It would be an understatement to characterize this post as past due since Faune retired with us in 2007. Faune is probably one of our best known residents, and many people know him as “the big French guy.” He arrived at our farm prior to our blogging days and he is long overdue for his very own post. I harassed asked his mom way too much about this post as I wanted Faune to have his own post so badly. His mom came through for me in a big way and actually wrote the entire post herself! In her own words here is the story of her journey with Faune. She wrote this post for me this past Sunday, April 15th, which was Faune’s 19th birthday.
Faune wasn’t something I planned on in a lot of ways. I was young, a workaholic, traveled way too much, and was in a long relationship with someone who was undoubtedly not a horse lover. Yet, I like to say “Faune Happens” – that is, sometimes the most important things you’ll experience in your life aren’t planned at all. They’re planned for you, actually. I have owned my horse Faune for 12 years, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be owned by him. Because in actuality, he owns his people – not the other way round.
A picture of Faune taken shortly after his mom bought him
My parents like to say I was “Born Horsey” and began asking for a horse when I was 3 years old. Growing up in Chappaqua, NY I eventually became a very competitive young equestrian and I was fortunate enough to have parents who supported my habit, and provided me with the opportunity to own some amazing animals and train with some of the best Junior Equitation trainers in the Northeast, like George Morris, Kip Rosenthal and Jane Grenci of Fox Hill Farms. But it was never the competition that I liked the most. It was the times when it was just me and my crazy horse – out on the trails of the Rockefeller Estate on our off days. It was magic and I often think about just how unafraid I was to trundle along out there by myself on my equitation horse, Elliot (Fair Isle). Later in my life, I wouldn’t be so brave. Luckily, I was going to paired with a partner who would help me with that.
Faune and his mom waiting to go in the ring
Like a lot of girls, I wasn’t able to take my horse to college, and my competitive junior career ended when I attended Syracuse. Although I rode on the inter-mural Syracuse Equestrian Team, my life was absorbed mostly with College and boys, of course. The years without a horse were empty in so many ways. I didn’t actually realize how empty until later. After college I moved to Washington, DC for grad school and eventually made my way to Boston – all fairly horse free at this point. I was a partner at a small public relations firm and working 80 hours a week – traveling every other week – and basically just existing without my passion in my life. Faune had other plans.
Faune certainly did not have any trouble clearing this jump!
I began riding again at a local barn outside Boston, first just weekly lessons, which allowed me to get back in shape and realize just how barren my life had become without my first love – horses. The trainer I was working with at the time suggested it was time to go shopping, a terrifying prospect now that it was going to my dime. But, I went along with it, never really thinking I would find the right horse for me. All those years off had created a much more timid rider now in my 20s, and I would need the right partner to baby me along.
Faune enjoying his favorite treat, a slurpee
Still, on a trip down to Palm Beach in January of 2000, I enjoyed trying a lot of amazing younger horses. If I’m being honest, I had my heart set on a gray, somewhere between 16.2-17hh. If you know Faune then you know it’s laughable what I actually ended up with. I had tried about 2 dozen horses between WEF and Vermont, mostly young hunters and a few jumpers who were nice enough to do some lower level amateur hunters. I wasn’t looking for “the best.” I was looking for a partner who could help me get my confidence back. They were all lovely, but mechanical. Nothing really felt like a good fit.
Faune taking a look around before heading into the ring
On my last day at WEF, the broker and I walked through a small aisle of horses and we stopped at Faune D’Helby’s washstall. There, I came face to face with one of the largest horses I had ever seen. He was 17.3hh and chestnut, with a large white blaze and four white stockings. I didn’t like the look of him one bit to be honest – as I had never really loved chestnuts and surely I couldn’t ride such a big horse, right? But, we decided to try him because I was heading home the next day.
schooling at a Vermont show
I sat on a few others before Faune was ready to go, and again, the same feeling of “just not me” was clear. Remembering the long process of trying horses as a kid, I simply knew I had met my match when I rode Elliot. It was instant. Then I sat on Faune. The first time you sit on Faune it’s like you’re sitting on a big, soft couch. As we walked to the ring, he curled his neck all the way around to touch my boot. I know now that he was in fact, looking for cookies. But still, I was smitten. It was instant, just like I remembered.
showing in a jumper class in Vermont
Faune was a gifted horse in a lot of ways. A really beautiful mover despite his size. A dream to ride. He was easy, relaxed, and calm. He had a sticky left lead change, that worried my trainer but to be honest, the horse could have had three legs at this point. He was coming home with me. We had him vetted and I was told that his left stifle showed some early arthritis. It didn’t change my mind one bit. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing with Faune as he was suitable for both hunters and equitation. We would just see where it would go.
