In Memoriam: Sugar

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By Allison Brannon Lail and Tommy Brannon

The hardest decision a horse owner ever has to make is when to euthanize (or send to Heaven, as Kakki Wright puts it) a beloved equine family member. When horses live to old age, i.e., upper twenties and beyond, the accompanying health problems often become too severe for the horse to function sufficiently. It’s always a sad day when the tough choice has to be made. But these special animals will always remain in the hearts and memories of the humans who have cared for them.

Farewell my old lady: Sugar ‘n Spice (Sugee Dumplin). Thank you for being so kind and gentle and introducing my boys to the love of horses! To all the packing around the pasture in your later years, the spunk in being a foxhunting whipper-in horse, in dressage and eventing in your younger years, and bringing out the best, or worst, in intercollegiate riders in my college years. You were awesome at IHSA intercollegiate shows because you did exactly what the rider asked and always made it fun to ride. After 27 years you still kept your refined Thoroughbred head, large Paint hindquarters and chestnut mare personality.  Thank you to all who helped care for Sugar: Dr. Jennifer Dunlap; Dr. Kakki Wright, farrier Mark Taylor, Dr. Phil Hammock DVM, my mom and dad. Now you are pain free galloping, in an open hay buffet, the heavenly fields with buddies James, and bff Wendy. Love you all. You have taught me so much in my horse life! We are very blessed for such an opportunity! Thank you, Lord, for such a wonderful horse! ~Allison

We purchased Sugar in 1990 as a weanling and were impressed with her spirit even at that young age. Her dam was a gray Thoroughbred, Maid Ann, and her sire was a registered Paint. She was chestnut with white points and blaze, and one faint spot on her near side.  She was curious, bold and playful. She taught herself to load in a trailer and jump coops by watching the other horses in the pasture. She was adopted and mentored by an old retired horse, Shasta, who was the boss mare of the herd.

After Shasta’s passing, the mare leadership role was taken over by Sugar. Even in Sugar’s old age when she was infirm, she held sway over the other horses. If another horse was trying to crowd through a gate, they would be put in their place with a turn of Sugar’s head, the pinning back of ears, and “the look.”  

Sugar’s training began at age two. Gentling her to saddle was not hard, but getting submission from headstrong alfa mare took patience.

She was good at lower level dressage and evented to Novice level. I used her as my primary foxhunting mount, whipping-in on her for several seasons. She was used for Pony Club Rallies over the years by several young riders, both in eventing and stadium jumping. Where she excelled, however, was as a mount for intercollegiate horse shows. At MTSU Intercollegiate shows, the riders do not ride their own horses, but draw from a pool of horses. The horse is warmed up by a volunteer and the rider mounts just before entering the arena, rides once around the ring, and then jumps the course. Sugar knew her aids perfectly, so that if the rider applied the aids properly, it could be a nearly flawless round. If the rider applied the aids improperly, the mistakes would show, too. ~Tommy

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