Thursday, August 27, 2009

Faith's History

This post is the one that we have all been for since February: Faith's true identity and an insight into her past. Sit down and make yourself comfortable, because this is quite surprising...

Last Saturday, while watching my horses warm up at a show, I received a phone call by a very nice lady who had a story she wanted to share with me. I leaned against the fence rail and took a deep breath. I knew where this phone call was going; I have been waiting for it for over 6 months...

She began the conversation by saying that her name was Katherine and she used to own one of my horses. She said that it took her a while to contact me, due in part because she felt guilty about the path that this horse's life took. My heart sank when she muttered the name, Capri.

I stood motionless against the fence, ignoring the horses schooling in front of me and the announcer's broadcasts. She then began the story that I have been waiting patiently to hear...

Back in 1991, she bought a Trakehner mare named Capri from Fox Horn Farm in Charlotte, Vermont. The mare had been shown on the Hunter Jumper circuit and was one of the top equitation horses in New England. She was spunky, had quite the attitude, and an even bigger buck to her. But she was elegant and refined, had a work ethic to die for, and she was beautiful. Katherine brought her home and taught the mare a new discipline: the art of dressage.

They worked as a team for over eleven years, through the thick and thin. Over a decade and three children later, Katherine could no longer keep the mare. She gave her away to a humane society in hopes that they would place her in good hands. Obviously her wish did not come true.

She told me about her personality and that she has always been considered a "grouch" in her stall. But that she was lovely to ride and was eager to work each day. They spent their time schooling in the arena and enjoying the trails together.

Katherine then told me that I had been wrong about a specific piece of information. "Faith" was not 17 years old as we suspected. She was not born in 1992. In fact, she was born the same year I was, in 1982. Yes, you read that correct...

This mare is twenty-seven years old.

I contacted the Trakehner registry yesterday and they confirmed that yes indeed, this is the same mare. Born in 1982, she is a daughter of the legendary stallion "Tannenberg" and out of a mare named "Carina". Her bloodlines are impeccable, her family is considered royalty; the more I read about them, the more I learn how valuable her lineage is to the Trakehner breed.

This is what has been said her sire:

Bred in 1966 by Dr Hans Dietrich of Wagner, Germany, Tannenberg was Reserve Champion of the 1968 Neum√ľnster approvals. He was a popular sire in Germany until being imported to Canada in 1975. He has more approved Trakehner sons than any other ATA stallion, 10 German-bred and 1 American-bred. Among his German-bred sons were the well regarded Schiwago, Herztrumpf and Morgenstrahl. His American son Meistersinger *Ps* is a well respected FEI dressage horse and sire of FEI dressage horses.

The German Stallion Book provides the following comments:

Excellent in the type of the Trakehner horse with beautiful, masculine head; best position, length and carriage of the neck; good shoulder and good withers; harmonious body overall that is carried on four good, correct, sufficiently strong but a bit long legs; the midsection of the body is well-coupled to the forehand and hindquarters; particularly emphasized should be the broadly set hocks; his way of going is elevated and impulsive, very slightly paddling in front; in spite of his size he is very uniform overall and significant in his overall impression. His magnificent type is usually passed to his get, and so is the harmonious overall figure, with a rather good way of moving; good medium size is predominant.

Here is a picture of Faith's sire, the legendary Tannenberg:

I am glad to find out her true identity, but the phrase that keeps popping into my mind is, "if I knew then when I know now..."

Would the events of last February have been different if at the time I knew her real age? Would I have made the same decisions? I'm not certain I would have.

Granted, I'll never know for sure, but I do not think this story would have unfolded the way it did. If I had found her in that condition and knew she was 27 years old, I think I probably would have had her humanely euthanized.

Never in a million years would I think that a horse of that age, in that condition, would have been able to recover from being nearly starved to death. I would have thought that her condition would have been impossible for her to overcome. It is impossible, right?

What would you have done?

Thankfully, Faith kept quiet about her age, as any true lady does, and has made a miraculous recovery. Her story has continued to inspire, and does even more now that we know the real story behind this impressive, magical mare.



  1. Absolutely unbelievable!!!!

  2. Wow. My jaw is on the floor. It was obvious that Faith was a quality show horse, but I didn't expect that. Her sire is one of the most beautiful horses I've ever seen!

    Can you get photos of Faith during her show years? I'd love to see what she looked like in her prime. Was she ever bred?

    Twenty-seven. Great gravy. I wouldn't have thought a recovery at that age was possible either. At least the dropped suspensories are more easily explained now.

  3. This is amazing, from beginning to end.

  4. Wow, what a story! She has overcome so much at that age-amazing! Is her former owner going to come out to visit her?

  5. WOW, We all know that Faith is beautiful, but now to know her history.
    She looks a lot like her Sire in the photo. Faith doesn't look 27 at all, you have done a great job with her and it truly shows. Yes, I would have still given her the chance to live even knowing that she was just never know how they are going to respond to proper care and love. Keep up the good work, and can't wait to see her at Deerfield Fair.

  6. Life is such a crapshoot in a situation like that. Who knew? You simply cannot second guess yourself since it did all turn out well. Knowing she was 27, you might have put her down and rescued a "younger" horse and in the process of rehab, lost it to colic or irreparable pysical damage. In the end here, you have a to-die-for breeding, training beyond most people's dreams and a horse that looks ten years younger and could be a school horse for another five or ten. The only real strike I can see against her is the iffiness of her knees which could limit how she works or for how long. Of course, I am only basing all this on what I perceive as her condition, is the reality much different?

