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Not Too Old, Part 2

Published: 1/21/2015
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Editor's Note:
Part II of Not Too Old to Learn reveals the life of Postcard Jack and how he finally landed at Debbie Hight’s Norridgewock farm.
Some readers might ask, “Which Postcard Jack? The man or the horse?”
Postcard Jack, the man, was a New Yorker who, over the course of several decades, sent nearly 10,000 postcards to the folks at the Oasis Diner in Madison, Maine. He never revealed his identity.  Read about him in this award-winning story by Doug Harlow.

Read Part I of Not Too Old

This Not Too Old series was developed from reader feedback of the popular Anatomy of a Wreck feature.
Guest columnist Debbie Hight is a Remuda Reader from Norridgewock, Maine. For the past few years, she and friend, Rob Rowbottom, have worked to rehabilitate a retired 24-year old standardbred.
Postcard Jack happens to be the winningest horse in Maine track history, but how will he work as a saddle horse?
The series reminds us: Horse or human, you’re not too old to learn.

By Debbie Hight

Postcard Jack, the horse, was purchased as a six-month old in 1990 by Tom Dillon of Anson, Maine, who has owned many, many standardbreds over the years along with my brother-in-law, Walter Hight.  They gave the young colt his name over dinner at the Oasis Restaurant one night. Read about Postcard Jack, the man

Photo at right shows Postcard Jack the horse honoring Postcard Jack the man.

Walter became involved in harness racing through his friendship with Tom, but likely  because of his grandfather, too. He was also named Walter Hight. The older Hight had some very good standardbred race horses, at least one of whom raced in the Little Brown Jug (the country's premier event for pacers, held in Delaware every September).  

Anyway, Postcard Jack, the horse, was quite a handful, was gelded very early because he was naughty. But he had an incredible career.  My husband was never particularly interested in horses, nor was I.  However, in lieu of payment for tutoring a student in math, I said that I'd just like to ride one of her horses.  Well, that was the start of everything at age 50!  And now I have a four-stall barn, indoor arena, trailer and three horses.  

Then, because I knew NOTHING and Postcard Jack needed a retirement home, my husband offered our barn.  Well, I hopped on him a few times because, after all, that's what you do with a horse. It was pretty scary and I was a complete rookie. But we survived.  He did not play well with others and so was sequestered in his own pasture for a number of years.  He is in with the others now, but still the boss.

A few years ago, I brought Jack up to the track before the Hight Pace (a race held in memory of the senior Walter Hight) at the Skowhegan Fairground.  The Skowhegan State Fair, held each August, is the longest continuously running agricultural fair in the nation.  

Donnie Richards, his former trainer, put all of the harness racing gear on him and off they went.  Jack was completely out of shape, but he looked great and was happy to be back at the track pacing in front of the cheering crowd.  
The older horsemen at the paddock were really impressed with his fitness and health.  When I say that Jack "paraded the horses", that just means that he and Donnie drove around the track while the horses that were preparing to race were warming up, kind of an honorary position.  

Photo at right: Richards driving Jack before fans at the Skowhegan State Fair.

Two years ago, my friend Rob Rowbottom rescued a pretty crazy and mean paint.  Because he lives down the road and because I had an empty stall and a big arena, he brought his horse to my place so that he could spend some time working him.

Rob rode as a kid and he and his wife were dairy farmers for a long time. We’ve all been friends for a long time.  So, Rob was a confident rider and great around big animals.  He hooked on to the Brannaman methods  and has turned a crazy horse into a beautifully moving saddle horse.  

Well, I guess if he could do it with Mack, I could do it with Jack.  It took us awhile to get Jack to realize rearing and bucking and snorting and being a general pain in the arse were not going to get him anywhere.  

We periodically continued the groundwork, and then started the saddle work. Then I got the great idea that we would get him ready for this August's race, his 25th birthday, to show that Standardbreds make great adoptions (well.....) and that even at 25, they can be trained (again, well...).  

I'm just a bumbling horse person, having a good time, and continuing to learn through lessons and experiences.  Nothing fancy, just blessed with a husband who let me go a bit crazy with the horse world (Maybe Jack was payback).  Rob is the student of horses.

Oh, we laughed about Steve's Anatomy of a Wreck article the other day again.  Rob was just going to ride Jack though we noticed some pretty naughty behavior. Rewind. Back to groundwork first!

Read Part I

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"A canter is the cure for every evil" - Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke