It was the Spring of 1985
and I was looking for another horse to replace my beloved jumper, Kingston,
whom had to be put down, due to a sudden illness. I went to Portland Meadows
race track in Portland, Oregon where they had just wrapped up their racing
season. I looked at several horses that day, knowing that if they didn't
find homes, their next trailer ride might be to the kill plant. My heart
was heavy as I looked at horse after horse, wishing I could find homes for
all of them. Then my eyes saw a skinny bay gelding being led from the barns
and headed for a trailer. I followed them and asked about the horse. I was
told they were going to sell him or turn him out to pasture, "Seems he just
doesn't want to run". The horse turned to me and stuck his nose in my chest
as if to say ,"Please save me". That's all it took! I paid the man and took
him home. The horse turned out to be King James. His father was the great
Jim, who had a good race record and had even won the Longacres Mile.
But poor James, he just didn't want to run. His racing career was short.
The few starts he had, he ran dead last every time. And so his fate was sealed.
I am afraid that had we not found each other that day, that trailer ride
might have been his last.
It took several months
to get the race track out of him. He hated being in a stall. So I spent time
just letting him be a horse with lots of turn-out time in the pasture. When
I did start riding him, I found a willing partner and a wonderful friend.
We both looked forward to our afternoon rides. During this time my mother
had been diagnosed with cancer. I spent a lot of time with her and when I
would come home, there would be James with his big brown eyes and long soft
neck for me to hide my face in and cry. I lost my mother in August 1986.
The next month (with much encouragement from friends) I took James to his
first Thoroughbred Exhibitor Association horse show. He loved it! He was
a star in every class. He also loved to have his picture taken and would
pose for the photographer. He thought horse shows were alright!
My life took a turn in
late 1988 when I remarried and moved to Nevada to live and work on a cattle
ranch. And of course James made the adjustment too. We arrived at our new
home in a snow storm. At that point I was told he would be turned out with
about 20 other horses. I was having a fit, but he loved it. I remember as
he ran away with the herd, he looked back as if to say, "Thanks, see you
in the Spring". And so Spring came and so did James. We started back to work
again and it was like we were never apart. We spent hours riding the desert,
and learning to work cows. He enjoyed working the cattle. But his favorite
thing was looking forward to the end of the day when the stock truck would
come and pick us up and he could ride home in it. It was a big open stock
truck and he could stand up there and let the wind blow in his face. During
this time, my three step-sons also learned to ride on James.
With so many horses to
ride on the ranch, James found himself standing around most of the time.
So when my nephew, Ian, took up riding, I sent James to help him. Ian and
James made a good team and placed well in many 4-H events and open shows.
After two years, Ian was ready for a horse of his own and James came back
I had always wanted to
have a driving horse. I guess it was in my genes because I remember listening
to my Grandpa telling stories of farming with horses. And years later, meeting
people that knew him and said, "Amos Jones always had the best team of driving
horses". So I decided to see if James might think this was a good idea. With
the help of my best friend, Denise Smith, he did. In one day, we went from
harness, ground driving, dragging poles, cart and driving. He took to it
like he had been doing it all his life. We showed in local shows in open
driving classes, where he won against "driving breeds". He was also the first
Thoroughbred to win the Oregon Horsemen's Association Year End Driving Award
in 1994. We also made our yearly 640 mile round trip to Canby, Oregon to
show at the Thoroughbred Exhibitor Association shows where he went on to
win several year-end awards and Most Versatile Thoroughbred three different
In 1998, at age 17, even
through he showed no sign of slowing down, I decided to retire him from the
show ring. A friend called and asked if she could borrow him for her daughters
to learn to ride on. So off he went to carry two of her girls to many blue
ribbons in 4-H and open horse shows for three years. After three years of
him being away from me, and the girls getting their own horses, James came
back home for good this time. There once again was my willing partner and
friend, standing in the pasture to greet me each day. When I came home from
work, he would meet me and off for a ride we would go.
In August 2002, I lost
my father, who was my biggest supporter when it came to my horses, and there
once again was my James and his big brown eyes saying, "It's going to be
alright". That September at age 21, 16 years after his first Thoroughbred
Exhibitor Association horse show, James once again stepped into the show
ring with my five year old great niece, Kelsie, on his back in a lead line
class. How proud I was, as I led them in and how careful James was with each
step as he carried his precious cargo. The third generation of our family
that had the privilege to ride him. We even took home a couple of blue ribbons
that day in some western classes!
During the last seven months,
James and I started a new chapter in our lives together and moved to Canby,
Oregon. We found a wonderful person named Janelle to board with. She and
her son Alex took very good care of James during the day, and I feel so blessed
to have found them. I will forever be thankful to them both. Dr. Wilson,
from Oregon Equine Inc, your care and compassion will never be forgotten.
My friend, Cyndy Marshall, how can I ever thank you for your help these last
few days. And your wonderful husband, Ansel, for his support. My Farrier,
David Mims, who has been James's Farrier for over 20 years, you're the best!
Most of all, Bob, you are my rock and I don't know what I would do without
To James: My beautiful
Soul, you were the best friend a girl could have ever had. 24 years together
went by so fast. It seems like yesterday you were that scared racehorse that
turned to me and said, "Please save me". I am so glad you came into my life.
I am a better person for knowing you. I can't even begin to think what my
life would have been without you. We shared a bond that I have not experienced
with any other horse. I am so thankful to you for letting me be a part of
your life and for you enriching mine. I love you and will never forget you.
Please run free my friend, and eat all the grass you want. Heaven welcomes