribbon.
He also brought me into a circle of wonderful horse people at Bennett Farms like trainer Jim Bennett, trail buddies Patty and Kellian Ladd and groom/problem-solver Leo.
Leo could cure many horse ailments but he couldn’t solve my own dilemma: How to justify the cost of caring for a horse that I now barely rode once a week. Traffic snarls and constant canyon road closures on top of teaching, parenting and working made seeing Huck a push. The hurry-up-and-ride headache, just so I could rush to get back, seemed ridiculous.
Mike introduced me to Judy Adams and the answer became clear. She and husband Jack Adams own The Adams Ranch in Clements and they agreed to bring Huck into their family.
I think about Huck all the time but I don’t miss seeing him in a 12×12 stall. Judy sends me progress reports and photos. When she writes, “He acts like he’s been here his whole life” I believe her. He looks amazing. The freedom. The green grass. The new pasture pal. The mares in the next pasture…He must figure this is Horse Heaven. I just figure Judy Adams is an Angel.