This entry is part two of the story of Devon, the physically and emotionally abused Haflinger. It is related by his present owner, Lauren Davis, who tells it far better than I ever could. It's an extraordinary tale:
A number of years ago I worked at Cutter Farm, an eventing and show jumping barn in Dracut, Massachusetts, run by Marina Burliss. It had been my dream to own my own horse but that seemed impossible. To keep a horse you must have considerable money but I didn't.
One day Marina asked me to drive down to Windflower Farm to help her evaluate a horse she was considering for our lesson program. His name was Devon, and I thought he was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen, golden brown with a thick flaxen mane and tail. I really wanted Marina to take him, but she thought he was a bit too tough-minded for the inexperienced riders in our program so she told me that she'd told Ainslie we couldn’t use him.
One week later I was at Cutter Farm along with family members who said they had wanted to watch me teach one of the students. As I walked towards the barn to get the school horse ready, I noticed a familiar white truck and trailer coming up the driveway. It was Ainslie’s. She sometimes came to Cutter with one of her horses to train with show jumper Molly Kenny, but neither Ainslie nor Molly were on the day’s schedule.
Ainslie opened the door of the trailer and the horse she backed out was Devon. Ainslie's daughter Marleny took him by the lead and walked him towards me. His halter was decorated with a ribbon and he was beautifully groomed. Everyone started to shout “Happy Birthday!” and when Marleny handed Devon's lead to me, I burst into tears.
Instantly I was in love, but I found he was in need of some convincing. However, with the help of Ainslie and the Dykiel family I began to understand Devon more. By teaching me Natural Horsemanship they showed me a whole new way to become a better horse owner and friend to Devon. We began to trust each other. The results I had with Devon were addictive, and I began to use this method successfully not only with Devon but all horses I train.
The first year Devon was in my life we took weekly lessons and attended many dressage and jumping clinics. He began to exhibit considerable talent. We participated in some local three phases in which we had to perform a dressage test, ride a cross country course over fixed obstacles, and jump a course of fences in a show ring. I took him to his first three phase, Pre-elementary and he got 3rd! I also took him Elementary where he also finished 3rd, both times on his dressage score. Through the winter we attended jumper shows where he went clean and WON classes as high as 3'3". He was really beginning to shine!
The following year we attended more clinics and some schooling shows and, of course, continued lessons. People everywhere fell in love with him, always commenting on his striking good looks and talent. Fine tuning his skills, he became better than I ever thought he could be. We even were able to participate in a local AA rated show where I entered him in both hunter and jumper classes. Devon kept right up with the best of them. To this day he is always making momma proud.
However, in 2009 tragedy struck sharply, limiting the time I could spend with my equine partner. Drew, my boyfriend of almost a year, was in a vehicle accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Between going to work and visiting Drew while he was in rehab, I had time to ride only a few times a week. Devon was a great horse to have at this time because he was sensible and didn’t become frantic, like hotter blooded horses, when his exercise was drastically reduced.
2010 was a turnaround year for us. We began schooling much more and Devon started to play a vital role in Drew’s recovery. Drew could come into Devon’s paddock and drive around in his wheelchair and Devon would just follow him around and nuzzle him. Devon displayed nothing but gentle sweetness to him despite his vulnerable condition. (Or maybe it was because of it?) Brushing Devon was wonderful exercise and therapy for Drew. Bringing Devon back into real work didn’t take long: he was always very smart, smarter than me, so the jumps themselves were not a problem. It was stamina that we needed to work on. By the end of the year we were able to go to a jumper show. We went clear in all of our rounds. Then it was on to a two phase (dressage and stadium, no cross country) where we did Novice and got 4th!
The following year we were able to start taking lessons again at Scarlett Hill Farm, an eventing barn in my town. The goal I set for Devon and me was to compete Beginner Novice the following spring. Devon’s gaits became refined and balanced, his transitions smooth. We started schooling more cross country fences like water, ditches, and drops. He took to it all with an open mind and a brave heart. He has never been one to be scared of fences, or anything for that matter.
When spring came I took him Elementary for the first time out and he finished 2nd, so then I decided he was fine to jump right into Beginner Novice. A month later came our first event. Devon is always calm at a show but he loves to show off. Our dressage was the best test we had ever had, we had a clear stadium round, and a clear round cross country. My wonder pony finished in first place. I had never been more proud of him than when I was in that moment! Next year we hope to move up to Novice. I am so
Devon and I continue to grow as a team, and together we can conquer anything. He has taught me how to be a strong and brave leader, he gave me something I didn’t know I was missing, and he helped me choose the paths I have gone down these past six years. I admire the strength and beauty he provides me with every day, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I’m so thankful that some people saw in him what I do . . . they saved this great horse’s life!
--- Lauren Davis
firstname.lastname@example.org (This is for Promised Land Farm Rescue if you care to make a donation. Susan and Danielle Graf first took in Devon after his terrible ordeal.)
Next entry I plan to write about the Boston Marathon and what this city has meant to me--among many people, things, and events: John and Abigail Adams, the Swan Boats, police horses, and, of course, the Marathon.
See you soon and thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly--