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In Memory of Hesse

Hesse’s story began 24 years ago in Germany where he was bred and born. His sire was Hill Hawk, a Thoroughbred stallion that was approved for breeding by the Hanoverian verband. His dam was a States Premium mare from the “L” line of Hanoverians named Larissa.  When Hesse was five years old he was presented for sale in the Verden auction. He was purchased at the auction by a broker that specialized in importing warmbloods to the United States for resale. After being purchased at the auction Hesse found himself in Michigan at a sales barn.

Hesse and his mom

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As fate would have it his future mom found herself at that very same sales barn. She wasn’t looking for a horse herself, but helping a friend look at horses. His mom and her friend were in Michigan competing at the regional dressage championships. His mom was showing a horse named Louie in the Intermediare II championships. The championships were going to be the last show together for Louie and Hesse’s mom,  and it is important to note that Louie was a big chestnut Hanoverian from the “L” line of Hanoverians.

Hesse and his mom

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As they discussed potential horses for her friend to try at the sales barn, it came up in the conversation that they had a big chestnut Hanoverian from the L line for sale. The horse in question was much too big for his mom’s friend, but yet he appeared in the arena tacked up and ready to be tried. Despite the fact that she wasn’t looking for a horse at the time, there was this horse, tacked  up and ready to ride, and a chestnut Hanoverian from the L line.  Of course she rode him and the rest, as they say, is history. It has now been 18 years since she bought Hesse on the day she wasn’t looking for a horse.

Hesse (left on top, second left below) and friends enjoying retirement

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Hesse and his mom did quite a bit of showing together through the years. Together they worked their way up the levels in dressage. They did quite a bit of traveling together as well, travelling both regionally from their home base in Ohio, and also spending three winters together in Wellington, Florida. As his mom said, both she and Hesse love hot weather so they always enjoyed spending the winter season in Florida.

Hesse and his mom schooling in Florida

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Hesse’s mom said that Hesse was always a very soft horse to ride and work around. Hesse is a very large horse who could easily use his size against his handlers or riders, but he never did.  Hesse’s mom said he was a very hot and sensitive horse to ride, but never strong or heavy in a pushy way.  Even when he would leap or buck or otherwise be fresh, it was always soft and never alarming.  She said it always felt like riding a truly gentle giant.

Walden,  Hesse and Remmy

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Havana, Cino, Remmy and Hesse

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Hesse (rearing) and Remmy being wild on a winter day

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The biggest change in their routine together came when Hesse’s mom moved him from a large boarding facility that had very limited turnout and limited trails, to a small, private facility with significantly more turnout and a lot of trails. Hesse not only loved all of his additional turnout time, but he really loved hacking out on the trails. As his mom said she came to realize just how much being outside meant to Hesse. Even when they worked in the arena she rode him in the outdoor arena instead of the indoor arena whenever possible. She said that although he was always a gentleman about his work in any arena, she could tell he simply happier when working outside.

Hesse and Remmy enjoying a fun game of halter tag

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the chestnut club; Baner, Remmy, Hesse and Walden

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something had the attention of Hesse (back center) and his friends

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When they spent the winters in Florida she had more time to ride him on the trails than when they were home in Ohio. She said Hesse would always prick his ears and get very excited when she would point him down the driveway instead of to the arena for one of their trail adventures. When they headed down the driveway Hesse would really pick up the pace and start marching. However his mom said that Hesse would never break into a trot. Hesse has always been very German about following the rules so he would march along at the walk but not break into a trot. His mom said that Hesse would power walk as they headed out on the trail, and then start to walk slower and slower when they turned to head home. Since most horses tend to head out slow and come home faster she said she and Hesse were often walking at a very different pace than any companions they might be trail riding with.

the view from Hesse on the trails

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Hesse and Baner

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Duesy, Hesse and Remmy

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In addition to dressage Hesse also had another specialty, and that was being the “Minder” on trail rides. If a friend of his mom’s had a young horse or a horse that tended to be naughty on the trails she would get asked if she could ride Hesse with the horse in question so he could teach them a few lessons. His mom said she remembered one young horse named Rudy who had a tendency to bolt on trail.  Hesse was put next to him on several trail rides and just as Rudy would start to get ready for a bolt, Hesse would wheel on him, pushing Rudy in front of him and even snapping at him.  Eventually Rudy learned not to bolt and Hesse earned his reputation for teaching trail manners to other horses.