Faune grazing with his friends in retirement
Faune was born and bred in Normandy, France in April 1993. His dam was Nymphe De Thurin and his sire was Digne Espoir, a successful stallion out of Ibrahim. He was imported by a family to do the jumpers in 1996 but was later sold back to his importers, apparently. Faune spent his first showing years doing the jumpers and then was moved into the professional hunter divisions with a few trainers. He was being sold as an “either/or” – hunters/equitation or jumpers; the horse would be suitable for both. For me, I didn’t really know what I wanted to show in – so I was happy to shoot for the 3′ amateur hunter divisions and go from there.
Faune having a lazy retired day
I do find it funny thinking that Faune could have ever been competitive in jumpers, because his canter is a perfect hunter lope, and to gallop would just not suit him really. He was brave in many areas, but not as brave as a good jumper would have to be. Still, over his career my horse did indeed do a little of everything.
I moved Faune to an amazing barn in Dover, Massachusetts, called Shining Valley Farm, where I began training with Krisanna Onorato, one of Paule Valliere’s gifted students, now running her own farm, owned by Ron Zohar. Krisanna began showing Faune in the professional hunter divisions locally (he was later a Horse of the Year in Zone 1 before an injury sidelined them), and I spent my own time just learning to ride properly again.
We call this look of Faune’s “cow nose;” he gets his hay cube mash all over his face
As I began to get deeper and deeper back into my horse life, my professional life had to change. After a couple years, I left my firm and took a much less stressful corporate job so I could spend more time riding and taking care of Faune. I also got rid of the guy who eventually asked me to choose between him and Faune. It was the easiest decision I ever made. Looking back, those were the best years of my life, and not because I was beginning to show again, but because I was living again and was excited to get out of bed every morning just to see my horse later that day.
Over the next several years I spent my time deeply engrossed in my horse – his health, his training, and some showing. We started out in the 3′ hunter and equitation divisions but over time, as I got older and had a few more falls, I began to experience a lot of anxiety jumping my horse. Faune is one of those horses that is so easy to ride, you never really worried about much while riding him. In fact, in flat classes, I would just whisper to him when it was time to trot, canter or walk. That’s how pushbutton he really was.
Melissa on Faune. I’ve had the pleasure of riding Faune a couple of times myself and my words to Jason were “he’s like riding a big couch.”
But as my confidence waned, so did his. He began stopping off and on, which compounded my growing issues with larger jumps. We moved down to the 2’6″ hunters where lots of ladies like me were riding their horses to get some confidence back. To be honest, I really enjoyed the 2’6″ division and was never embarrassed that we weren’t ever going to be a 3’6″ team. In fact, I didn’t care if I never showed at that point as Faune was doing great with Krisanna and seemed to be really enjoying his routine. Most importantly, my horse was happy – spoiled, fat and simply a joy to be around. He has his quirks, for sure. Like his obsession with treats that once led to an emergency visit from a vet at HITS, after Faune had reached over and ate a plastic bag that USED to have horse cookies in it. Oiled and lubed up, the bag passed whole about 6 hours later.
In the summer of 2006, Faune got injured at Vermont Summer Festival taking a bad step in a Adult Equitation flat class with me. I felt the step and knew right away he was off. We shipped him home and our vet diagnosed a slight left hind medial suspensory strain. This is, of course, devastating for any horse person, because you know it’s going to be a long road. And it was. Faune also coliced 2 days after getting home and I was terrified I was going to lose my horse as I watched him be walked around the driveway waiting for the vet. Thankfully, banamine and some oil got him right again. I spent the night in the barn, outside my horse’s stall. I mean this when I say it – I will do anything for my horse. Anything he ever needs he will have.
Amy demonstrating the best way to groom Faune
Faune spent a very short time on total stall rest and then we began turning him out because a big horse like mine needs to move, even if he can’t be ridden. Faune was a great patient, and I think really enjoyed his time off. We did both stem cell and ultrasound therapy on his left hind, and the swelling dropped within 8 weeks. Faune was brought back very slowly over about 8 months time, first handwalking, then walking under saddle, and at month 6 or 7, began to trot. Faune and I bonded even further during his recovery. I would often get to the barn late in the evenings, and walk him under saddle alone in our indoor ring with Stevie Wonder playing in the background. I would sing “Overjoyed” to him as we walked – and I really think he loved it. Of course he mostly loved the post-ride treats that I peppered him with.
