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A Horse to Remember – Sacia

MY HORSE TO REMEMBER:

Sacia’s Pride: Better Than My Dreams

By Allanna Lea Jackson © Nov. 2005 and Jan. 2017

 

Sacia’s Pride, a.k.a. “Sassy” was my first horse, purchased in mid-October, 1981, when I was just 18. I was a novice who knew almost nothing about horses. Sassy was a timid, green-broke, half blind, barefoot, pregnant, 7½-year-old, Tennessee Walking Horse mare. It should not have worked, yet it did because it was a partnership created by God.

Sacia’s Pride 745076 TWHBEA (Gold Rush Rocky 664916 x Katrina’s Dolly 692114) was bred by Ethna M. “Blondy” Friesen of Polson, Montana. John Sacia purchased Katrina’s Dolly in the fall of 1973 hoping to entice his wife, Jane, to share his interest in riding.

On April 8, 1974, Dolly produced a chestnut filly with no markings who grew up into a smaller, more feminine version of her sire.

Dolly’s filly suffered a severe wire cut on her right hind hoof when she was only one month old. She received more shots in the rump than most horses ever get. John Sacia recalled, “She was always real easy to handle, considering.” She recovered completely and was registered as Sacia’s Pride, the property of Mrs. Jane A. Sacia, Missoula, Montana.

In the fall of 1975 John Sacia started Sacia’s Pride by driving her from the ground with a saddle, then leading her around the pasture with his 11-year-old son Kent on her back. John rode her briefly a few times. A dozen years later Sacia’s Pride remembered John’s training well enough to teach me the basics of ground driving.

The Sacias sold Sacia’s Pride to Robert R. Ott, Paradise, Montana, in 1976. Bob Ott bought her as a broodmare for his stallion, Shadow of Roan Allen 732190 (Merry Mickey T. 685122 x Copperbottom Patty 610065). Bob dubbed Sacia’s Pride “Sassy.” He moved to Arizona that winter bringing Sassy and Shadow of Roan Allen with him.

Sassy was not yet three years old when a tumbleweed thorn caught in her left eye and festered. Extensive treatment saved her eye, but not her vision, so she was 80% blind in her left eye. The damaged eye had intermittent problems for the rest of her life, and ultimately killed her.

Sassy produced three healthy foals in four years, all sired by Shadow of Roan Allen. Ott’s Sugar Allen 783402, a 1978 chestnut gelding, became a kid’s horse. The 1979 chestnut colt Merry Allen’s Shadow 790411 was sold as a stallion prospect but injured his neck in transit to his new home and was donated to Colorado State University’s veterinary college and research program. The 1980 sorrel mare Otts Sunny Sue Allen 800265 found a home locally as a pleasure horse. All three lacked the extensive white markings Bob Ott wanted so he sold Sassy to me. Bob did not tell me Sassy might be pregnant until after I’d bought her. She produced her fourth and last live foal on Sept. 3, 1982. The dark chestnut filly Lea’s Autumn Pride 822939 was reportedly also sired by Shadow of Roan Allen. None of the progeny of Sacia’s Pride produced any registered TWH foals, though Lea’s Autumn Pride did produce a half-Arabian filly around 1986, a couple of years after I’d sold her.

Sassy and I taught each other by trial and error using Johnny Berguson’s “World’s Most Complete Course in Horse Training”, a few books, and numerous magazine articles. In 1984 I took half a dozen riding lessons from a graduate of Meredith Manor on her Appaloosa gelding. She taught me how to train Sassy to canter. In 1985 and 1986 I took a horse science and horsemanship classes from the local Junior College, riding the instructor’s appendix Quarter Horse gelding or another student’s Saddlebred mare. Mostly it was Jesus, Sassy and me figuring out how to train Sassy. All of the other horses I have owned have benefitted from what Sassy taught me. There were no TWH trainers or instructors within 200 miles. It didn’t matter because I could not have paid for their assistance any way.

This go-it-alone approach proved to be a blessing in disguise. The methods professional TWH trainers recommended in books and magazine articles messed up Sassy’s inherited running walk and taught her to pace. We both became so confused that in 1984 I began my own research to find the truth about natural gaits and Walking Horses. The training information I gleaned from non-gaited sources produced more desirable results than what the TWH “experts” taught.

Around that same time, 1984, my farrier, Rick Harvey, began teaching me the truth about anatomically correct hoof trimming and the humane uses of shoeing for protection, traction, or therapy only. Sassy was shod with plain steel shoes that weighed only 8 ounces each because she needed the protection. I rode her so much and the terrain here is so rocky that leaving her barefoot was not an option. Research and development of hoof boots was just beginning and had not yet produced a satisfactory alternative to steel shoes for trail riding in the mountains.

