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Rider Connects with Very Special (and Lucky!) Horse

Published: 10/20/2010
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By Sonia Theobalds

How a Special Olympics Rider Found His Equine Partner

CLICK FOR WCSH story on Special Olympics Riding

I met a young man at Triple J Farm in Bowdoin, Maine. Full of smiles, Andy came to our campsite and happily introduced himself to my friend, Jessie and I.

We all immediately became buddies. In fact, we had so much fun we stayed on two extra days so we could all ride together.

I was particularly drawn to Andy and to his horse "Buck", who is extremely kind and gentle and takes exceptional care of his rider. Everyone seemed to notice the rapport between the two of them. It was beautiful to watch.

Andy, 32, is charming, funny and outgoing. He has a contagious smile. He told us about himself, about his rescue horse and how he was aiming at participating at the Special Olympics in Skowhegan in October.

Andy is a special person and Buck is a special horse. They have had their challenges along the way but together, they have an amazing bond.

A couple of years ago, Andy's sister Laura began the search for a calm horse for Andy. Up until then, Andy had been riding quiet, well-schooled horses in a controlled environment.

It was decided that the time had come for Andy to have a horse of his own, so Laura and her husband Ron went looking for a partner for Andy.

"I need a sound-minded horse who will take care of my brother", Laura explained to a horse dealer in Vermont. The dealer promptly invited them to go and look at a horse he had for sale and advised her, "If you don't take him, he's going to the meat market".
Laura, an experienced and wise horsewoman fired back: "You can play that card if you want to, but if he can't fill the shoes that I need him to fill then I can't take on a horse I can't use."

The cards were laid on the table and Laura, Ron, and Andy piled in the truck to go and check out the buckskin Quarter Horse.

The first thing Laura noticed was that the gelding was about 200 pounds underweight and he had a mild case of heaves. The dealer quickly had the horse saddled up and mounted by a stable girl. "See what you think," he instructed Laura and her family. The minute the stable girl got on board, Buck surged forward at full speed and, as Laura put it, "began trucking around the ring."

[Photo at right, Jessie and Andy and their horses.]

Laura approached the dealer and told him candidly, "I don't think this is going to work." As they were turning to leave, Laura and the dealer talked. The stable girl had ground tied Buck and left him in the arena. Andy was casually watching from the sidelines and the horse meandered over to Andy and put his head directly on Andy's chest.
It was that simple move that changed everything for both Andy and Buck.

Andy and Laura exchanged glances and after some discussion (and Andy's persistence), Laura agreed that her brother would try him. Up until that day, Andy was only used to riding calm plunk-around-the-ring horses, but Andy was adamant. He wanted to try.

Laura was hesitant. "After all", she explained to me, "This is my baby brother."

The minute Andy settled into the saddle, Buck lowered his head and slowed his pace. Laura and Ron watched in awe and anticipation.

For 45 minutes Andy and Buck got to know each other. It couldn't have gone any smoother. When Andy got a little off balance, Buck shifted his weight and got underneath his rider. When Andy became nervous, Buck stopped. When Andy got a little off balance, Buck shifted his weight and got underneath his rider. When Andy became nervous, Buck stopped. Ron hopped on Buck for a test ride and was surprised that the horse knew more than he was letting on; he knew how to neck-rein and he could spin at the slightest cue.

Andy told Laura and Ron this is the horse he wanted because "He trusts me and I think I can trust him."

$300 was exchanged and Buck went home to Andy a few days later.

Since going to his new home, Buck has proven to be a champion in many ways. His heaves are under control. All it took was cautious dietary and environmental management. He loves to trail ride and he takes care of Andy.

Jan Marconi of Triple J Farm in Bowdoin, coached Andy for the Special Olympics this year. On October 2, they made their debut together and they placed first in Barrels and second in their Trail Class. As Jan said in a recent email to me, "Buck .... well, there aren't words to describe THAT horse!".

Over the years, I have learned that sometimes the smallest moments in our lives have the biggest impact on our future. A simple nudge, a prod, a "look." It can make all the difference in the world.

Congratulations, Andy and Buck! I am so glad you have found each other and it is a pleasure knowing you and your family!

