In Memoriam: Onassis

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Original draft by Dana Shah Garner, Blues City Warmbloods

Every cowgirl at some point in her life has a horse that comes along that truly defines her and her passion for horses and riding, Onassis was that horse for me. He was my “fairytale dream come true.” I purchased Onassis’s mom, Anne Easley, in 2004. She had recently been imported from the Netherlands and was then residing in Petaluma, California. She was already in foal to the very well-known dancing Friesian stallion, Lucas 324 (the late Lord Lukas). When Onassis was born on June 3, 2004, I knew he was something special. As he grew up he became the most beautiful horse I had ever seen in my life. Not only was he beautiful, but also had the most gentle and kind demeanor. I had never really planned on leaving him a stallion. I definitely wasn’t against it, but I wanted to see how he matured because usually the best stallions make even better geldings. As he matured he proved that not only was he one of a kind in every way, but you would never know he was a stallion by his laid back demeanor.

When Onassis was three years old, we started to get him going under saddle. He was the easiest horse to get going, never offering any buck, always eager to please. At that time, I was riding at Massar Stables with Allyson Rogers on my other Friesian, Damascus EQ7.  I brought Onassis out for a lesson one afternoon and he was a “natural;” everyone who saw him loved him. Ally immediately took to him, making him one of her favorites at the barn.
When she found out Onassis had passed away, Ally remembered:

“Onassis was such a special boy. He had a beautiful shoulder and reach with his front leg, which was atypical of the more carriage type of Friesian. He was really made for dressage. He was spicy and forward, but so honest in his temperament. The judges loved him. Even as a stallion, he could be around a barn full of other horses, including mares, and he was the perfect gentleman. “

We competed in dressage for several years, showing up to Second Level, always receiving marks in the high 60’s & 70’s% . Michelle Riley, another dressage trainer, showed him and won almost every class she entered. She adored him as well and he loved her.  

Michele Riley also honored Onassis:

“In all my years of riding, this one always brought a smile to my face.  When he was at Serenity and in training with me, I rode him first not only because it was cooler in the morning for him, but also I loved leaving the barn to go down to the ring and listen to his little grunts as our work for the day got going.  He loved to talk and communicate with me in so many ways, kisses and begging for treats included.  I just loved his personality and was honored to take him in the ring, where he always was the perfect gentleman and the perfectly behaved stallion.  He touched my heart so much that I had to have one of his babies.  Although she is no longer mine and is now in the hands of a very good dressage professional, Mia certainly picked up her daddy's good looks and wonderful front leg well as his mustache and feathers.  She is headed to Grand Prix level, and that is a beautiful testament to his incredible talent.  Dana, my heart breaks for you because I know how much this amazing horse meant to you. I loved him too.  RIP Nassie”

He was breathtaking to watch and even more of a thrill to ride. Onassis was registered and microchipped with the Friesian Horse Association of North America, as well as a registered, proven and inspected Blue Preferred American Warmblood Society stallion. He was also a Bronze Elite stallion with the Friesian Sport Horse Association. All of Onassis‘s offspring have his kind demeanor and unmistakable talent in whatever discipline they are competing.
Trying to recall just the highlights about Onassis is just too hard because, in actuality, everything about him was perfect.  I can’t even begin to recount all the phone calls from people that I didn’t even know, saying they had seen him or heard of him and it was their kids,’ or someone they knew, dream to see a Friesian, pet a Friesian, ride a Friesian. 

He has done countless photo shoots with people and was even in a photo shoot with a black model for Black History Month. I always accommodated because I love seeing smiles on people’s faces and Onassis ate it up. It’s like he knew they were here for him and he “showed off.”

 He made so many peoples’ “dreams come true.” I have taken Onassis almost everywhere around here. Onassis was one of the most versatile horses that I have ever seen and had the pleasure to ride and call mine.

We have been to Tractor Supply several times for special events; he’s been to workout with me at Orange Theory Fitness in Lakeland, Tenn., coming right to the front door to say hi and wave at everyone. Onassis loved to wave at his fans. This is something that I taught him that back-fired a few times on me.  One funny memory in particular: we were at a recognized USDF Dressage show. We had been schooling and our time slot comes up. I am nervous wreck and we enter the ring trotting, then halt and salute. Before I could proceed forward, Onassis waves to the judges! Those who know and ride dressage know that, although cute, this is totally unacceptable in a dressage class, not to mention my dressage trainer being less than amused. On my test sheet the judge’s comments said something along the line of “filled with unnecessary animation.”

We have competed in the Feathered Horse Classics, at the Equine Expo, and Horsepalooza.  August of 2019 would be the last big event Onassis and I would be a part of together. We were asked to dress up like a Trojan for the Millington Central High School for their first home football game.  He was a huge hit at the game and we had so much fun!
Even though Onassis was a stallion, he was always my go-to horse for trail rides. We have been all over parks in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas trail riding & camping out. He could stay in horse camp stalls with no issues.

Onassis has several offspring competing and excelling in many disciplines. He has always passed on his athleticism and kind demeanor to his babies. I still have the privilege to own Onassis’s firstborn, BCW India. Although she looks nothing like her daddy in color, she has almost all his other traits.

The week before Onassis passed away, he showed no signs of being “sick.” The only indication I knew something was wrong was the look in his eyes, and the day I took him to Dr. Jennifer Dunlap, he had quit eating.  He stayed with Dr. Dunlap for a few days while we awaited his results from the cardiologist at Rood & Riddle Hospital in Lexington, Ky. The news was gut wrenching regarding his heart. If Onassis even responded to the heart meds, it was not a positive prognosis.  I wanted to try any and everything. On March 6, 2022 Onassis made the decision for me.

Dr. Jennifer Dunlap was amazing in her compassion towards Onassis, and she took extra steps to make sure his passing was as comfortable as possible. Dr. Dunlap has always played a role in his life, as she saw him right after he was born to do his well-baby check-up to having to say good-bye to him. After he was gone I curled up next to him one last time just soaking up his smells.

Onassis is buried on our farm, and I pass by him every day while doing chores. I had my own special “baby talk” to Onassis. I find myself most days as I go by talking to him in “our talk;” knowing he’s there brings not only comfort, but also sadness. In all my 48 years, this by far has been the greatest loss I have suffered.  There will be some people that just don’t understand the bond people have with their pets, but those who can relate truly know what it is like to love and be loved by that special pet and a special bond like no other. Onassis was that horse for me. The 18 years I got to call him my own was by far not long enough, but I wouldn’t give up the time we shared for anything.  I love you Onassis, until I see you again one day.
Dana Shah Garner
Blues City Warmbloods

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