 Beginning in 1987, Lee Ziegler taught me about posture and gait through our private letters and a video she made of her own Foxtrotters. I rode Sassy at a 4 mph natural flat-foot walk most of the time and she had developed on excellent lope on both leads. Sassy had flat walked over a thousand miles on the trails by the time I learned how to let her do her inherited walk with the style and speed God gave her. When Sassy realized I wanted her inherited running walk she was so happy and relieved it took only three weeks to correct the gait problems caused by six years of riding her wrong!

Despite my ignorance, incompetence, blundering ineptness, and moments of unwitting cruelty Sassy became a trail and versatility horse. She carried me over ten thousand miles on mountain trails. We rode alone most of the time. We had no accidents and only lost one shoe.

We enjoyed a few group trail rides and a couple of overnight campouts with the White Mountain Horseman’s Association. This included two trips up and over 10,000+ foot Mount Baldy, the highest peak in the White Mountains of Arizona. WMHA was an all-breed organization so Sassy learned to plod walk with trotting horses. Sassy got dangerously overheated during our one and only attempt at a NATRC competitive trail ride when the temperature hit 100 degrees in the desert in the spring of 1988, but she recovered with no permanent damage.

Sassy safely completed 22 parades between 1984 and 2003 dressed in western, side-saddle, and saddle seat attire. She carried a flag 13 times. She ponied Back Yard Cinnamon in two parades.

Sassy had perfect front leg conformation. She was always shod flat and light but six years of altering her hoof angles the way TWH professionals advised, combined with too many miles in the rocks, caused ringbone on both front pasterns when she was just 16. The ringbone ended our progress toward developing flying lead changes and forced Sassy into early retirement at age 18.

Sacia’s Pride did not fit any of the TWH performance standards promoted during her lifetime. So I was delighted to discover she matched the descriptions of the ideal Walking Saddle Horse of the 1920’s! I have never cared about fads or being in style. I liked having a horse that was 60 years out of date because Sassy was the perfect horse for me.

We used her formal name, Sacia’s Pride, when showing. We competed in 21 local All-Breed shows in the same classes with Quarter Horses, Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Paints, Appaloosas, and other breeds under their rules and judges. I showed her in formal TWH competition only twice. She was too natural to be competitive in TWH shows. In 1986 a DQP in Scottsdale, Arizona, loved her plain shoes but the judge placed her fifth of five in the Plantation class. All-breed, Peruvian Paso, and Canadian Walking Horse judges liked Sacia’s Pride.

Sacia’s Pride’s first show ring appearance was June 30, 1984, in Show Low, Arizona, where she won the Open Gaited (3-gait) class because the other entries weren’t gaited. She went on to win 15 first place awards among a lifetime total of 92 awards in a variety of events: Bareback, Bareback Equitation, Barrel Walking, Costume, Egg and Spoon, English Pleasure (TWH, Open, 3-gait, and 2-gait), English Equitation, Halter, Jackpot Barrels (running 26.4 seconds on a 3 barrel cloverleaf pattern), Keyhole Race, Lead-Line (with a friend’s daughter), Lite-Shod 3-Gait TWH, Miniature Jumper (jumps two feet or less), Novice Rider walk/jog (shown by a friend), Pole Bending, Reining, Sit-A-Buck, Trail (open and novice), Western Pleasure (TWH 3-gait, Open 3-gait, Ladies 3-gait, Youth 3-gait, 2-gait), and Western Horsemanship/Equitation.

In the late 1980’s Sacia’s Pride became known on the Navajo County and Apache County, Arizona, All-Breed show circuits as, “That blind Walker that does everything.” It was appropriate that her final show ring appearance, at a 4-H and Open Horse show in Taylor, Arizona, on June 28, 2003, was a $25 Working Ranch and Trail Horse Class. Sassy placed third of eight wearing borrowed tack, having had no schooling in 10 years.

One of the highlights of our lives was the trip to Alberta, Canada, in May and June of 1992, courtesy of Jo Kingsland. My mother and I trailered Sassy from Arizona to Alberta, camping on our way. We slept in a tent and picketed Sassy to the trailer every night. Mom flew home. Sassy and I also toured around central Alberta, visiting and riding with several Canadian Walking Horse owners. We bred Sassy to Marjorie Lacy’s stallion Honey Boy’s Rebel. Sassy and I competed in one schooling show in Balzac, AB, judged by Dianne Little, where Sassy won a trail class and an English pleasure class and I placed second of two in an English equitation class.

In early July of 1992 Sassy and I trailered and camped our way home again, meeting up with the rest of my family at the southern entrance of Grand Teton National Park, in Wyoming. Sassy and I enjoyed the most gorgeous trail ride of our lives climbing up to Mirror Lake in the Spanish Peak Wilderness of southern Montana. That ride is unforgettable, not only for the spectacular wildflowers, but because of the wonderful unity of thought Sassy and I shared on the trail resulting from the delightful rapport we’d developed through the years.

