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From Slaughter to Blue Ribbons: The Tale of Three Sox


by Pat Johnson

Early in our efforts to help Saddlebreds in danger of going to slaughter, the funds to buy horses were extremely limited. It was limited to what Nealia McCracken and I could afford to put out and reasonably expect to get back in before Paul came knocking on Peter’s door to get the money we’d borrowed from him to buy a horse.


Well Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, was definitely one of those Mondays. We had already purchased four horses out of our own funds and were just getting them new homes and money back in to buy our next horses in need. We weren’t looking to buy when we spotted a gorgeous gelding from our seats in the sale ring. He was high headed, looking all around and was lit up with a big white blaze and three stockings. We didn’t bid on him initially, but when I saw that he had been purchased by #177, I had to do something. You see #177 is the end of the line for horses as he is the buyer for the slaughterhouse. By the end of the day, Saddlebred Rescue had yet another horse.  


The day Three Sox arrives at
Nealia McCracken’s Northwind Farms.


We took this pretty guy home to figure out just what we had. We found him to be very laid back and easy to be around. He would walk, trot and canter both ways of the ring but would fall out of the canter. Considering he probably hadn’t cantered in years and even then probably not very much, we were thrilled with what we saw.

My next project was to find out what I could about Three Sox’s history (can’t imagine where we came up with that name). I had obtained consignor information from the sale so I sent a letter to the person asking for history and papers if they had them. Well one day about a month after we got Three Sox, the mail arrived with an envelope containing papers for a gelding called Nashville Sound.

Looking over the papers I recognized the name of someone I knew in Chicago: Bert Henson. This person was often on the discussion forum of and I was surprised she didn’t recognize him in the photos we had posted, so I contacted her.

Well Bert (a.k.a. “bertshorse”) recognized the pictures I sent her and shortly thereafter posted on trot with this message: “Magic [Pat Johnson] sent me pictures today of Three Sox and sure enough he is a horse that I once owned. When she first posted about Sox, on my computer the pictures just showed up as those crazy red Xs in the corner. I've never been able to get those things to come up on the screen so I didn't know what he looked like. I might have recognized him right away. I sold him to Art Simmons at Jim B. [Robertson’s] sale in 1989. Someone about 10 years ago told me that he was with the Amish then and she was trying to buy him and that he was still in my name. I never heard from her again. Now here he is. I'm so glad to see that he's still with us and seemingly in pretty good shape. Nealia seems to have him in her barn and I'm going to see if I can help find him a good home. What a great thing Pat and Nealia are doing.”

We wanted to know more about his life before the Amish so Bert filled us in.
“I was given the chance to obtain Nashville Sound when he was a weanling in 1986. He was bred by Tim Fredericks’s Millrose Farm. Tim was diagnosed with a fatal illness in early 1986 and was disbursing his stock and offered “Cowboy” free to me (his dam was also the dam of the three-gaited horse that I owned in 1986, Chrystal Light MRF). I told him, "Nothing is free that you have to feed while you sleep.” He ended up selling the colt to the Durants of Bellview Acres in Lockport, Ill. When Tim passed away in 1989 (actually at his funeral luncheon) I ended up buying the colt from the Durants. After about six months in training with Bonnie Kittredge and then Richard Obenauf (he was going to gait him for me), we all decided that wasn't the way he would go. In fact, he wasn't happy about "going" anywhere.

“I remember when Nealia first got him she said that he was a "little lazy". So true. If there had been a Shatner division then he would have been perfect. I decided that I couldn't afford two horses when one wasn't interested in being a show horse. That's when I decided to put him through Jim B.'s sale. In those days I wasn't aware of the Amish buying horses at our sales. Art Simmons and another man I didn't recognize were bidding on him and kept getting closer and closer to each other, when they decided to stop bidding against each other and buy him together. They were right in front of me bidding and I protested, "OK you guys, no fair. I need the money." Art thought that was really funny. I didn't know then that the man I didn't know was a dealer that bought for the Amish. Nashville Sound was never taken out of my name which didn't make me too happy. I still didn't know about him going to the Amish.

“About seven years later I got a letter (before the computer email thing started) from a woman in Ohio (I think, can't remember for sure) regarding Nashville Sound. That's when I was told that he was still in my name. She had seen him pulling a buggy somewhere and knew he was a Saddlebred and was interested. She loved his look. The people that owned him had his papers and said that he had gone through Jim B.'s sale. She called me to ask about him and I thought that she was going to buy him (and save him, she said). I never heard from her again or anything about him until the day Pat emailed me to tell me they had bought him at the Holland Sale. When she first put pictures on of Cowboy they didn't show up on my computer. Just those X's that show up sometime, so of course I didn't recognize him. I was very excited to see that Nealia had rescued him. Then when he ended up in Wisconsin (I'm in Chicago) that was even better. I haven't had a chance to get to see him personally but my friend, Brendan Heintz, has and said he looks good. He is turned out with one of my favorite retired show horses, Here's Hank, at Marlene LaFleur, where I know they will take great care of him.”