Hesse, Baner and Duesy

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Baner, Hesse and Remmy

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Hesse

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When Hesse was in his later teen years, after many focused years of training and showing together, his mom passed Hesse’s reins to a select few of her lucky students.  Even though Hesse was big and sensitive,  he made even her most timid riders feel safe.  He was so soft in the connection that they never felt that he took over the ride.

Remmy, Baner and Hesse

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Hesse and Baner

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a mouthful of grass and something interesting to look at – a perfect day in retirement

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After almost 15 years together, when he was 21 years old, Hesse’s mom made the decision to retire him. She said there wasn’t any particular event that led to the decision. Hesse wasn’t lame or otherwise unhealthy. However she said that although he was in high demand from her students most of the year, he had very limited work in the winter months. As him mom said, the winters in northern Ohio are harsh, and most people ride very sporadically due to the weather. Turnout could also be very sporadic during their winters as well. Hesse had done a couple of long and boring winters, standing around in his stall getting stiff and missing his turnout. She decided that she wanted to go ahead and retire him while he was still in great health without any physical issues. His mom wanted Hesse to be able to enjoy finally having what he always wanted, extensive turnout with a group of friends.

Duesy, Hesse and Baner

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Hesse and Fabrizzio grooming

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Hesse and Remmy

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We were the lucky farm chosen to host Hesse during his retirement, and he made the trip from Ohio to Tennessee almost four years ago. Just as his mom predicted, Hesse had absolutely no issues settling into life at Paradigm Farms and he became instantly and happily herd bound.  Hesse had an interesting dynamic in the pasture. He was exceptionally herd bound, yet not to any particular horse. On the other hand, Hesse had horses that would get extremely attached to him and could hardly stand to let Hesse out of their sight. I always referred to these horses as “Hesse followers” as he always had his own little mini cult of horses that decided they could not live without him. The cult members were not always the same, but Hesse’s pasture was never without Hesse followers.

Hesse

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Remmy and Hesse grooming

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Remmy, Baner and Hesse

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A few months ago Hesse started to have seemed to be minor issues. He had his first of what turned out to be many vet visits over the last few months. What started off seeming easily treatable slowly snowballed and started to seem like Pandora’s box had been opened. Hesse’s mom was there for hi m every step of the way as she paid for many vet visits, diagnostics and medications. Just when everything seemed hopeless, Hesse was started on a different antibiotic as a last ditch effort to fully restore his health. Much to everyone’s surprise it seemed to work and Hesse made a remarkable recovery, spending his last few weeks acting completely normal and continuing to being trailed around the pasture by his Hesse followers.

Merlin and Hesse

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the chestnut club; Walden, Hesse, Remmy and Baner

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Fabrizzio, Walden and Hesse

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For a few weeks we marveled at his miraculous recovery after everything had seemed hopeless. Then one morning Jason and I found Hesse down and he didn’t really want to get up. It would be an understatement to say this was an unexpected turn of events. We asked Hesse to get up, he half heartedly tried, and then said “I really don’t want to.”  He didn’t appear to be particularly distressed or even in pain, but his eyes were dull and he was making it clear he didn’t want to try. We briefly tried hard to get him up, and then I called his mom. I told her that I didn’t feel good about continuing to make Hesse get up, and that it was very obvious from Hesse’s eyes and response to his that he didn’t want to get up. We called the vet out to assess him, and his mom, the vet and Jason and I all agreed unanimously that it was time to let him go. Hesse passed peacefully in his pasture with his Hesse followers nearby.

Hesse and Bruno

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Walden and Hesse grooming

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Lightning, Lucky, Baner, Hesse and Remmy

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Rest in peace Hesse.  May you have many trails to explore, and many Hesse followers to accompany you on your adventures.

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