Story of Irish Raider - the horse shown on our homepage.
"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." ~ Winston Churchill
I would have to concur with these wise words of Winston Churchill, for every moment I spent with Irish Raider is and will be dearly cherished. He couldn’t have been named anymore appropriately. He stood a mere 14.2 hands and was the color of fire with a spirit to match. He was foaled on May 1, 1980 in the small town of Williamsport , OH. and was adorned with a crescent shaped star (which would eventually earn him the title of “Outhouse Head” at times) and 4 perfectly matched socks. His “chrome” glistened against his bright ginger colored coat and the sparkle in his eye shone like polished diamonds. In time, everyone would know of the power of the big heart inside the tiny red foal.
I had been a breeder of registered Quarter Horses for nearly 20 years at the time, raising my own riding horses. A friend of mine told me of a 7 year-old gelding that he had broke as a 2 year-old that needed a new home. The owner was unable to care for him any longer and the horse was just wasting away in the field. I really wasn’t in the market to buy, but my curiosity got the best of me so on April 1, 1987 I went to see him. I found him about 100+ lbs. underweight, splay-footed and mangy but his eyes just pleaded with me to take him. I paid his owner $500 and loaded my new purchase into the trailer. My daughter, who was 11 years old at the time couldn’t wait to see the new horse. We always raised our own, so she had high expectations of a “bought” horse. She just knew he had to be of champion pedigree and have an outstanding show record. Needless to say she was less than enthusiastic when I unloaded him. She tried to be respectful by not saying a word, but her expression let me know Raider did not impress her.
Soon he gained weight, his coat gleamed, and his nearly perfect conformation emerged. Furthermore, his impeccable training and desire to please won everyone over. There was nothing he couldn’t or wouldn’t do. From jumping a short stirrup course to moving cattle, he excelled. He wasn’t for the faint of heart, but knew to be still when a child was near. His kindness was immeasurable.
I had many offers of people wanting to buy him, but I wouldn’t dare. You only get an “Once-In-A-Lifetime Horse” that you truly connect with. They become a part of you and no amount of money will ever compare to their worth in your heart. Unfortunately time does past quickly and each year I got older, so did Raider. The leaves started turning, beckoning fall. The warm days of summer got shorter, thus the coming of winter. My old bones didn’t enjoy the cold and neither did his. His once defined muscles melted, the sparkle left his eyes, and his flame begun to burn out. Raider had always looked out for my best interest whenever I was on his back. It was my turn to repay him for his dedication and love. I wanted him to leave this earth with a little bit of respect and dignity.
I made the decision every horse person hates to make. I called my devoted veterinarian to send my friend to a better place where he could be young again. Maybe he would be able to slide 40 feet with Hollywood Dun It, cut cattle with Poco Bueno and give Rugged Lark a run for his money in bridleless exhibitions. His final resting place was in the woods behind our farm, beneath the trees that he once trail rode through and where he escorted my daughter to her wedding in our antique surrey.
As I drank my coffee on the back patio which overlooked Raider’s old lot, the brisk morning air bit at me a little. In the wind I heard a soft nicker. It was my friend saying thank you. I even caught a glimpse of a young, vile Raider standing in his paddock like an Orren Mixer painting and I smiled.
Not all great horses get to grace the cover of the Journal but this tribute is to just one of the many great horses that only a few have had the privilege of knowing. Irish Raider was a World Champion in every sense of the words to me. R.B. Cunningham Graham wrote this quote in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt in 1917, “God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses.” I agree. I just pray the good Lord lets me pack my saddle when it is my time to go so I can once again enjoy a race through the pasture astride my old friend.
Gale A. Black
AQHA Lifetime Membership #0698235
The following links are ones that we found pertinent, related, or just interesting: