A few weeks ago we said a sad goodbye to our friend and resident known as Ritchie. Ritchie was a paint that failed to get any paint markings. Aside from a small star on his face and a tiny white anklet on his left hind leg he had no markings at all.
Ritchie was a very lucky horse. He spent the first 19 years of his life with the same family. All three daughters rode him, he was the family horse extraordinaire. With his first family Ritchie did everything from 4-H shows to trail riding, costume classes and gymkhana events. Ritchie was trained in both Western and English riding, he was truly the family horse that did everything.
Ritchie and his mom
Eventually the girls grew up and Ritchie found himself mostly without a job after 19 years. He didn’t know it but he was about to find another family. His future family was leasing another horse named Jovi. Ritchie’s future mom had ridden a lot growing up, but as often happens, life got in the way of horses and she ended up not being around horses at all for a long time. However horses had never left her heart, and she decided that horseback riding would be a great way to spend time together with her granddaughter. First came riding lessons, then came the leased horse, Jovi.
Ritchie and Trigger playing some halter tag while waiting their turns for the dentist
“Oh, hi. No, we were just standing here. We definitely weren’t trying to pull each other’s halters off.”
Rip, Elfin, Grand and Ritchie hanging out
They kept Jovi at a co-op barn where they did all of the work 3 days per week in exchange for board. Ritchie’s mom and her granddaughter loved everything about their horse experience with the exception of the horse they were leasing. Jovi ended up being a lot more horse than they were told, and he could be quite a handful both on the ground and to ride.
Ritchie and Leo
Ritchie and Trigger
Things came to a head with Jovi when they took him to a 4-H horse show. It was the first horse show for the granddaughter and she was beyond excited. Unfortunately Jovi was beyond excited as well, and he was so worked up they could hardly contain him. When it came time to attempt to get on Jovi no one could get on him. He simply longed himself in a circle around whomever was holding him because he couldn’t be still.
Chance and Ritchie
Leo, Chance, Rip and Ritchie
Rip and Ritchie
The mom of Ritchie’s first family happened to be running the 4-H show. She saw the scene with Jovi refusing to let anyone get on him, and she also saw the devastated little girl who wasn’t going to participate in her first horse show. She pulled Ritchie’s future mom aside and told them she had a horse at home that would be perfect for them and her granddaughter could borrow him for the show. This was a true act of kindness and generosity on the part of Ritchie’s first family as neither of Ritchie’s families had met before.
Ritchie and Rip
Trigger and Ritchie
Ritchie’s future mom and her granddaughter went to the show organizer’s house. She caught Ritchie, who hadn’t been ridden in awhile, and tacked him up for her granddaughter. It was love at first ride. Ritchie’s future mom watched as her granddaughter went cantering through the field on this horse she had never ridden with a smile on her face and not a hint of fear.
Ritchie and Trigger
The next day Ritchie’s first family brought him to the 4-H show, and his future mom’s granddaughter rode in her first horse show on Ritchie. They did the egg and spoon race and all of the gymkhana classes. Ritchie won a pile of ribbons for his young rider and he turned the show into a fun and memorable experience for her.
Trigger and Ritchie
Leo and Ritchie playing
After seeing how well Ritchie got along with everyone at the show his first family offered to let his future mom lease him. They jumped at the chance and ended their lease on Jovi and Ritchie came into their lives. This all happened in July of 2008.
Rip, Ritchie and Trigger
Ritchie’s future mom and her granddaughter enjoyed every moment of their time with Ritchie. After they had leased Ritchie for four monthis his first family asked if they would like to buy Ritchie. Originally they only wanted to lease him since the whole family was attached to him and all three of their daughters rode him. However, after seeing how much Ritchie’s future mom and granddaughter loved him, they realized Ritchie would be as cherished by his new family as he had been by them. In September 2008, after spending his first 19 years with his original family, Ritchie officially became a member of his second family.