After that injury, we never really showed again I don’t think. Although Faune came back and was fit and beautifully sound once more, neither of us really wanted to be competitors anymore. I was happy to do my lessons 3 times a week, hack my horse and go on the trails. We were so fortunate to have our farm on the Norfolk Hunt, where we had access to hundreds of acres of beautiful grounds to explore. We just enjoyed each other and I let my horse and myself relax into a purely pleasure role. Faune had had other health issues crop up as he aged, including very nasty and chronic bouts with Lyme Disease, which accentuated his arthritis.
Around that time I also began to notice a “stiffness” in his neck; the feeling that he was just uncomfortable somewhere. I started him on acupuncture, massage therapy and other non traditional methods to get him more comfy. No one else seemed to sense what I did – that something was just not right. He was still sound, still perfectly happy, but there were some days I noticed him carrying his head very low, and seeming ouchy. A neck x-ray showed nothing. But still, it was clear to me something was wrong.
The day I decided to retire my horse wasn’t something I came up with on my own. My horse told me it was time. Very clearly. We walked from the upper barn to the lower outdoor ring and as we approached the gate, Faune stopped. I leaned down and said to him, “what is it buddy?” He just stood there, looking at the ring. I dropped the reigns and said, “you tell me what you want to do.” Faune backed up out of the gate and walked me back up the road, and onto the trails. Faune was just done with the ring and he was telling me he just wanted to be a horse.
I started looking for non show barns to move him to so that he could enjoy more time outside, just being a horse. After working with my vet to try to keep Faune in the area, we decided a more temperate climate would be best. I looked into farms in Kentucky,North Carolina and then I went to visit Paradigm Farms, owned by a friend who I had known and chatted with on the Chronicle of the Horse boards. One visit was all it took, and the next several months were spent jointly planning my horse’s trip and future life with Melissa at her family’s home farm. It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. It still is. But it was the right one.
By the way, my feelings on Faune’s head and neck proved not to be my imagination and a few months into his life with Melissa, Faune faced his biggest health challenge yet. I’ll let Melissa mention it if she cares to,but suffice to say that her unwavering care for my horse, as well as the amazing care provided by her vet, and later, the University of Tennessee, saved my horse’s life. I am forever grateful for their love and care for my most cherished possession. For my best friend.
Melissa here to explain the two pictures below. To make a long story short Faune developed this strange wound on his poll that wouldn’t heal. We wound up at UT Knoxville veterinary clinic for surgery (this was before our vet clinic built their new surgical unit) as it turned out Faune basically had a “super bug.” It had walled itself off at the poll but if it had gone systemic he probably would have died. The surgeon had to remove a significant area around his poll to debride the infection. The surgeon said this had been a very long time in the making probably a year or two, dating back to when his mom first noticed the neck/poll soreness. After two weeks at UT Faune came home with a large chunk of his neck and poll missing, a few drain tubes and an intense daily care session that involved removing all of the packing from the wound, cleaning the wound, and then repacking it. We had to do this every day for months while the area healed. During this time we had to make sure the whole area was covered so we made him his little bonnets every day. We had a huge box of stretchy material and I would cut off a section, pull it on Faune’s head, make a couple of snips for ear holes, and then he was ready to go for another day. This is Faune waiting for me to cut the holes. I called it his gangsta look.
I have had two amazing horses in my lifetime. My first horse Elliot, with whom I was so bonded that when I had to go away on family vacations, he would bite me as soon as I returned, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was not to go away again. And my Faune. My high maintenance, accident prone, spoiled, oversized dog of a horse, whose favorite treats are Krispy Kreme donuts, Slurpees, and anything peppermint.
It’s funny how things work out, as within a year of my horse moving away to retire, I faced a challenging battle for my own health, and wouldn’t have been able to focus on my horse as much as I had been able to prior. Today,I sleep well knowing that my friend is safe in the care and keeping of people who love him and allow him to be himself. When I visit, although it’s sometimes hard to swallow that he doesn’t seem to mind if I am there one way or the other – after all, his herd is his family now – I am forever grateful that he has the opportunity to retire in the most beautiful place, with trusted friends who will always put my horse’s wellbeing before their own. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Happy birthday to my dear Faune. My best friend. Thank you for showing me how to feel again.
With love, Your Mom
Faune grazing with Poco the pony a few years ago; he adored Poco