Johnny and his mom have a strong bond, and their story of how they came together is proof of the healing power that horses have. In her own words below, Johnny’s mom so eloquently states that Johnny came along at a time in her life when she needed another soul to love, and he gave her a purpose and a reason to leave her house every day. Below Johnny’s mom tells us about their journey together in her own words.
Johnny came into my life 6 years ago. I tried him at a horse show in St. Louis in February of 2007. I had tried several horses in January and several others in February but as soon as I rode Johnny I knew he was the one. His show name was Gianni but the girls at his barn called him Johnny and it suited his personality. He was a 12 year old Dutch Warmblood hunter. I thought he was the most beautiful horse I had seen and loved his way of going.
Johnny in the show ring with his trainer
Johnny and his mom
Johnny was discovered by a trainer at a stable in Aspen, CO in January of 2007. I suspect he was taking some time off from a previous injury as he made his appearance in St. Louis with an extremely long coat of hair and heavy duty borium shoes. The trainer who had him at the show promptly “beautified” him. We believe he had previously done the AO’s or the AA’s and an injury in his back end sidelined him. We proceeded to vet him and determined he would be fine to do the job I needed, which was the 2’6”/2’9” divisions.
Johnny exploring his new digs on one of his first days with us
I had lost my beautiful 16 year old daughter, Paige, in a commercial plane crash the previous August. A love of horses was a significant bond for us. I desperately needed another soul to love and take care of. Obviously a horse could never fill that hole in my life but Johnny gave me a purpose and a destination every day that got me out of my house. Looking back I now know that even though I thought I was taking care of him all those years I now realize that he was taking care of me.
Johnny grooming with Murphy
Johnny and I had lots of good years together. We did horse shows, clinics, trail riding, and hours and hours of lessons with friends at the barn. He was such a sweet guy and always nickered when he heard me come in the side door with flip flops on (I know, not a good idea), loved, loved, loved having the underside of his neck scratched, and thoroughly enjoyed when the chiropractor came to work on him. He feasted on carrots, apples, and peppermints. The ladies at my grocery store could not believe all of the treats I purchased for my horse!
Johnny and friends hanging out
Johnny and Africa grooming
Johnny also had special grazing privileges at our barn. Our farm is mostly surrounded by a fence but if a horse wants to escape, they could. Johnny would go out on the big grass field in the center of all of the turnouts and I would sit in a chair at the barn and watch him. When he had his fill of grass he would saunter to his stall for his water and hay. He loved that he was in charge!
Johnny and Lighty on the run
Wiz and Johnny on the run
When I first got Johnny his way of going was very heavy in the hand. His weight tended to be on his front end. He wanted to pull to the jumps and I was okay with it at the beginning. In time he improved but the real turning point was the fall that he injured his right hind suspensory and then had several months off. When it was time to bring him back into work I rode him with a dressage trainer through his rehab. We worked on getting him to use his back end more effectively and carry himself. In hindsight it was a blessing. He became an absolute delight to ride and he became very light and responsive to my hand.
Johnny leading the gang across the pasture
Through the years we showed in the Adult Hunter divisions. We were very successful and competitive in those divisions but I finally realized that while I had loved being a show mom for my daughter all of those years, I got way too nervous when I was the one in the ring. Usually my classes were later in the day so by the time I showed I was a bit ragged from the worrying! I finally realized that showing just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Johnny and friends (Murphy, Dutch and Sam) on the run
hanging out with his pal Lighty in the woods
As the years went on jumping became more of an issue for Johnny and Ithink his old injuries were bothering him. We did joint injections in order to keep him comfortable, but he finally let me know after 4+ years that it was too hard for him to keep jumping. I purchased another horse to jump and just kept Johnny to flat because I still enjoyed riding him and he was comfortable with that. We enjoyed another 6 months of riding before it was clear that his nice lofty trot and lilting canter were becoming very flat and labored. That was when I knew that it was time for the next phase of his life, retirement!
Johnny and Africa
Sometimes Johnny needs to rest from all the galloping around he does. Here he is the first napper on the left
I am blessed to have had this wonderful horse in my life. Johnny will always have a special place in my heart. I feel so happy that he has found such a wonderful place to live out his sunset years.
We met Johnny and his mom a year ago when Johnny made the trip from Kansas to join us for retirement.
Johnny went through a lot of changes in his early days with us. I have written in a previous post about the various behaviors we see when new horses are being integrated into a group. Johnny was one of those horses that made us wonder and worry as he slowly found his way into the group. In about 90 days Johnny went from hiding in a far corner of the pasture, to hanging out on the fringes of the group while regularly being flustered and run-off by the chargers, to eventually becoming a very dominant and bossy personality who lives to play.
Johnny and Lighty being goofy
Johnny and Lighty making silly faces; life is so hard
Johnny is flourishing in his retired life with his friends, and as you can see from all of his retirement pictures in this post he loves to run, play, groom, hang out and generally be right in the middle of the action. He definitely sees himself as a big man on campus which is a far cry from his first few weeks with us. We have been fortunate to welcome this special horse into our farm family. We hope you have enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about Johnny!