Thomas and Ritchie playing
Ritchie’s new mom and her granddaughter both rode Ritchie. They rode him both English and Western. The granddaughter loved to get on Ritchie and go cantering through the field bareback with nothing but a halter and a leadrope. Their time at the barn together with Ritchie was bonding time for them, and along with Ritchie they made memories together that would last a lifetime.
Ritchie and Leo playing
When her granddaughter slowly lost interest in riding as she got older and other activities began to take up her time, Ritchie’s mom continued to ride and enjoy him. At one point Ritchie was stabled across from a big warmblood horse name Rip. Ritchie’s mom was talking to Rip’s mom one day and it came up that Rip didn’t really like being ridden in one of the arenas by himself. Ritchie’s mom offered to ride in the ring with Rip’s mom. They had so much fun they made a standing date to ride together after that. Through Ritchie and Rip they formed a lasting friendship that remains strong to this day.
Tony and Ritchie
Leo, Levendi and Ritchie having a lazy day waiting for the farrier
Eventually the day came when Ritchie was ready to retire. He could have kept going doing light riding, but his mom felt strongly that after all he had given to her and to his first family that he deserved the opportunity to enjoy being a horse. Ritchie traveled to our farm with Rip, the horse he used to keep company in the ring. Not only had their moms formed a friendship, but Rip and Ritchie had formed a friendship as well. Aside from the fact that Rip was over 17 hands and Ritchie was only 15 hands, they otherwise looked alike. Their coats were the same color and they had very similar markings. Ritchie was Rip’s mini-me. They loved being turned out together, and 2.5 years ago they traveled to our farm together from Ohio to retire.
Rip and Ritchie, Big and Little
Since Rip and Ritchie were already friends we knew we wanted to transition them into the same family group. They joined the Big Boys. I told Ritchie’s mom that if Ritchie had come alone we probably wouldn’t have picked the Big Boys for Ritchie’s group. He was older than most of the Big Boys and also a smaller guy. However, he and Rip were bonded and Rip was definitely a Big Boy, so we decided to try and see how it worked. Both Rip and Ritchie fit right in with the Big Boys. If anything Ritchie tended to be in the middle of the action even more often than Rip. If the Big Boys found a reason to run, Ritchie was right in the middle galloping along. If the Big Boys found a reason to play, buck or otherwise be rowdy, Ritchie was right there being as naughty as any of them. He loved it.
Thomas and Ritchie playing
Ritchie and Hemi playing
Trigger and Ritchie
For 2.5 years Ritchie loved life as a Big Boy. He never looked or acted his age. Sometimes Jason and I said it almost seemed as if Ritchie was ageless, or aging in reverse. He continued to live his charmed life right up until his last day. On his last day it was a like switch was flipped and Ritchie was perfectly healthy one moment and then clearly in distress the next. The change was dramatic enough that we didn’t even bother waiting for a vet to get to the farm. We loaded Ritchie on a trailer and drove him straight to the clinic. Unfortunately the news was very dire as diagnostics revealed Ritchie had a strangulating lipoma. Strangulating lipomas tend to strike out of nowhere, they can’t be prevented, and the only way to address one is through surgery. Ritchie was only a few weeks shy of his 27th birthday, and no one, from the veterinary surgeon to us to Ritchie’s mom, felt it would be in Ritchie’s best interests to put him through the surgery and recovery. We all made the only reasonable decision there was to make, and that was to let Ritchie go.
Homer, Ritchie and Baby on the run
Ritchie was a special horse who lived a very special life. He was the horse that gave a beginner confidence, and taught them how to love horses and riding. He was the horse that taught a family of girls to ride. He was the horse that brought endless opportunities for grandmother-granddaughter bonding. He was the horse that helped his people form lasting friendships. Ritchie didn’t jump big jumps or perform beautiful dressage tests, but the impact he made on the lives of all of his people was, and will always be, priceless. He is the horse we have all needed at some point in our lives, and two families were lucky enough to call him their own.
Rest in peace Ritchie. You were very special, and you are missed by many.