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Horsewoman Sarah Plummer, Remembered

Published: 5/15/2014
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Editor's Note:
What happens when a horse community loses a loved one?
What happens to the horse left behind? We're grateful to Leisha Johnson MacDougall for writing how one Maine group banded together after a tragedy.

By Leisha Johnson MacDougall

One snowy January morning this winter my phone rang. Caller ID told me it was my buddy, Sarah. In our normal fashion, I answered with a sarcastic comment about it being a good day to saddle up and ride. But my silliness was met with the voice of Sarah’s husband, Todd.

Sarah had died unexpectedly during the night. His words stung my ears like a cruel snap of a driving whip. It was an idea that I could not grasp. I hung up the phone in shock and proceeded to cry into the arms of my supportive husband, Andy.

As the news spread throughout our small coastal town and our riding club, thoughts of her beloved paint, Sandman, was on everyone’s mind. What would become of him?
Would the family keep him? We all know they don’t ride.

[More on Sandman soon]

My friend Sarah was more than meets the eye. She was a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, friend and incredible horsewoman. She had patience that was unmatched with problem horses. That’s where our friendship started.

When she was a girl, Sarah’s first horse was Nikki. He was owned by Sara (known to everyone as Casey because let’s be honest, having two friends named 'Sarah' was confusing) and was now up for sale for $250.

When 10-year-old Sarah found out, she dashed into her room and scrounged for every penny she could find, totaling $240. She turned to Dad, Pete, “Dad you suppose I could borrow $10?”

The rest is history.  Her grades came up and horse ownership surely agreed with her.
Sarah believed in always helping kids and making a difference in their daily life on her bus. Mentoring students, teaching them to drive and sharing her positive thinking.
Her passion for horses continued through her life ending with her paint gelding, Sandman. She enjoyed sharing that devotion of horses with young girls through lessons in horsemanship. Sandman taught many a young girl to love horses the way we all do. Whether it was mucking out the stall or shedding out his spring coat, time with him was well spent.
In 2007, after many years of being without a horse, I brought home a young POA/Arab mare that would draw us together like no other.  Sarah and I had known each other for years through casual encounters in our small town. But once I asked for her help bringing Buttercup home, our friendship became steadfast.
Things in the horse world change quickly. I had been out of the loop for a few years.
Which is the best type of girth to use?
What’s new in equine meds?
How to make your horse get on the trailer?
We discussed all things horses. Sarah loved to chat about horse things and reveled in learning anything new.

Before long, the ladies of our community banded together to create “Rocky Coast Riders”. We have jokingly added the tagline: “We’re just a herd of Moms.” That pretty much sums up our approach.  A handful of mid-aged mothers and wives enjoying getting together to ride the trails, share a story, talk about our families and bond with our horses.

No competition, no measure of importance to any particular breed and all in the spirit of friendship and love of horses.  

Sandman was a rescue. No one really knows what his back story was. Sarah never cared. All she saw was that striking pattern of black and white pattern and loving eyes that longed to be part of someone’s daily life.

A mutual friend had first brought him home. She had given him the opportunity to have a life outside the rescue farm. And soon, she and Sarah began to ride together weekly. As the bond between Sandman and Sarah grew, our friend Lynn could see that they were a perfect pair. Eventually, Sarah took over the flashy paint, moving him to her home just around the corner.

We rode together often. Nights after work, trailering to local spots on the weekends and getting together with our “herd” whenever possible.  Special events like the benefit ride at Cape Elizabeth every year were a particular favorite for us. We believe in supporting a good cause and sharing the passion of other horse people.

Sarah and I have had many rides around our community and beyond. We didn’t need well-groomed paths because we were never shy about making trails in the woods were there were none. She coined this as “tree crashing.”
I will miss her endearing titles like always wear your “brain bucket”. She believed in having a good time, but put safety first.

Many precious memories were created out of our riding days. Like how she loved to whack her crop against a hard surface during a ride. “Desensitizing,” she called it. After we all jumped out of our skin, we’d look back to see her guilty grin. We’d give her the devil and she’d do it again next time with the same expression. Sarah never wanted things to get boring, that’s for sure.

Coming next: Part II, Taking action on behalf of Sandman

View Reader Comments:

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5/30/2014 Tammy M.
Thanks so much for sharing this, Leisha! Sarah was indeed a super special person with a spirit and zest for life we will never forget. She loved well and was truly well loved in return. I miss her every single day and know that my life was made better because of knowing Sarah Plummer.
5/31/2014 Mary Ann Morse
These kind of friendships are very rare and we are blessed with your sharing. There is a lot to be learned from reading about your beautiful story. Very nice Leisha

"Speak kindly to your little horse, and soothe him when he wheezes, or he may turn his back on you, and kick you where he pleases" - Anonymous