  7. Who knows what you would have done if you only knew..but to Faith you did the right thing, and she works hard everyday to reward you. She has given you her all because you gave of yourself.

  8. With Faith's history I'd say she deserves to have found you to rescue her into a life befitting her background. Not that they don't all deserve to be treated well, but WOW, WOW, WOW! This story is AWESOME!

    Just goes to show that all that breeding, training, and history didn't protect Faith in her old age. Who would have thought she'd end up like that, but thank GOD someone stepped in and cared enough to help her.

    I have a 27 year old gelding that will die in my arms so I'm sure he's comfortable until the end!

  9. Wow- what an incredible history. And through your posts it seems that she has always possessed some sort of royal heir about her. Thats awesome. I was recently reunited with my Trakehner gelding after the same sort of situation as Capri's owner. I was very afraid to see him in person, however I went through it and am now grateful. I urge Capri's original owner to see her, its a therapeutic. Good job with Faith- she's a beauty!

  10. If I had known that she was 27 I would have given her a chance. We found out that our Katie is closer to 25 - 26 and I'm glad that I did not have her put down :-)
    Faith is looking so good !!!!!!!

  11. I just found this story and wanted to comment. You had contacted me a while back, thinking she may have been in possession at one time. I have to admit that conversation still sticks with me -- as anyone who has ever sold a horse will now wonder, what has happened to her (or him)? You hope for the best, and hope you are making a good decision, but in reality, we never know the twists and turns fate will take, and if our sold horses will be given the life they were promised. Thankfully there are people like you who see the need, and step in to help. From your words on the phone, and your words on the blog, I could tell "Faith" had found a true friend and advocate. And you are an example to all of us to never give up hope. Thank you for saving Faith. She may be 27, but in her mind she carried fire of a much younger horse. You were able to sense that on some level. Bless you!.

  12. WOW,WOW,WOW,

  13. WOW!!!!! Faith??? 27???? She looks amazing for her age! And her story is wonderful! It makes me wonder what my gelding did in the 20 years before I owned him,.. I think im gonna go post on equinesite to see if someone knows him!


    Ive been following her story since the very beginning and I cant wait to see pics from the show!

  14. Many thanks to her former owner to have the courage to step forward and share the missing link we and especially you have been so desperately searching for. Let us all learn from what happened to Faith's turn in the road to go to a rescue but then end up where you found her. Like Black Beauty, she has found her "Joe" with you. Thankyou.

  15. Amazing and awe-inspiring. Her sire is a lovely horse with true quality, as is she.

  16. Incredible! Every twist in the Faith story brings something completely unexpected.
    But, just because you now know that she's much older than you originally thought, you should continue treating her exactly the same (as it has clearly worked very well!).
    We had a horse at my first barn who lived (comfortably) to the age of 52 and another who made it to 48. I know this is very unusual, but it just goes to show you that some horses are incredibly strong and have an amazing amount of longevity.
    Too bad she isn't younger, though - I'm sure she would have a beautiful baby!

  17. Hi Julie, My name is Erin and I'm 15 years old. I just read yours and Faith's story from beginning to end and it was so unbelievably inspiring. Both you and Faith have done such an amazing job in her recovery and, I know you already know this, but you have not only an amazing horse but a forever friend to spend the rest of her days with. There are no words to describe how lucky she was when you showed up on that farm that day.
    I laughed and cried with you all through reading this. It's amazing that you only rescued her in February as it seems like a lifetime ago even to me. I can't even begin to understand how it feels to you!
    I wish you the best of luck with all of your future adventures with Faith and the rest of your horses and students and I hope that one day I will get the chance to come out and visit your stable and see for myself what a wonderful recovery that Faith has made.

    Thank you for all you've done,
    Erin :)

  18. Wow! You've brought her so far in 6 months! I'm sure the over abundance of love was one of the key ingredients. At least the last years of her live will be filled with more love than she's seen for the past years. Way to go with Faith!! She's a very lucky horse and the girls at your barn are very lucky for learning the proper way to care and treat horses!

  19. I know I'm a little late in my response, but I was unable to read the blog for a little while and I am catching up....

    I am floored!!! I would've NEVER thought that she would've survived! If I would've been in your place, it's sad to say, that I wouldn't have rescued a 27 year-old... But life tricks us sometimes and I am glad that she is doing so well! I rescued two ex-pacers last summer and they were thin, lethargic and one was in foal (we unfortunately lost the foal 9 days after birth), this sad event gave the mare a chance to gain a little weight and be a bit more healthy. They are now pretty much up to weight (maybe a little over :S) and have started riding both of them. In the mean time, I've checked their tattoo and searched for their pedigree. Turns out that the tall (about 16.2 hh) bay mare (Mattsabreeze, aka Peg) is 16 years old and is the daughter of the great Wall of Fame inductee Matt's Scooter, sire of many champion pacers. Peg is now broke to saddle and can trot and canter, although she still falls back in a pace sometimes. she has some arthritis in her knees (All four I believe) The grey mare (Minto's Foly) (the one that was in foal), we found out that she is 18 (to my surprise... she could easily go for 10 or under!) and that she has raced a whole deal in her day. She is as sound as can be, great knees, she is in about the same shape as my 3.5 y-o!! She still has A LOT of spunk left and she is very fast! I doubt that she will ever trot, she paces all the time, even at a light walk. She has broken in a galop a few times, so I have hope! Great horse... certainly not spooky. Now they are expected to build muscles with a conditionning program which we will really take seriously next spring. They are enjoying the lazy life now, we only ride about once or twice a week. I will not show them, but I do feel they need to have a bit more muscles to carry themselves.