Sassy was an excellent mother. She produced a total of six foals, four colts and two fillies. Tragically, the two colts I bred died at or before birth through no fault of Sassy’s. Her gray colt Corban, by Mischievous Secret 684413, was stillborn six weeks premature in 1989. This was just six weeks after Mischievous Secret was stolen and never found. Back Yard Second Edition, Sassy’s black colt sired in Canada by Honey Boy’s Rebel, died at birth in 1993. Sassy has no living descendants worthy of her.

Sassy introduced other people’s young horses to trail riding and parades. In her retirement Sassy mentored foals to trails, trailering, parades, and camping.

Sassy gave several children and one young man from Japan their first experiences with horses. In 2003 she assisted me with the Blue Ridge 4-H Horse Club activities. All of these accomplishments only hint at what made Sassy special – and that was her inner character, heart and personality.

The name “Sassy” gives a totally wrong impression of her temperament. I’d owned Sassy for a dozen years before I heard of “joining up,” “heeding” or whatever you want to call it. Sassy gave me her full attention and trust from the first and never disconnected. I did not realize how extraordinary Sassy was until I’d acquired more ordinary horses who were not so perfectly and lovingly attuned to me all the time.

The best advice I ever got from Bob Ott was, “Talk to her.” My first thought was, “What do you say to a horse?” The day Sassy arrived she explained to my mother, who is not a horse person, that my mother needed to fill Sassy’s empty water bucket. Sassy was such a genius at communicating with people that conversing with her was easy and perfectly normal for everyone who knew her. This wasn’t anthropomorphic fantasy or psychic mumbo jumbo. Sassy never talked about the past or predicted the future. Sassy communicated in the moment using gestures, facial expressions, emitting emotions, and vocalization. My mother was amused by the mutual admiration Sassy and I shared until she also experienced Sassy oozing affection while just standing there seemingly doing nothing.

Sassy was my one and only horse for 11 years. She was perfectly content to have it that way. Sassy knew she was a horse, but seemed to consider people two-legged horses. She preferred human company. Other equines were just too crude, rude, and uncouth for the quiet, genteel lady, Sassy.

Sassy was the easiest horse in the world to doctor. She quietly submitted to everything from shots to rectal exams with no sedatives and just her stable halter for restraint. I didn’t use a chain on her; it scared her and wasn’t necessary. I never used a twitch on her. I don’t own one. I did not even have to put a halter on Sassy to deworm her or care for her damaged eye.

I took to calling Sassy “Pretty Girl” after she became distressed by someone’s disparaging remarks about her. She had learned to answer to the name “Sassy” before I bought her so that remained her barn name for the rest of her life. Sassy wasn’t sassy. She was so eager to please she sometimes tried too hard. Her manners were perfect. She was supremely gentle, very patient, honest, quiet, loyal, consistent, reliable, obedient, forgiving, tolerant, trusting and trustworthy. Externally she was just a small, very plain, chestnut mare but Sassy’s heart and character were valuable beyond price.

I owned Sacia’s Pride for 24 years. Along the way she co-authored 20 years worth of Back Yard Walkin’ articles that were published in four different magazines, including Walking Horse News. Sassy was co-author and model for the book Back Yard Walkin’ Training Tips, which was commissioned by Walking Horse News, and published by Four Craftsmen Publishing in 1993. Back Yard Walkin’ Training Tips was the first TWH training book to be written specifically for natural pleasure and trail Walking Horses. The columns and book have been read and appreciated internationally.

On October 19-20, 2005, Sassy demonstrated her total trust of me on a 400 mile round trip to see the animal eye specialist Dr. Jennifer Urbanz in Scottsdale, Arizona. Though she had become totally blind, Sassy loaded into her familiar trailer and rode as well as if she could see the mountain road down to the desert. She peaceably stayed overnight in a place she’d never been before. Sassy safely navigated the vet clinic by following my voice out the alley, across the driveway, up the hill, and into the exam room. She quietly accepted the exam by Dr. Urbanz and her interns with no sedation, just as she had all the other veterinary exams in her 31½ years. After the exam the vet clinic staff watched in awed amazement as Sassy followed my voice across the breezeway into a stall, back out of the stall, down the hill and into my trailer for the trip home. Sassy enjoyed a final grazing session in her familiar yard upon our return home.

The evening of Oct. 24, 2005, Sacia’s Pride was euthanized to spare her from the worst effects of what was either an incurable infection or a brain tumor. Sacia’s Pride, Sassy, Pretty Girl, My Special Pet and best friend is my horse to remember because Jesus used her to make me just a little more like Him and change my heart for eternity.

This is the photo of Allanna and Sassy that appears on the cover of Back Yard Walkin’ Training Tips,

by Allanna and published by

Four Craftsmen Publishing in 1993.