This is the story of my Belgian stallion, Queen's Farceur Sam.Part 1, the Family PetSam at 13
In the spring of 1990, we decided to buy a driving horse for my husband, since my son and his wife and I all had riding horses, and my husband couldn't ride because of a back problem.
We looked at Morgans, Quarter horses, Appaloosas and Paints. I wanted something that was already broken to drive, and was bombproof, since my husband was a complete neophyte.
Driving horses are rare in Arizona, and we weren't having much luck. Most of the horses I saw were show horses. Then one day I saw an ad in the local Bridle and Bit
. Someone across town had a Clydesdale gelding for sale. I called and made an appointment to see him. We drove out to look at him and found...not a Clydesdale, but a Registered Belgian...stallion!
He was sadly neglected, his feet were still wearing remnants of shoes he had been wearing for a year, his mane was a tangled mess, and he was in a 12' by 12' pen that didn't even have a gate. He had not been out of that pen for a year, and it had apparently NEVER been cleaned.
In spite of all this, he was gentle and friendly. He came up to be petted and nuzzled for treats. He had obviously had better treatment in an earlier home. He had harness marks on his hips, so I knew he was broken to drive and had been used in farm work.
They unwired a corner of his pen, put a halter on him and led him out. I climbed on and rode him around bareback. He handled like a dream except he obviously had never been ridden. He didn't have a clue what leg pressure meant. He moved out nicely to voice commands and steered perfectly in nothing but a halter. We bought him on the spot. We went home and got the trailer and brought him home on July 4, 1990. Sam's Independence Day.
Sam lived at my son’s horse property a short distance from our house. The next day we had a family party and all the grandkids were there. All our saddle horses are "kid safe," and the children were fond of bathing and grooming them. We were all in the house, when someone looked out and saw the kids (age 4, 7, and 8) giving Sam a bath!
He was in a small pasture, with no halter or lead, and the kids had him all soaped up. The youngest was on her hands and knees under his belly, scrubbing his hind feet with a brush. I almost had a heart attack.
Later experience would show that I could have beat Sam with a stick and couldn't have made him move a foot with those children around him. He turned out to be the most "kid friendly" horse I ever owned. In the twelve years we owned him he never stepped on a foot, never nipped a finger, never knocked down a child.
Sam didn't much like being ridden. After a few laps around an arena, he would start to balk. Unless it was a kid on him, then he would go as long as the kids wanted to ride.
A kid could ride or drive him anywhere. He was never happier than when he was up to his knees in children.
The grandkids would groom him, braid up his mane and tail, and take him out for a drive around the neighborhood in the cart.
On one occasion, I took him to the Special Olympics horse show. I took three children at a time and let each one drive Sam around the parking lot in his cart. This was in the spring, with mares in heat all over the show grounds. For five straight hours, he let children drive him round and round that parking lot. Finally, I had just loaded up three more kids and handed the reins to one of them. I told Sam to walk on. He just stood there. I figured he was getting tired, so I gave him a light touch with the whip. He turned his head CLEAR around so he could see me with the blinkers on and gave me a dirty look. Then I caught a flash of pink. There was a two-year-old girl standing in front of his knees petting him. He wouldn’t move a foot with that child standing there, even when I tapped him with the whip.
When a local no-kill animal shelter held a fund-raising “pet walk” I took Sam. We walked down the sidewalk with all the other people with their dogs and cats and other small pets, (causing something of a traffic jam in the process.) For a donation, people could have their picture taken with (or on) Sam. We raised more money than any other participant.
After we had Sam for a while, I looked up the name of his breeder, and called him to let him know where Sam was, and that he had a good home. The man was in his eighties, and was near tears to hear that Sam was loved and well cared for. It seems Sam was their family pet, too. He had foaled and raised Sam on his farm in Iowa. After an accident, he had to sell all his horses, and had lost track of Sam.
A few months later, a woman from a nearby town called and identified herself as the daughter of Sam’s original owner. She asked if she could come out and see him. Of course we welcomed her, and took her for a cart ride. She was thrilled to see him in a loving home. She said he had always been the family pet.
A year or so later she called again. Her brother was in town. Could they come see Sam? He was that kind of a horse. He became a part of our life.
Although he “officially” belonged to my husband and son, Sam was the pet of the whole extended family. He loved to “mow” the front yard, and was quite a traffic hazard in our horse-property subdivision. Draft horses are still a rarity in Arizona. We lost several large plastic trash cans on our street from drivers watching Sam instead of where they were driving.
Sam was as much the family pet as the dogs and cats were. He just lived in the backyard instead of the house.Part 2 Sam the Ham