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10/20/2010 Jessie
What a beautiful article! Thankyou Sonia.You captured the true beauty of Andy's and Bucks story.(grabbing tissue)...When I heard of their success at the Special olympics I felt like a proud big sister...great job Andy! And the support system he gets from his family and friends is so remarkable.Andy and Buck are the perfect example of what a horse can do for a man's soul, and vice-versa!
10/20/2010 Margy
ok I have goosebumps!!! What a totally awesome bond for these two. They picked each other. I wish them both many, many days filled with riding!
10/20/2010 Rackinon
I think I know who buck maybe let me see if I have any pictures
10/20/2010 Gilda
Sonia, Fabulous a genuine heart throbber. Good work!
10/20/2010 Daryl
This article gave me goosebumps! Beautifully written... and what a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us....
10/20/2010 Beth Atwood
It was such a privlage to get to know Andy and Buck and Laura and Ron this past summer at Triple J. Andy is wonderful and Buck is perfect for him. I wish them Many Years of Riding together. Hugs from Beth
10/20/2010 Jeanne
I saw Andy and Buck at the Special Olympics Equestrian Show in Skowhegan, Maine as I was their supporting some riders. A nice pair for sure and a Fabulous event!!
10/20/2010 Molly Stark
This article brought tears to my eyes!Beautiful. I also know what it's like to be picked by a horse. When I was searching for a horse, my daughter kept pointing out a 4 yr old quarter horse who didn't seem to know much, He was the last horse I was going to try.He came up to me and put his head under my arm and just stood for a moment - then (very gently) pressed his cheek on my chest. OMG I took him home and have never regretted that impulse buy...I'll go with the gut instinct everytime.
10/20/2010 Jan
Sonia, thanks for sharing this heartwarming story about Andy and Buck! They are a special pair for sure!! Love the pic of Andy and Jess!!!
10/21/2010 Julie Kenney
I had the priviledge of watching Buck and Andy in action this summer up to Triple J Farm and I at once noticed that Buck took extreme care of his was a beautiful thing. Andy obviously is devoted to Buck....good thing too, because I have no doubt that Buck CHOSE Andy to be his partner!!
10/21/2010 Laura
Thank you Sonia! You captured the solid emotional bond between Andy and Buck. Their bond is what true horsemanship is all about. He is my baby brother and I have adored and protected him since the day he was born. Buck sure knew what he was doing that cold November day in northern Vermont. I wasn't the only one putting the cards on the table. He has helped Andy become a more solid person. Responsible, respectful, and mature. Horses are healers. We should all take a good look at this pair as an example for us to strive for.
10/21/2010 Andy
Thank You Sonia! for the story about buck and I
10/21/2010 Ron
Great article on Andy and Buck. Those two make a great team. I had to grab a tissue. He is a great guy. He has learned alot since Buck has come into his life. I'm proud to be his brother-in-law. I was so proud of him at special olympics, I was almost in tears. Thank you Sonia for the article.
10/21/2010 sonia
Andy,you and Buck have a very special relationship and Jessie and I are so glad we were able to share time with you both at Triple J. This is what true horsemanship is all about, the relationship between horse and rider. How fortunate that you and Buck found each other. Jan tells me there were over 100 Special Olympians at Skowhegan that weekend. It must have been an amazing event and we are so proud of you both and so proud of all the athletes who competed. May God Bless the Throwaway Horses, for they are the ones who expect the least and give the most. I hope everyone will support the Special Olympics; this is a fantastic organization that gives so much to our really outstanding athletes.
10/21/2010 Kristi
I've heard and repeated this story more than once and I still have a tear in my eye reading it here! I've joked with Andy more than once that I'm going to trade horses with him; he keeps saying no for some reason! Lucky horse, lucky Andy. We should all be so lucky as to have Laura help us pick our horses. She's something special too...
10/21/2010 Shelbe
Very Well written, I'm so happy my cousin Andy is enjoying his horse so much, he deserves it.
10/21/2010 Bonnie
Awesome Awesome heartwarming story. What a lucky pair to fine each other-if this story doesn't make you cry then you are not a horse person!!!!
10/22/2010 Sally macphie
That was beautiful!
10/23/2010 susan
The tears are flowing. Andy, Laura, Ron you are all so very special and kind to always have your heart first. Buck sounds like such a wonderful boy and to think........ he knew. May you all love and enjoy one another for many, many, many years to come. I wish the world were more like you.
10/24/2010 Sherri
Sonia, an awesome article, I so enjoyed it. I know there is a place for those special horses!!
10/30/2010 Sandra/Rosa-Li/Lize-Jin
What a beautiful story Sonia, hugs from Holland!
10/30/2010 Claude
Sonia, That is a great story... no question.. We love happy stories... please write more
10/5/2011 Jan
To update this story .... Buck and Andy competed in the 2011 SOME Equestrian competition earning a blue ribbon in the trail class and a red in barrels. Andy was generous enough to 'loan' Buck to a couple of our (Healing Horses) riders, as one of our horses had sustained a minor injury and was unable to be ridden at the time of the show. Buck took excellent care of his 'new' riders, quietly working his way through the classes. A BIG thanks to Andy and Buck for their help. Buck, and the competition, was also featured on Video and interview still available on their website ... Buck .. still no words to describe him!!!
10/7/2011 Paula
What a wonderful story. I am so glad for both of them.
10/8/2011 Patty
Speechless and a very emotional story. Best of luck to Buck and Andy <3
8/23/2012 Sonia
Hey Andy! I can hardly wait to see you and Buck at the Murder Mystery Ride this weekend! (p.s. The Butler did it, hahahaha!).
6/16/2013 Jenn
I just read this article, and it made my day. This was my mothers horse, formerly known as Doc. I could not be more pleased that he has found a loving home! Thank you Andy for giving him a second chance

"Practice sharpens, but overschooling blunts the edge. If your horse isn't doing right, the first place to look is yourself" - Joe Heim