Copyright © Judith ShawI was born wanting a horse.
As a child I begged and borrowed to pay for lessons at the local riding school and ate, drank and dreamed horses. When I was ten I started getting kidney infections. After exhaustive investigation, it was decided that the cause was bumping up and down on horseback. So, no more horses for me.
I rode in secret whenever I could, even snatching rides on local horses grazing in their fields. In hindsight I can see how dangerous that was but, to me, it was a simple necessity. I continued to get infections, and my mother continued to tear her hair out.
In junior high I made a friend who owned a horse. Her name was Anita Gardiner, and her horse’s name was Tinker. She had a small riding ring with jumps set up, and a highlight of my riding life was the day I rode Tinker over a 3’6” spread jump, with barrels, bareback. I still remember the thrill.
I didn’t ride again until we moved to Singapore in 1985. By that time I had a nine-year-old daughter who was tall, long-legged and built to be a rider. I signed her up for lessons at the Singapore Polo Club and, after hanging on the rail for a few months, watching, I signed up for some lessons myself.
That marked the last peaceful breath my husband took for twenty-five years.
We planned to leave Singapore when my daughter started high school but did not agree about where to go. Ron, who is Australian, wanted to move back to Sydney. I wanted to go home to New York. We arrived at a compromise: The family would move to Australia, and I would have a horse.
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. On vacation in the Blue Mountains, we even bought a house. Four acres with a ramshackle barn, backing on to the Blue Mountains National Park.
I was ready to leave Singapore immediately, but we had a year and a half to wait for Jess to be ready for high school. I spent the time visualizing the horse who would finally be mine.
He would be a twelve-year-old dark brown or bay Morgan gelding, small (like me), and what I dreamily called “a perfectly educated lady’s hack.” Morgans are an all-American breed, and I didn’t think there were any in Australia, but it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?
We moved into our house on a Monday in December. On Thursday The Land, an agricultural newspaper covering all of New South Wales, arrived in our mailbox. I read the livestock section at breakfast and choked on my Weet-Bix.
A small ad in the Horses for Sale section read: “Quality gelding. Dark bay Morgan galloway, 14.1 hh, 12 years old, completely educated. Would suit any rider, child or adult.”
And, in a state more than twice the size of New York, he was only an hour away.
“Ron,” I shrieked. “There’s a Morgan! He’s for sale! In Bathurst! He’s three thousand dollars! Can we buy him?” God bless my husband. He earned more credit with me that morning than he can ever spend.
We went to look at the horse on Saturday where he was competing at a local show. Word spread fast. A stream of little girls came up to me, one by one. The gist of their message was, “You want to buy Tom? We’d buy Tom if we could, but he costs too much!”
Tied to a horse float and dozing between classes he didn’t look like much, just a small brown horse chilling out. But when he trotted into the ring, he was a different horse altogether. He grew at least four inches, arched his neck and moved like a champion. When the class was over and he was tied to the trailer again, he went back to sleep.
We had him vetted out the next day, wrote a check and brought him home.
It quickly became clear that Tom was not an ordinary horse. You can find out why by clicking Tom the Wonder Horse.