Now we knew who Three Sox was and a little more about his history, but he still needed a home. He needed somebody that would understand that he was a laid back horse that had spent the better part of his life on the road. He was willing to work but just didn’t want to work real hard. We found him such a home with another member of the forum known as “Seaturtle” (a.k.a. Sara Pieper). Here are her thoughts soon after he arrived at his new forever home.

“He's finally here! And he is such a good boy. I've ridden him twice now and he's great, doesn't care about anything. There was one massive snow slide off the roof of the arena and he didn't even flinch (I did!). He has a cute little headset, too. I think he may have lost some weight in the whole trailering process so we'll just be working on that for now.

Casey Pieper enjoys trail riding with

 the new addition to the farm.


“He is now known as Captain (Captain Oats). His canter is getting pretty awesome; nice and smooth. I ride him bareback and without stirrups. He loves spring and likes to primp walk sometimes, but like I told Bert, he's very obedient and will flat walk the second he's asked. He's got a big fan club up here. He's definitely the most laid back one in a barn full of obnoxious quarter horses!”

One member of his fan club, Lindsay DeTienne, got to show him and emerged with a blue ribbon.

Lindsay DeTienne never rode Three Sox before
stepping up on him to win her academy class.
DeTienne is a customer of Tony Ray.

“Being the rider of Captain Oats this past week at Glen Valley, I must say it was so fun! He is SO cute and was a total gentleman. I felt very honored to be able to show off such a special horse, and without all of you, it wouldn't have been possible!

“I had a lot of people come up to me between our classes to tell me how good our ride was and how adorable he was. I told them the story of Oats, and every person was blown away at how much he's overcome in his life.

“It's truly amazing and I could only hope every horse rescued could have such a happy ending.

“Thanks to everyone involved in any little way for our blue ribbon this week! It's a memory to remember.”

For Sara, the decision to adopt a horse was simple. But the rewards she’s received and the lessons she’s learned have been far more than she ever expected.

“My family made the decision to adopt a rescue horse with the basic intention of ensuring it would have a safe, happy and healthy life after whatever it had lived through prior to our ownership. I had very few characteristics or attributes I was looking for in the horse - just basically something to hop on every once in awhile and have fun with.

“After a short phone conversation with Nealia, she sold me on one particular gelding that Saddlebred Rescue had acquired through the sale. Since then, "Captain" has exceeded everyone's expectations. He is a very laid back, no-nonsense type of horse, ideal for introducing a newcomer to the world of Saddlebreds. The kids enjoy him so much we rarely ride him at all anymore, save for the few bareback trail rides over the summer. Now, for a sporadic half hour somewhere within the week, he walks or walk/trots around the arena with children as young as six years old aboard. He has done a little bit of everything a tolerant horse should do: from being used as a birthday party horse for a group of several young boys, to being shown in three classes (winning two), and wearing a visor and boa (among other decorations) in a youth club "horse decorating" contest. He does his job obediently and then enjoys the attention and treats he receives afterward.


  Three Sox has also come to like giving            Three Sox is also a good   
   birthday rides for the local community.           sport when it comes to
                                                                         the costume classes.

“We look forward to the day when we own our own land and can put more of these horses in ‘forever homes’. I know that seeing the fate of many of these animals has encouraged us - as well as many others - to keep careful track of the horses that have previously been in our lives.”

As Sara observed, when you sell a horse you have no idea where they will ultimately end up or if you will ever hear about or see them again. You can’t keep all of them - nobody can - but maybe you can allow one of these horses into your life, be it as a lesson horse, a buddy to have fun riding around with, or the prettiest pasture ornament in the field. These horses still have a lot to offer.

Captain Oats is now in a lesson program in Wisconsin where Sara loaned him to Jenna Culligan who is a good friend.


“We are very excited to have Captain Oats in our lesson program here at My Fantasy Farm, LLC in Pulaski, Wis. Captain is a wonderful asset to our lesson program and the kids absolutely adore him. He teaches students how to groom, tack up, lead and pick his feet. We recently found out that he loves donuts! I was eating one before one of his lessons and as soon as he saw me with it, he walked towards me and started licking his lips! Captain will be showing again this year with some of our academy students.


Six-year-old Riley Rasmussen,

as well as several other lesson riders,

 will be showing Three Sox this year.


“Captain is also a great babysitter for the two-year-olds outside; he plays with them and enjoys herding them around the pasture!”

The horses of Saddlebred Rescue have given much in their lives; it’s time for those of us who love this breed to give back to them. Together, we can make all the difference.

For more information, please visit, where you can make a donation, fill out an adoption form, join the lively discussion forum or simply find out a little more about what we do. SBR can also be contacted by telephone at 908-304-3560. For those without Internet access the address is: Saddlebred Rescue Inc., 13765 Old Post Rd., Hortense GA 31543.

The Saddlebreds are waiting!

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