Shared by, Rocky James
As a Trekkie (Star Trek fan) from WAY back, you couldn’t imagine the excitement when my husband brought ‘Going to Warp Speed’ home.
“Speed” was my first stallion. A cutting horse by trade, he taught me, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. And he knew it. Quiet around other horses, even mares in season, he was a pleasure to ride. He’d always been kept in close quarters, as a stud, he didn’t have a lot of free time, or freedom. He learned about being trail rides and working the ranch with 138,000 acres in Wyoming of cattle and sheep. Once we got past ‘every tree hid a mountain lion’ and ‘every rock was craving horse meat’, we mellowed together.
When my husband died in 2007, I had an important decision to make. Do I keep Speed a stallion, or because I wasn’t keeping our herd of brood mares now that our resident horse trainer was gone, do I geld him? Speed helped me with the decision. He put his round head in a square hole and ended up with an infection that needed 8 shots of a strong antibiotic every day for 2 months. The vet warned, it would probably naturally sterilize him, so we went ahead and gelded him. My husband used to say “It takes a heck of a stallion to make an even better gelding.” And he was right. Speed didn’t mind being gelded. Even though he’d been a stallion for over 10 years, he seemed to understand that wasn’t part of his job anymore.
Two months later, he was attacked by another gelding in the pasture where he’d been boarded. I was heartbroken. His front left leg was broken just below the knee. Two different vets recommended his destruction. But out of the hundreds of horses we’d owned and even more we had trained, this horse had my heart. He was my favorite.
The prognosis was bleak. Even if the break did heal, and he didn’t suffer an infection, he would more than likely be lame, possibly in pain, for the remainder of his life. I had to try. I was okay with him being a ‘pet’ if it meant he was alive, and not in pain. More antibiotics, dressing changes, constant compression, limited mobility, my stalwart steed patiently waited for me twice a day to administer more antibiotics to avoid deadly infections, curry, groom, cold water rinses, he learned to like the extra attention. Two months later, exercise. A year later, we were able to start taking short rides. Miraculously, he wasn’t lame. He wasn’t in pain. Still calm, cool and collected, my bay horse was sound!
When my 7-year old’s horse retired at 33, she moved on to Speed. This time, she taught him new things. He learned about rodeo royalty. Queen passes, carrying flags, it turned out his name “Speed” was a misnomer…he wasn’t interested in flying into an arena. Cutting had taught him to work quietly – you enter an arena with decorum and manners. She learned patience. He learned to run barrels when she was 9. If he missed working cows, it didn’t show. He did everything enthusiastically.
We called him my ‘bubble wrap’ horse, for he always finding that ONE thing he could get injured on. This time? He tried to take his head off with tin roofing from a barn. Not sure how he survived a hole in his neck you could stick a fist in, stitches again, more antibiotics, but he did. He was failing though. It took longer for him to recover and he never did get fat and sassy. Our vet admitted that being a stallion for so long and the necessary rounds of antibiotics would keep Speed from reaching a grand old age much past 20. I was watching, and kept him around last winter even though he’d given me the signs he was ready to be ‘done.’ Always admired Sarah Beth’s photography and the stories behind Joy Sessions. But Minnesota is a long way for a failing horse. Two weeks before his 20th birthday, Speed was humanely euthanized.
We still have other horses, still rodeo, show, train. But he’s the horse I measure every other animal by. The photo of him and my daughter? Hangs in my office at work.