Tale of Two Horses

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By Tommy Brannon

When it’s time for an experienced field trial horse to retire, the question is whether they just go out to pasture or can they get a second career, giving someone else the pleasure of a well trained, sure footed, sensible mount. What if two horses are buddies and would be happier if they lived together? Do they both need to win the horse lottery to get an ideal retirement? In this case, two experienced field trail Tennessee Walking Horses, named Sam and Buddy, have done just that.

Both horses were once owned by Ken Blackman of Williston, Tenn., who’s an avid field trailer and bird dog owner. He trains Brittanys and co-owned with his wife Sue, Whippoorwill Foto Op (Jill), a pointer who won the Mississippi and Alabama All Age Championships in 2017 and competed in the National Championship at Ames Plantation in 2016 and 2017. Ken travels extensively to field trials all over the country and, starting in 2010, Sam and Buddy carried Ken to many field trials and on judging assignments. Sam is a 15-hand red roan gelding who was purchased by Ken several years ago with the help of fellow field trailers Aubrey Green and Bubba and Amy Spencer. Buddy is a 15.1-hand Palomino gelding whose summer color is almost orange and his winter coat is almost white. Ken purchased Buddy from field trailer Buddy Smith about the same time that he got the red roan, Sam. The two horses have been pasture mates ever since. Field trailers may be competitive when it comes to their dogs, but the experienced ones help each other out, especially when it comes to finding a good horse.

Ken describes Buddy as a great handler’s horse. He has plenty of stamina, likes to be out front, and enjoys playing the game. He is alert to the presence of the dog and Ken said that, through the horses’ head and ear position, he shows his rider where the dog is. Ken has traveled with Sam to field trials throughout the mid-south, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Georgia, and the Dakotas.

One harrowing experience showed what a steady horse Buddy is. Al Gorrow, who a Brittany trainer in Illinois, had his horse come up lame at a field trial in Nebraska, so Ken lent him Buddy. After that field trial, Al was trailering Buddy across the Mississippi River on US Hwy. 20 in Iowa when an oncoming truck crossed the center line and hit his rig head on.  Buddy was trapped in the wrecked trailer for several hours before rescue personnel could cut him free. But he remained calm through it all, coming out with only a few scratches, and he never showed any lingering symptoms of the trauma.

When Ken realized that he had reached the age that it was no longer safe to ride, he decided to look for a new home for both horses, but wanted them to stay together.

Enter Mary Jo Gordon and Angie Rose, who have been friends for over 50 years. They both are horse lovers and their farms near Grand Junction, Tenn. are only about a mile apart. Both live close to the Ames Plantation, and they like to ride together at the field trials there. Ken was driving the dog wagon at a field trial at Ames when, in the course of conversation with Mary Jo, Ken told her he was looking for a home for his horses. Mary Jo knew that Angie, who at the time did not know Ken, would be interested, so they all arranged for the two ladies to try out Buddy and Sam at a field trial at on the Erb-Turley Farm in Fisherville, Tenn. Mary Jo said that it didn’t take but five minutes on Sam’s back to decide that she wanted him. Angie, at just about the same time said, “I’ll take his Buddy!” Since Ken wanted them to go as a pair, the ladies’ decision to buy them was perfect.  They arranged to stable them part of the year at Mary Jo’s and part of the year at Angie’s. The ladies get together and ride about two or three days a week.

Mary Jo’s description of Sam is almost gushing. She said that he is smooth, sensible, with no foolishness; he’s polite on the ground, a perfect soldier who knows his job. She added that with his red color and flaxen mane and tail, he’s a real “LOOKER,” too.

Both horses are hardy, easy keepers who stay out to pasture 24/7 without blankets. They are fed plenty of quality hay and grain, are in the professional, continuous care of Dr. Amy Weatherly, DVM of Grand Junction, and are exercised regularly. You might say that it’s a perfect retirement for the ‘boys’, and making trustworthy and solid riding mounts, it was a ‘perfect match’ for close friends Mary Jo and Angie.

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