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Saddlebred Rescue To The Rescue


With perfect manners, Major thinks

he’s the best show horse ever.


by Bob Funkhouser


Being in the horse business nearly all my life and then spending half of that life at Saddle Horse Report has given me the opportunity to see and experience many wonderful things involving show horses and the people who own, train and care for them. Like everything, there are some not so good and then there are those that are exceptional.


This story is of a personal experience and it was exceptional.


Besides spending so many wonderful hours at horse shows and behind a computer for Saddle Horse Report, I, along with my wife, Raye Lynn, and daughter Ali, am fortunate enough to have a barn at home where we have worked and raised a few Saddlebreds and Morgans and most recently a road pony.


For Ali’s fifth birthday we did the horse parent thing and got her a Welsh pony that she could start playing around with and we could start teaching her to ride. Remember, many of us got our starts on the Welsh and Shetland ponies? I also remember even the best of them having their “moments.” That’s just what they do.


Nonetheless, our daughter certainly wasn’t going to miss out on the experience of growing up with a pony, particularly when we only had four or five other horses in the barn already.


Twiggy was a great pony for Ali. She really had a sharp look about her and she was a great companion. Ali loved brushing her and working on her mane and tail. We as parents couldn’t have been happier as Ali enjoyed being led around and was eager to learn to ride.


Ali was doing so well at an early stage and then one day a rabbit jumped out of some bushes that were close to the ring and Twiggy did a quick side step and Ali was introduced to the dirt. Only her pride and confidence were hurt, the worst being the confidence. Although she still loved her pony dearly, it did take a while to regain her confidence even on the end of a lead. She eventually got past that stage and did keep riding on a limited bases considering all of her other activities. She loved the horses and the barn, but riding wasn’t something she had to do every day especially when she was getting way too tall for her pony.


We had the make the decision that it was time to sell Twiggy and look for a lesson-type horse that she might be able to show in academy. She needed an extremely safe horse that would give her the confidence to continue and get ready for the show ring.


Twiggy got a great home this summer when a couple bought her to do leadline with their two- and five-year-old daughter and son. It was hard for Ali but she knew we had to sell her to get a horse.


A week later we were at the Connecticut Summer Classic in W. Springfield, Mass., and I started quietly asking a few trainers if they had a nice lesson horse for sale. My friend Nicholas Villa asked me if I had talked to Nealia McCracken about a Saddlebred Rescue horse. Of course, that had never dawned on me.


We were a little leery knowing this first horse had to be just the right one if Ali was going to stay interested. Figuring there was nothing to lose we went down to Nealia’s aisleway and asked her about the program and if she had a horse that might fit our needs. Like any good horse trader, she just happened to have two at the show that they brought along to try out. When they buy them from the killer auctions her daughter, Jessica Moctezuma, as well as son Jason Molback and some of the others in the barn ride them and work with them to see if they are safe and what kinds of habits they have.


They were going to ride both of them after the show that afternoon and invited us to take a look. They both had their positive aspects but all three of us fell in love with the bright chestnut with the white face. We set up an appointment for Ali to ride him the next day following the afternoon session.


We were stabled at the end of an aisleway where the door to the make-up ring was located. The last class had just finished and we looked up and here they came riding Major down the aisle, which was filled with people and those large standing box fans. He never flinched, never batted an eye. My wife and I turned to one another and said, “This is the one.”


Ali rode him and after two trips there was a smile plastered across her face that couldn’t be removed. This appeared to be a no brainer, but like any horse deal nothing is foolproof, or at least so we thought. Nealia was telling us about the adoption process and also told us if he didn’t work out we can bring him back and trade for another one.


“We do this because we don’t want to look up and be buying these horses back again a month or two later,” said McCracken.


We also found out that we could sell him at any time, but the new owner had to be approved by Saddlebred Rescue, which is made up of Nealia McCracken and her longtime customer Pat Johnson. They work tirelessly to rescue these horses and get them into caring homes. If the guarantee wasn’t good enough, we also found out that the purchase price was tax deductible (they are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization) and I’ll tell you the purchase price was less than one-third of what we paid for her first pony.


With one happy 11-year-old girl and her 11-year-old slightly sore, but oh-so-adorable gelding we loaded up and headed home where it would only get better. Knowing where he had came from and where he was headed, Ali took great pride in caring for Major and knowing that she had helped save his life. Renamed C Major because we name all of our horses after something in music or the arts (my wife’s profession), this gelding responded to our daughter in an unbelievable way. She spent a lot of time brushing and toweling and greasing feet.


Every day we bring him out and his tail goes up over his back and his head high in the air like any good American Saddlebred. The instant she’s in the saddle he is the most perfect gentleman you’ve ever seen, all the while maintaining his cocky, show horse attitude. Within a week Ali knew her diagonals and how to pick them up. Two weeks and she was doing figure eights. Two months and she was cantering. There was no hole to be found in Major. With some slight vet work in the beginning he is sound, happy and giving a young girl the time of her life.         


Before we had to coax her to ride her pony. Now, on days when her afternoons and evenings are filled with schoolwork and performing arts we are at the barn at 6 in the morning so she can ride.


How could this horse be one bid away from the slaughterhouse?


We know not every rescue horse will turn out this way, just as no horse you buy is guaranteed to work out. However, there have to be many others like Major who can be extremely useful, productive horses whether at home for a family or in a public training barn’s lesson program.


Saddlebred Rescue rescued this family and I would ask that you give Nealia McCracken a call to find out more about how you can adopt. She can be reached at 908-362-7858 or 362-8285.


Adopted from the Saddlebred Rescue program,

Major has become Ali Funkhouser’s best friend.


More Than I Could Have Hoped For


by Ali Funkhouser


I loved my pony Twiggy. I couldn’t even imagine riding anyone else but her. Then I got taller. Finally, I got too big for her. I knew the time was coming to sell her. When we did I was miserable. I didn’t go in the barn for a week. But then I started going back. I missed riding. I was ready to get a horse.


Then it came time for the annual Ct. Summer Classic Horse Show in W. Springfield, Mass. We were going to start looking for a horse! My mom kept telling me, “We’re not going to find a horse on the first try.” She had no idea how wrong she was. It was only an hour or two later that we found out about the Saddlebred Rescue program. And I met Major and Sergeant Pepper.


The two horses we saw couldn’t have been more different. They both had come from the terrible conditions of auctions but there was one difference. One I thought had a lot of hope. He really wanted to get out into the world and be loved. That one was Major.


Despite his slightly sore feet he still had a spring in his step and a face that said, “I’ll do great things for you.” And he did.


Now that we’ve brought him home he’s continued to prove himself a great horse. He’s learned a lot; I’ve learned a lot. And as a team, we’ve learned a lot.


In four months I’ve learned more than I could have imagined. From big things like diagonals and cantering to little things like how to put a bridle on and how to give a complete grooming. He’s more than I ever could have hoped for.

I can’t imagine a horse like Major not being wanted or loved. I am so thankful for the Saddlebred Rescue program finding Major and bringing him into my life.

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