I had gone to the Marshall Horse Auction one rainy cold Saturday when hunting was canceled. I had no intent on buying, just to look and see what was going on. This big, brown gelding in the back pen caught my eye. He was a lop eared, ewe-necked, jug headed, rack of bones; but his eye...oh his eye...told me a story.
He had five auction stickers in his tail. It never occurred to me this horse was a Thoroughbred, but when I tried to age him by looking at his teeth, a faded tattoo was on that lip. I bought him for the meat price of five hundred dollars. He was so thin, I put a sheet on him so the humane society would not come and get me when I put him out in the field. Slowly, I put him back together with the vet and the blacksmith and some good hay and grain, not knowing if my hard work and money was going down the rabbit hole or into a horse who could carry me in the field.
I was whipping for Hank Woolman back then for Mrs. Fout’s Beagle pack. Being out in the woods alone you needed a horse you could trust. When I had cleaned and fattened him up enough to be presentable, I took him hunting. Who knows what he did before, but he never took a false step out hunting. When he galloped, I could see our shadow when the sun was shining and he looked like Icabod Crane running. When he jumped, he would lift his knees up to his ears and hollow out his back so all you had to do was sit in the saddle and bend forward a little, a funny way to jump.
He would never win any prizes, but he was always true and never refused. One day the hounds were running toward Route 50 in Middleburg. The only way to get to the road first was to jump the four foot stone wall in front of me. Matthew sailed over the wall and we charged on. Back then we had no cell phones or radios and you were truly by yourself with no other directive than to stay with the hounds and bring them back when you could. When we finally put the fox to ground, it was just Matthew and half of the pack of hounds and me, somewhere between Middleburg and The Plains. I had whelped most of the hounds so they listened to me. I got off Matthew and I tied the lead hound to Matthew’s stirrup with my whip, carried the hound that was never going to stay with me, grabbed the reins with my free hand and off we took in the direction of the trailers. We got to the trailers right before dark settled in.
Everyone had gone. I put Matthew and the hounds in the trailer. I figured if he had not stepped on them by now he was not going to, and went home to the kennel. Who would have ever thought this funny looking old throw away Thoroughbred would be such a gallant horse.