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I first saw Wally several years ago at a horse show. He was jumping around with a novice rider at her first time competing. He seemed like a kind soul and he had a terrific jump. His owner was Jean Martin, a friend of mine for years and when I complimented him to her, I was surprised to find that he only had one eye. Evidently, he had been at a big “A” show barn and showing very successfully on the A circuit, but a pasture accident had left him with a very bad eye injury. The eye had to be removed. The barn didn't like the look of a horse with one eye, so he was sold cheap out of state. Jean picked him up from our mutual friend, horse dealer Connie Pass and started putting her riders on him. Wally turned out be a great packer, and his lack of eye didn't appear to slow him down at all. I loved his jump and let Jean know if she was ever looking to get rid of him, I was interested.
Jump ahead several years and find me sitting in Jean's office, bemoaning the need to find a couple good packing school horses. Jean suggested Wally and I jumped on it. All Jean's riders had horses, and Wally hadn't had a regular rider for almost a year. He was bottom of the pecking order out in Jean's pasture and didn't have any friends. Basically, Wally seemed depressed. I told Jean I would take him as soon as she liked.
Wally came to Cedar Lodge about a month later, and I would say, if a horse could be depressed, he was. Wally came in the Spring. He went right into work and did what he was told, but he didn't seem happy. We struggled to keep weight on him that summer and had to constantly bathe him for some kind of skin allergy. I just couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong, but I could tell that something wasn't right. Wally kept throwing shoes and going lame. For a moment, I wondered whether I had made the right choice.
Because everyone in the camp herd hated him, Wally had no desire to go out in pasture. This made him the perfect candidate to baby sit sick horses in the up front paddock, or hang out with a new horse when they came in, so when Kendra bought a new horse, and kept him up front through a two week trial, Wally was the perfect baby sitter. When we put them out together, they touched noses and that was it. It was like they had known each other forever. They started grazing together, and there was never a cross word between them during the 2 weeks that they were in the up front paddock. When Kendra decided to buy “Leroy”, out they went together in pasture, and Wally seemed just a bit happier whenever we saw him. In November I acquired another older school horse, Bree. Bree had been stuck in a barn without turn out for several years and was very eager to be turned out in pasture. To our surprise, the next morning she came in with Wally and Leroy, the two misfits of the camp herd. It has been that way every since. We call it our “Breakfast Club”, Wally, Leroy and Bree. They are inseparable. Don't get me wrong, they are all professionals. They go to their own stall in the barn, they don't call for each other during the day, and they don't notice each other if they are being ridden together, but they wait for each other in the pasture at turn out, and every morning they come in single file, kind of like middle schoolers dropping off their friends at different classes.
Since Bree and Leroy, Wally gained 100 pounds, his skin cleared up and he went sound. He has taken on his riders with a new happiness and I am back thinking I'm the wizard of horse swapping. Wally can go all the way from walk/trot to 2'6”, but I think his specialty is the 2'0 and 2'6 riders. I am pleased to have Wally in our string and I believe we have many years ahead of us with our very own “Breakfast Club”.
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