Life in our Foothills May 2023 – A Prince of a Pony
Published 1:40 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023
In May 2023, Windsor celebrates his third birthday.
He narrowly escaped perishing at the tender age of seven months. My mistress, Heather Freeman, and our rescue team of volunteers at Helping Equines Regain Dignity spotted him on a YouTube video. He was standing in a muddy pen at the largest kill buyer’s facility in Oklahoma.
Many horses and donkeys from North and South Carolina end up at this terrible place. From there they make their final journey, in a crowded commercial trailer to Mexico, to be slaughtered for human consumption. Windsor was with his pregnant mother facing a grim fate. She was a red roan, Haflinger cross pony. She was not halter broke to lead, and neither was her bright-eyed colt. To reflect on his humble beginning and look at how far along he has come in our care, well, it is an amazing success story. He truly is a prince of a pony among his equine peers. He has almost as much presence as I do, and that is saying something!
Windsor is fearless and handsome, with a rugged, jagged blaze on his expressive face. There is no missing this bright chestnut with three tall stocking legs as he trots confidently to the fence. Although he currently stands only 14.1 hands tall, he is mighty. Windsor is a born leader. He rules even in the group of much larger horses at our rescue. He calls the shots concerning when it is time to graze and when he wants his band of geldings to play. They frolic, kicking up their heels, with tails held high in the spring morning.
It turns out that Windsor’s sire was also at that same kill pen. This stoic stud stood out in the crowded pen, as his muscular build was impressive. His brilliant red coat and chiseled head made it clear to us why he had been used for breeding. We were informed that this magnificent quarter horse possessed foundation bloodlines that reached back to the famous sire, Joe Hancock. The “original” American Quarter Horse versatility sire, Hancock was a 15.3-hand brown stallion who was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2007, Western Horseman magazine chose Joe Hancock as number three on their list of top ten ranch horse bloodlines.
It was clear to us that we also needed to help get this stallion and the pregnant mare out of this awful situation. First, HERD raised the funds to save Windsor. Then we went on to assist another horse rescuer with purchasing the mare, her belly dropped, with a foal on the way. Next, a member of our HERD network of friends, Karen Hopkins, bought the stallion. He would travel to North Carolina with Windsor. They both would become geldings as soon as their procedures could be performed safely. In HERD we are compelled to stick with these young horses every step of the way. Our goal is to help them find their best-suited role for a productive, long life.
Upon arrival at our ranch, Windsor had to live in a quarantine pen for one month. This gave us time to fully halter-break the regal colt and get to know him. The next step was to pick an older pasture mate for him that would guide him to be respectful. We selected a large, kind thoroughbred named Pope. The two looked very similar with their chestnut coats and white stockings. Pope towered over Windsor. While Pope was laid back and a bit shut down from his precious experiences, Windsor was inquisitive and tested his rank in this new situation. When Pope was rehomed to a therapy program in South Carolina, Windsor moved out to a field with three younger, playful geldings. Here, he flourished as a leader despite the fact he was smaller than his companions.
Time marches on so quickly these days. I look out through my pasture gate at the bevy of young horses that are growing up here with us. They arrive at our rescue thin, and often confused as to what has happened to them in their short life. Windsor was so different. He has always been confident, making new friends easily, including Merlin, Hercules, Torino, Ishmael, Ming and Leo, to name a few.
Some of Windsor’s pals have already left us to enter training; others need more time to mature. A few of his buddies are successfully placed in their careers winning at horse shows. With each rotation of pasture mates, Windsor adapted well. He is unfazed by re-establishing his authority in new scenarios.
At three years old, it is time for Windsor to enter saddle training with a professional. He is going to Kailey Greene in Rutherfordton. We have done all the necessary groundwork to ensure his manners are impeccable. He accepts a bridle, saddle and a rider on his back. Windsor is a gentleman loading onto the horse trailer and standing still for the farrier. Now he must go to “finishing school” to help him find the perfect path.
Windsor is a clean slate with a zest for life. He loves to spend time pushing and tackling a large rubber horse ball around his nine-acre pasture. This athletic game makes him an excellent candidate for sorting cattle. The young gelding also has lots of chrome, so a show ring pony hunter job might also suit him. His stamina and bravery would serve him well to pursue endurance challenges or pony club trials. With so much potential, Windsor will have versatile options going forward into his new life.
To think he was a day away from shipping with his sire and dam to slaughter across the border. His life would have been over tragically before it began. Windsor is maturing to be a special partner for one lucky equestrian. We have high hopes for this regal equine. He certainly deserves a royal welcome in an outstanding new home this summer. After all, Windsor is a prince of a pony.