How Tom the Wonder Horse Found Us a House
Copyright © Judith Shaw
When we moved back to the U.S. from Australia, Tom the Wonder Horse was shipped ahead by International Racehorse Transport. The seasons are upside down there, so winter in Australia is summer in New England.
Tom wasn’t only my horse, he was my best friend and a member of the family. My husband was his biggest advocate, especially when it came to things like blanketing and treating him like a Barbie doll. Ron was all for letting him go naked and free, and Tom agreed wholeheartedly. To let Ron’s feelings be heard, I’ve written this story from his point of view. — Judith
Tom was heading out tomorrow, and we had to get him ready. Because it was June, getting him ready meant getting rid of his winter coat, already thick enough to make him look like a wooly bear.
He’d competed all his life and had no doubt been clipped innumerable times, but my wife was worried he might freak out. Jean, who was doing the clipping, was worried too. Just because he’d been through it before didn’t mean he was going to like it.
So this was the deal: I stood at his head, holding the lead rope. My wife had her arms around his neck and was crooning softly to “keep him calm.” When the clippers were turned on he shuffled around a bit and threw up his head, which she perceived as the beginning of a freak out—whatever that might mean.
“Sing!” said my wife. “That will keep him calm.”
Sing? I don’t sing. In my first year at Fort Street Boys High School I tried out for choir. The teacher in charge let me join—he felt sorry for me—but I had to promise to only mouth the words. But “Sing!” ordered my wife, so I sang. Other than campfire drinking songs, the only song I knew the words to was “Speed, bonny boat, like a bird on the wing” so I sang that. Many, many times. After a while Tom sighed and took a nap.
My wife blanketed him warmly and locked him in, two things he really hated. But she decided it was too cold for him to go coatless and, by the same token, too cold for him to be out in the wind of a blustery June night. When it came to Tom, my wife was She Who Must Be Obeyed.
The horse float came in the morning. It was enormous, designed to hold twelve big thoroughbreds. Tom was a Morgan, just past pony size, and he looked like a little kid hanging his head on the way to school as he walked up the ramp to the empty trailer. My wife was in tears and even I was a little choked up. Tom was a pretty good bloke. For a horse.
We were moving back to the U.S. after twenty years overseas. It took the promise of her own horse to get my wife to agree to the move to Australia seven years earlier, and the promise that Tom would come, too, for her to agree to go home. I had gotten to the point where I’d agree to anything, just to get the show on the road.
We were returning to the States around the time the Internet was just beginning to catch on. My wife got on a Morgan List, whatever that was, mentioned her horse, his breeding and the fact that we were moving to the Northeast. Did anybody have any ideas about where it would be good to live?
She got a lot of replies, most from people with a house to sell. She also got an email with the subject line “Greetings from the Original Home of Green Meads Fashion.” Fashion was Tom’s mother, the first Morgan mare exported to Australia. The email was from Tom’s mother’s breeder’s grandson, who owned what was left of Green Meads Farm.
We ended up shipping Tom to him, and ultimately bought most of what was once Green Meads—sold off long since. So whenever anyone asked how we found our house, my wife always said smugly, “Tom found it.” And I have to agree. He did.